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Permanent Account Number or PAN is a means of identifying various taxpayers in the country. PAN is a 10-digit unique identification alphanumeric number (containing both alphabets and numbers) assigned to Indians, mostly to those who pay tax.
The PAN system of identification is a computer-based system that assigns a unique identification number to every Indian tax paying entity. Through this method, all tax-related information for a person is recorded against a single PAN number which acts as the primary key for storage of information. This is shared across the country and hence no two people on tax paying entities can have the same PAN.
When PAN is allotted to an entity, PAN Card too is given by the Income Tax Department. While PAN is a number, PAN Card is a physical card that has your PAN as well as name, date of birth (DoB), and photograph. Copies of this card can be submitted as proof of identity or DoB.
Your PAN Card is valid for lifetime because it is unaffected by any change in address.
You can also apply offline at any of the district-level PAN agencies. You can apply for a new PAN as well as make corrections or change information yourself. You can even request for a duplicate PAN Card or reprint the card if you lose the original.
For new PAN, Indian citizens and NRIs (including companies, NGOs, partnership firms, local bodies, trusts, etc.) need to fill Form 49A. Foreigners and foreign entities need to use Form 49AA. These forms, along with all the required PAN documents , should be submitted to the Income Tax PAN Services Unit.
Once you apply for a new or duplicate PAN, or request for corrections/changes, you can track the status of PAN application via the acknowledgement number provided.
As per the NSDL website, the entire process of printing and dispatching cards takes approximately 2 weeks or 14 days.