Why doesn’t the govt look before it leaps?

Forcing people to link PAN and Aadhaar without proper preparedness poses a problem

This year’s deadline for filing income tax returns was pushed back from July 31 to August 5 because thousands of people across the country couldn’t log on to the e-filing website of the Income Tax Department. Every time they tried, the website crashed due to the load.

It’s a sad state of affairs for a government that actually demonetised 86 per cent of all cash to then have its IT network fail to handle the resultant traffic on their website. Because that’s one of the major reasons for the website repeatedly going down this year — more people were filing returns because they had to explain all those cash deposits they made during the demonetisation window. Even sadder is the fact that several chartered accountants and tax experts have said the income tax website goes down every year nearing the returns filing deadline. What is the problem here? It’s not as if data analytics and pattern recognition is an alien concept to the government.

Last month, GST Network Chairman Navin Kumar, in an interview to The Hindu, said that they had studied the patterns of tax filing in all the States and had found a clear pattern — about 50 per cent of taxpayers file their taxes on the last day, and the bulk of those between 4 and 5 pm. If the GSTN can figure that out in the short time it has been in existence, what is the Income Tax Department doing?

Abbreviations at play

Of course, there is another reason why there was an inordinate surge in traffic on the e-filing website this year on July 31 — the government’s idea to link Aadhaar with PAN. So, not only were people logging on to file their taxes, they were also frantically trying to link their two IDs because the website wouldn’t allow them to proceed unless this was done.

The rules have since been altered, with the tax filing deadline extended to August 5 and the deadline to link the two IDs set at August 31. The website has also been tweaked to allow people to file their taxes without the link being established. But none of this addresses the major problem linking PAN and Aadhaar is causing across large parts of the country. The issue arises from the fact that the UIDAI allows abbreviations in names on the Aadhaar card, while the NSDL, which handles all matters to do with PAN, does not allow any abbreviations whatsoever — whether in the official name provided, or, absurdly, in the name as it should be printed on the card.

This poses a huge problem for people with long names, predominantly from the south of the country, as it happens. For example, my name on my Aadhaar card is TCA Sharad Raghavan, the same as the byline for this column, and the name on my passport. NSDL, however, insists that my name on the PAN card should be Tirumalai Cunnavakam Anandanpillai Sharad Raghavan. That’s fine, but what should I do because the names do not match? Change my name on Aadhaar? In which case, should I also change my name on my passport as well, since it can’t be the government’s case that people have different names on different official IDs?

The fact that my full name is too long for the passport to contain is a matter for another time. The abbreviation issue between PAN and Aadhaar is a problem faced by thousands of people, and it is intensely frustrating, not to mention a colossal waste of time.

By forcing people to link PAN and Aadhaar without exploring eventualities such as mine, and in failing to upgrade their infrastructure to deal with the increased online traffic due to their own rules, the government has once again shown a complete inability to look before it leaps, the same as with demonetisation.

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