Monday, July 31, 2017

Unending struggle to link Aadhaar and PAN, even though there is no mismatch of name, date of birth

(There are updates at the end of the post)

This is a tale of a continuous struggle to link Aadhaar and PAN. The struggle is on going. No one knows why the two aren't getting linked. Worse, no one knows what should be done, to resolve the mysterious issue.

It all began some time mid-June. If you recall, within days of the government mandate to link the two, there was widespread uproar about the problems being faced.  

The most common reason was the individual's name was different in Aadhaar and PAN. In PAN, it was the full name spelt out. That is because the PAN application form requires you to spell out the First Name, Middle Name, Surname. There is no option for initials.

But since the Aadhaar application  form (at least when we filled them up) didn't specify so, many wrote their names with initials. And thus, the way the name appeared in PAN differed from the way it appeared in Aadhaar.

Following the howl of protest, the government simplified the process. Thus, in the Income Tax E-filing site, where the linkage has to be done, there is now a column to specify the "name as in Aadhaar".

This brought relief to many people. So, names like, (a fictitious example) Ravi Madhava Kumar in PAN matched with variations in Aadhaar like M. Ravi Kumar or Ravi M. Kumar or Ravi Kumar M. But still, in many cases, this hasn't worked. And people had to update PAN or Aadhaar to have the names in both same.

No mismatch

But what about cases where the name in PAN and Aadhaar are written the same way, but still the linkage didn't happen? That's what has happened in my wife's case. She just has her First Name and Last Name. No Middle Name, no initials. There is no mismatch of either the date of birth or gender. And still PAN and Aadhaar weren't getting linked.

The message that propped up was: Either the name or date of birth or gender is not matching.  On closing the pop-up box, we see a thin red banner saying: please enter the correct Aadhaar number. 

The conventional wisdom was that it could be a network problem or a server-related issue, and that the linkage would happen, if one kept trying. 

Since the two weren't getting linked, in spite of multiple attempts on multiple days, on July 21, we headed to the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) office. We presented both the Aadhaar and PAN card. They logged in to the Aadhaar data base and checked her details. Everything was in order.

Why then  the two aren't getting linked? 

One official said, "Everything is clear from our side. Just check the PAN details." They said they have logged in a complaint, and asked us to try linking after two or three working days.

So, we headed to the Income Tax office. Presented the case to an official in the Public Relations Department. One official herself tried to link. She failed. Another official logged into the PAN data base and checked her details. Everything was in order.

Why then  the two aren't getting linked? 

No one seemed to know. Just mysterious. We were sent to the Computer Room. There two people (probably engineers) again checked the PAN data base and found nothing amiss. There was no mismatch with Aadhaar details either.

Why then  the two aren't getting linked? 

No one seemed to know. We then met a senior official. We took a while to convince her that we have been trying to link the two for almost a month now, and we have tried all known methods. Then she spoke to an official, who also confirmed, that there is no mismatch, and he couldn't find a reason why the two aren't getting linked.

She suggested us to raise a ticket (meaning, register a complaint) in the Income Tax E-filing website. We thought we would wait for three or four working days, before we register a complaint.

A glimmer of hope

Thus on July 27, she posted a detailed note on the issue in the e-Nivaran section of the Income Tax E-filing site. Within 24 hours, there was a reply. Status: Resolved.

With so much of eager anticipation we clicked open to view the "Resolution". We were disheartened to see that the reply read like a copy-pasted message from a template. It suggested that we try different name combinations. And we could visit a particular link to make corrections in the PAN card and another to make corrections in the Aadhaar card. 

Very clearly, our problem hasn't been understood, if at all it was ever read.

However, there was an encouraging one last sentence in the Grievance Resolution message: "Note: Now you may file the ITR return without linking of Aadhaar in efiling portal by entering Valid Aadhaar number in the ITR form to proceed further."

That means, e-filing of Income Tax Return can be done, even if Aadhaar and PAN aren't linked. 

That was a major relief. And, no one seemed to know that.

Meanwhile, some people suggested that we should actually update the details in both PAN and Aadhaar, just in case the failure to link was because of possible mismatch in address details or some such thing. However, we were clearly told by officials in both Income Tax office and UIDAI that matching of only three particulars, name, gender and date of birth were critical in the linking of PAN and Aadhaar.

Why then  the two aren't getting linked? 

Our quest for answer continued, while we continued to make attempts to link the two on the website.

Since the message in the Grievance Resolution mentioned that e-filing could be done without linkage, last night she filled up the ITR-1 form, checked all the particulars, and decide to submit the return. 

Failure, again. There is red banner alert saying that the individual has to link PAN and Aadhaar in order to e-file the return. 

What the heck was this?

The error message

So, we went back to trying to link the two again. This time, there was no outright rejection, or proclamation that there was some mismatch of important details. Instead, there was a message to the effect that the request has been forward to Aadhaar data base and the status of the request would be emailed.

Within a few minutes there was an email in the Inbox. "Your Aadhaar-PAN linking request is failed due to the below reason.
aadhar.error.code.map.998."

For the first time ever, there was a clear-cut reason mentioned.

We Googled to find what that error message meant. On a government website that deals with biometric attendance system, error 998 has been described as "Template not in Aadhaar. Try after 15 minutes after first Try".

The whole thing has been so frustrating that there was no energy to repeat the process. 

At Palace Grounds

So, today morning I headed for the Special Counters set up at Palace Grounds to help people file their returns. I was directed to the E-Filing section. I presented the problem, for the nth time. And presented them with the photocopies of Aadhaar and PAN card. 

It was 11 am. I was told to wait for 15 minutes, as the servers were down. After about an hour and a half when the server came up, one officer made an attempt to link the two. He failed. It was a repeat of what happened last night - a message saying that the request has been forward to Aadhaar data base and the status of the request would be emailed. But unlike last night, today afternoon, there was no email in the Inbox.

With time running out to file the returns (today is the last day), I wondered what is the option. No one there had any clear idea of what we could do. One official, finally said, if there is no refund to be claimed, or tax to be paid, then just wait. The problem will get resolved. He sounded like a soothsayer.

Evening, the much-expected announcement by the government on extension of the last day for filing returns came. It is now August 5. Also, the last day for linking PAN and Aadhaar is now Aug 31. The returns will be processed only after that. 

But, what Income Tax officials have missed is that when e-filing is not possible without the linkage, what is the point in making the last day for filing ITR as Aug 5, but the last day for linking Aug 31. Ideally the last day for e-filing too should also be Aug 31.

By night, when the Income Tax servers had stabilized, we made one more attempt to link. The same message: your request is being processed.

Hopefully, someone soon will find a solution to this highly perplexing problem; and the Aadhaar and PAN of my wife will get linked; so that the IT returns can be filed before Aug 5.

August 04

My wife gets an email - seemingly in response to the attempt we made on July 31 to link. It said, "Your Aadhaar-PAN linking request is failed due to the below reason.
Invalid Aadhaar Number. Please enter valid Aadhaar Number."

This is so strange, and the whole effort seems to reaching a ridiculous extent. This reply is like the final blow to our attempt at linkage. What more you want ... The Aadhaar number itself is invalid!

Tomorrow is the last date to file the income tax returns. I have decided that may next week, we will make another visit to the UIDAI office, present the case; and hope someone will realize the seriousness of the whole effort and help us set the problem right.

August 05

She logged into the income tax e-filing website and for one last time, on the last date to file the ITR this year, and decided to see if the tax return can be submitted. The filled up data were checked once again, and the Submit button was clicked.

Ten seconds of wait; expecting that very same thin red banner to appear again across the screen, saying the return can't be submitted without linking Aadhaar and PAN.

But most surprisingly, the tax return got submitted.

We couldn't believe this.

The likely possibility is that the Income Tax Department is now allowing e-filing of tax returns without linkage of Aadhaar and PAN. After all, the government has now allowed time till August 31 to get the two linked; and has said that the processing of tax returns will begin only after that.

Anyway, what are relief!

However, the battle isn't over; the efforts to the link the two will resume next week.

6 comments:

  1. Looks like a complicated subject. I understand your frustration. Were any of your friends able to "link" or everyone has this problem? If others were able to link and you are not, I have an unsolicited suggestion.

    Even though there is a perfect name match in both of them for your wife, please go through the process of updating in both of them with the same information again. In other words, input the same information in both of them and hit the “update” button. I think it might work. I think one or both of these is looking for something which we don’t know. Updating will remove that bug.

    I have done something similar in the past.

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    1. Thanks, SG, for your comment, and your suggestion. I appreciate that. In fact, there have been similar suggestions from friends.

      There are many who haven't been able to link. At least the ones that I know of are the ones where there is a mismatch in the name. I haven't heard of a case where there is no mismatch and still unable to link. Possibly there are.

      We both had got our PAN close to 15 years ago, and Aadhaar comparatively more recently. I think the address in PAN and Aadhaar might be different. (Interestingly, there is no way of knowing securely what is in my own PAN and Aadhaar database: that itself is a major handicap.) But that variable is not critical, I am told.

      Interestingly, though my name differs in PAN and Aadhaar, mine got linked, but not my wife's, whose name is the same.

      I am not upset about the problem. What is irritating is that there is no one authoritatively telling us (via an email notification, or any other means) what exactly is the problem and what should be done to rectify the problem.

      There are many solutions being speculated. But that definitely is not the right way to get an issue associated with a major and prestigious government project sorted out.

      The Income Tax Department and UIDAI jointly can set up help centres in all major post offices (or similar well-known institutions) in all towns, and ask people who have problems to come there and get it sorted out.

      Often, how a problem can be or is sorted out turns out to be a bigger problem that the original problem itself.

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  2. Hi - I had the same issue as you with everything matching but kept getting the Invalid Aadhaar number error. I then entered the Aadhar name for linking in ALL CAPS and lo behold, it went thru :) Give that a shot. Both All uppercase and all lowercase for name...

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    1. After reading your post, she tried doing that. It didn't work.

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  3. Very informative, keep posting such good articles, it really helps to know about things.

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  4. I am facing same problem while linking PAN and AADHAR for my mother. There is no mismatch in terms of Name/DOB/Gender. Still I get the error that linking fails due to mismatch of the data. I tried so many times and finally tried to update the PAN as per AADHAR again by attempting the the online service of NSDL. This optiona also failed since they try to authenticate PAN data from AADHAR which itself failed at the first attempt. This is now an egg & chicken problem - utterly confused what to do.

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