The Income Tax (I-T) Department weeded out more than half of the duplicate PAN (Permanent Account Number) cards that had been detected last fiscal.
Of the 1.31 million duplicate cards that were being used by wily individuals to avoid taxes, the department had cancelled about 742,000 cards as of March this year, against around 10,000 PANs cancelled in the previous year, said a senior I-T official.
Many assesses got duplicate PANs by submitting multiple applications, each giving different particulars. The department decided to undertake an exercise for de-duplication of PANs to clean the database.
The department still has lakhs of duplicate PANs on its database, though it had fixed a deadline of March 31 to complete the process. Mumbai and Delhi together had one lakh such accounts, the official said.
Finance ministry sources said maximum number of duplicate cards were detected in Mumbai (163,000) and Delhi (306,000), which together have highest number of tax payers and contribute over 40 per cent of total direct tax collections.
They said the Income Tax Department could not speed up the process of cancellation of duplicate PANs in small towns due to administrative problems and shortage of staff.
The sources said in towns like Patiala, Shillong, Meerut, Rohtak and Patna, the process of deleting duplicate PANs has now virtually started.
In Patiala alone, the I-T department had found 47,111 duplicate PAN cards, out of which 525 were cancelled at the end of the last financial year.
Official sources admitted that a substantial number of income tax assesses were facing problems in getting refunds due to duplication of PAN cards. The department had decided to stop the payment of refunds in case of duplicate PANs.
The ministry has claimed that field offices have been directed to complete de-duplication exercise in a time bound period. The software in this regard has been enhanced to speed up the de-duplication process, but it could take a couple of months to complete the process, sources said.