One of the very first numbers you will need to get in Portuguese is your Portuguese NIF. Also called a Número de Identificação Fiscal, this is a fiscal number or tax identification number and is required to do many things in Portugal such as open a bank account. You can learn the easiest ways to get one, no matter where you are currently based, and why you will need one right here.
What is a Portuguese NIF?
A Portuguese NIF, or Número de Identificação Fiscal, is a tax identification number that is also referred to as a Numero de Contribuinte. The Portugal NIF Number format is a 9-digit number issued by the tax authorities in Portugal to track spending, and it prevents companies from avoiding paying tax.
Why do I need a NIF in Portugal?
A NIF identification number is required by anyone legally living in Portugal. It is also required for non-residents in certain instances, especially anyone who owns property.
A NIF number, in Portugal, is used to
- Pay tax (company, personal, council)
- Open a Portuguese bank account
- Purchase a house
- Get a contract such as a mobile phone contract
- For paying utility bills
- Making purchases for goods and services (especially over a certain value)
- In order to work, receive payments (salary) and make social security payments
- Buying a car
- Applying for a driving licence
- To attend university
- To receive inheritance
As well as needing a NIF for the above reasons, there are certain advantages to having a NIF.
Portugal tax residents will get a small tax rebate on transactions where they record said transaction against their NIF (such as food, haircuts, medical bills, car servicing) up to a certain value. There is a cap limit for the total transactions in certain categories. But it can come in handy at the end of the tax year.
Those who have a NIF are also entered into a draw to win prizes which have included family cars.
Who requires a NIF in Portugal?
Both EU and non-EU Citizens may require a Portuguese NIF if they will be temporary or permanent residents, if they own property, want to open a Portuguese bank account or have to pay taxes/utility bills.
EU citizens can obtain a NIF number without needing a fiscal representative (representante fiscal), which is a tax representative. They can obtain it on their own, without help, by going to the tax offices or applying for a Portugal NIF online.
All non-EU citizens require a fiscal representative. You will likely be asked for your Portuguese NIF number if you are applying for a visa by consulates and embassies, particularly from the US, which means you will need to get one before starting your visa application.
To obtain one, you have two choices.
- Go to Portugal and obtain one in person with a fiscal representative with you.
- Employ a specialised company to obtain one for you (the easiest way).
Note that unless you know someone permanently resident in Portugal, you will need to find and pay someone else to be your fiscal representative, so employing a company (without needing to be present in Portugal yourself) might be the easiest and cheapest option.
Getting a NIF in Portugal
As already mentioned, you need to apply for a NIF in Portugal before you can do pretty much anything such as open a bank account, buying property, or paying bills.
You used to be required to physically go to the Finanças offices (tax offices) and apply in person, with or without a fiscal representative. Nowadays, there are four ways to obtain a NIF.
- Go to Finanças/Loja do Cidadão (in-person or by appointment)
- Ask your fiscal representative to obtain one on your behalf
- Pay a company
- Email Finanças if you are an EU citizen
Apply at Finanças/Loja do Cidadão
During Covid, it has not been possible to go in person to either Finanças or the Loja do Cidadao. However, as restrictions ease, you can go by appointment only, although these slots are like gold dust.
When visiting either place to obtain your NIF number, take a ticket (senha) and wait for your number to be called. You will need
- Passport or ID card (citizen card)
- Proof of home address such as utility bill, bank statement, tax statement (like a P45/P60 from the UK), or an official payslip (such as the blue payslips issued in the UK).
A NIF is free for all EU citizens and €10.20 for non-EU citizens.
Do not expect the Finanças employees to speak English. Although there might be some who do, the Finanças employees are notoriously known for being very unhelpful where language is concerned.
Try to make an effort if you have some basic Portuguese or print out what you require on paper in European Portuguese to hand to the person at the desk, and if all else fails, have Google translate at the ready on your smartphone if you have one.
Remember, EU citizens do not require a tax representative, but all non-EU citizens do. They must be present with you and have their ID and proof of address with them as well.
Ask your fiscal representative to obtain one on your behalf
Before Covid, it was necessary to get a NIF in-person at the Finanças office. Since Covid arrived, it is now possible to apply for NIF in Portugal online.
However, you need a Portuguese person or permanent resident of Portugal to be your tax representative to apply on your behalf as your representative. It can be anyone you know. But, if you don’t know someone personally, it is best to pay a company to do this. There are lots of specialist companies across Portugal who offer this service.
Do be aware that your fiscal representative will become liable for certain things. It is for this reason that you are better off NOT asking a stranger. Your fiscal representative will be responsible for communicating with Finanças on your behalf, should they need to get in contact with you.
Your fiscal representative can apply via the Finanças portal.
Pay a specialist company
There are plenty of specialist companies and lawyers who offer the service of being a fiscal representative for those who require them.
You are required to give them power of attorney and then they can act as your fiscal representative. The cost of a NIF in this instance is €10.20, but the company or lawyer will have fees which you must pay for their time to obtain your NIF for you.
The cost of a NIF via a company or lawyer can range from €50 to €1000, depending on whether you are getting other services from them.
Use your common sense when it comes to paying a company. If someone is charging €1000 simply for a NIF, they are trying to take you for a ride. If they are offering more than just obtaining your NIF, decide if the quote you get is acceptable.
You don’t need to employ the first company you come across. Always get a second, and third, quote.
If you cannot go to Portugal yourself for any reason, this is often the easiest way to get your NIF.
You could take a chance as an EU citizen and email a Finanças office to request a NIF. Not every office will allow or offer this, and you may need to try several before you will even get a response (even if it is no).
Non-EU citizens cannot obtain a NIF this was as you require a fiscal representative.
To try getting your NIF number online, email the Finanças office with the following:
- An explanation, in Portuguese, why you require a Portuguese NIF.
- Included a scanned copy of your ID/Passport photo page, and proof of address.
You may or may not be successful trying this way. The worst that can happen is they say no or don’t respond.
Portuguese NIF’s and Tax Residency
You should be aware that if you register your NIF at your Portuguese address, it will be assumed that you are tax resident in Portugal. This is fine if you are, or are becoming, a permanent resident and will be eligible for tax returns in Portugal.
However, if you are not planning on being tax resident in Portugal, and are buying a holiday home, or will be resident elsewhere for more than 180 days of the year, then you should register your NIF to your non-Portuguese address.
Your NIF will be registered as a non-habitual NIF, while those permanently resident in Portugal will have theirs registered as a resident.
If you are already a tax resident, then you must register your NIF at your Portuguese address.
Unlinking yourself from a Fiscal Representative
There may come a time when you need to unlink yourself from a Fiscal Representative, such as when you become a permanent resident yourself, or you sell your property in Portugal with no intention of ever returning. You can unlink yourself when you get your temporary residence permit.
To unlink yourself you will need to take your residency permit or card and NIF to your nearest Finanças office and request the change at the desk.
Note that lawyers acting as fiscal representatives often charge an annual fee for acting as one, so you may not obtain a refund or rebate if you unlink yourself before the year is finished.
Do I need a NIF to live in Portugal
Technically, everyone who resides permanently in Portugal is required to have a Portuguese NIF. It is required for purchases and taxes.
You do not need to give your NIF or Numero de Contribuinte in supermarkets when asked, or for other purchases of low value.
If you are not planning on buying property or opening a Portuguese bank account, then it may be possible to get by without one. If you are planning on renting a property, you may require one but not all rental contracts require one.
While you can possibly get by without one, if you are residing in Portugal for any length of time, it is best to obtain one. And if you are a resident for more than 180 days a year, you are legally required to have one as you are considered tax resident in Portugal.
- Portuguese Tax Authority
- Portuguese Portal of Public Services
- Validate NIF numbers for Portuguese companies
I hope this guide to the Número de Identificação Fiscal in Portugal has helped you understand what it is, why you need it and how to get one. If you have any questions not answered here, please feel free to ask in the comments and we will endeavor to answer them or find the answer for you.