What does NIF stand for?

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Written by: | Last updated on February 29, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes
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If you’re planning to move to Portugal or you’ve spent any kind of time here, you’ve probably come across the word NIF from time to time, and may be wondering what exactly does the term NIF mean?

Literally, NIF stands for fiscal identification number or tax identification number, sometimes called a TIN. It’s a way for the Portuguese government, or tax authorities, to identity an individual. When you purchase a house, for example, you’ll give your NIF or individual tax payer ID.

The NIF is sometimes also called a número de contribuinte, and you’ll hear the word contribuinte used at the supermarket when you’re being asked whether you want to add your tax ID to your receipt. You may also notice the NIF number is a requirement when renting a house or starting a contract, such as a mobile phone or home internet contract.

According to Kathleen Lo from Bordr.com, “NIF stands for Número de Identificação Fiscal, which translates to Tax Identification Number. It’s a personal identification number assigned for tax purposes and is used when making purchases and completing official transactions in Portugal.”

Because it’s a personal tax identification number, it’s assigned to an individual rather than a couple or a family. Children do need a NIF, but this doesn’t normally get assigned to them until they enrol in school.

Do you need a NIF number? If you’re just visiting Portugal, you don’t need one to do most things such as shop at the supermarket — even if you’re asked for one. If you’re planning on moving to Portugal or buying a house here, however, you will need to get a NIF number.

It also isn’t just Portugal that uses the NIF number. In Spain, NIF is the generic term of the tax ID number for all individuals. Foreigners living there will have an NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) which is given when you file taxes, buy a property, start a business, open a bank account, or, like Portugal, whenever you fill out any paperwork.

Both EU citizens and non-EU citizens get issued a NIE when they move to Spain. The NIE format is different to Portugal. While the Portuguese NIF is made up of nine numbers, the Spanish NIE starts with an X, Y, or Z and is followed by 7 or 8 digits then another letter (e.g.: Z12345678A).

Each of these numbers are tied to the tax authorities in that country. If you’re moving to Portugal from Spain and you already have a Spanish NIE, you won’t be able to use this in place of a Portuguese NIF.

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.