If you’re planning on moving to Portugal, you’ll come across the word NIF a lot. NIF is short for Número de Identificação Fiscal and it’s sometimes called a Número de Contribuinte as well. It’s a 9-digital tax number that’s used when you make payments in Portugal.
For example, at the supermarket checkout, the checkout assistant may say “contribuinte?” What she’s asking is whether you want to register these purchases against your personal financial number or NIF.
A NIF isn’t something that you just use when paying for your groceries, though. In fact, you don’t have to give over your NIF when doing your shopping, but you will likely need a NIF if you decide to buy a house or car, to open a bank account, get broadband or a mobile phone contract, or to use many Portuguese online shops.
You may wonder what the purpose of the NIF is. Basically, as dystopian as it is, it’s a way for the Portuguese government to track spending and, in particular, to prevent companies from dodging taxes: you ask for a receipt with your NIF and a company has to issue you an official receipt. But why would you ask for a receipt with your NIF? Well, when you use your NIF against certain purchases (such as food and haircuts) you get some taxes back. You are also entered into a draw to win prizes as wellhttps://www.portugal-accounting.com/post/benefits-of-including-your-portuguese-nif-on-receipts, which in the past has included family cars.
There are a few different numbers that you’ll need in Portugal, but the NIF is the main number and the first one that people get. The way in which you obtain one will depend on a few factors, but primarily whether you’re an EU or non-EU resident.
EU Residents: You don’t always need a representante fiscal (fiscal representative) to get a NIF and you can get a NIF simply by going to Finanças. Since the outbreak of Covid, it’s also been possible to get a NIF over email (persistence needed) or to ask someone else who’s a resident to get one for you only.
Non-EU Residents: If you’re not resident in an EU country, you’ll normally need a representante fiscal (fiscal representative) in order to obtain a NIF. This can be a person or company but since you most likely don’t know anyone in Portugal yet, it’ll probably end up being a company. Like EU citizens, you can obtain this NIF at a Finanças office with your fiscal representative or you can do everything online through power of attorney.
In this article, we look at the different ways you can get a NIF, which are:
- Pay a company to get you a NIF
- Ask someone living in Portugal to be your tax representative
- Go to an appointment with Finanças
- Email Finanças (EU citizens)
Once you have a NIF, you can then move onto the next stage of your Portuguese admin journey like opening a Portuguese bank account.
4 Ways to get a Portuguese NIF
Get a NIF online
There are an increasing number of companies and individual lawyers that can get you a NIF by giving them power of attorney and letting them act as your fiscal representative. Prices range considerably with the average price being around €200, although some companies charge as much as €500 or even €1,000.
Paying €1,000 for a NIF doesn’t normally make sense. Unlike say filing your tax return or assisting with your visa application, there really isn’t any skill or expertise involved and paying more doesn’t mean a better quality of service. That said, if you need ongoing fiscal representation (typically if you need a NIF but aren’t moving to Portugal) then you should focus on a company with good customer service as you’ll need them to reliably forward on any correspondence from Finanças.
Bordr.io are able to procure a NIF for $150 (or $140 if you use the code PORTUGALIST). The current turnaround time is one week, customer service is excellent, and Bordr can also help obtaining a Portuguese bank account as well.
Others have had success with NIFonline.pt. The service is cheaper at €59.90 + VAT, but many report it taking more than a month to receive their NIF and struggling to get answers to their messages in between.
Ask someone to be your tax representative (also online)
Cost: Free for EU citizens / €10.20 for Non-EU/EEA
Since Covid, it’s possible to get a NIF online through the Finanças Portal rather than having to go to the Finanças office. The downside of this is that you need a person who’s permanently resident in Portugal to be your tax representative.
Asking someone to be your tax representative does mean they take on a certain amount of liability, so it’s not something you can ask a stranger. They will be responsible for communicating with Finanças on your behalf should Finanças need to get in touch with you for anything.
This application can be done via the Portal das Finanças website.
Visit Finanças/Loja do Cidadão
Cost: Free for EU citizens / €10.20 for non-EU citizens. There is an additional fee if you want the NIF printed on a card rather than just on a piece of paper.
The most common way to get a NIF is simply to visit a Finanças office (or alternatively a Loja do Cidadão). Use Google Maps to find the one nearest to you.
You will need to bring your passport (or ID card for EU citizens) and proof of address (bank statement or utility bill, for example). EU citizens do not need to bring a tax representative with them, but non-EU citizens will.
Ideally, do it first thing and get there at least 10 minutes before it opens. You will need to take a senha (ticket) and wait your turn. The button you need to press will probably say “NIF” or “Número de Contribuinte.” Wait until your number is called and then explain that you are here for a NIF.
While it’s likely that the person you speak to will speak English, the people who work in Finanças are not known for being helpful so try to make an effort in Portuguese.
Non-EU/EEA citizens do need to bring a tax representative with them and, because of this, may want to look at one of the other options (e.g. paying a company to do it online or getting your friend to do it online through the Finanças portal). If you decide to go to the Finanças office, however, remember that your fiscal representative needs to bring their ID and proof of address with them.
Note: Due to covid, it’s no longer possible to simply visit your nearest Finanças office or Loja do Cidadão. You’ll need to make an appointment.
If you’re an EU resident (i.e. the address you live at is in the EU), you might be able to get a NIF simply by emailing Finanças – and at no cost to yourself. Many people have had luck emailing the Portimão office ([email protected]), for example, but, if you don’t get a response from them, you’ll need to contact another office – and so on.
One of the downsides of this approach is that you’ll need to email each office one-by-one and also give them a few days to reply before moving on. It’s not practical if you need a NIF quickly.
You will need to email over a scan (or photo) of your passport or ID card along with proof of address (such as a bank statement or utility bill). You should also send a short cover email (in Portuguese) explaining that you want to apply for a NIF. If you don’t speak Portuguese, Deepl.com is useful as it translates into either European Portuguese or Brazilian Portuguese.
NIFs & Tax Residency
When you get a NIF, you’ll need to register with your address. If you use a Portuguese address, it’s assumed you are now tax resident in Portugal. If you use a foreign address, it’s assumed you’re not.
If you’re not planning on becoming tax resident in Portugal (for example: you normally live in the UK but are buying a holiday home in Portugal) be sure to register your NIF to your non-Portuguese address.
If you are already tax resident in Portugal, you should use your Portuguese address.
“Unlinking” yourself from your tax representative
If you use a tax representative, either a friend or a lawyer, you will probably want to unlink yourself from that person at some point. Most lawyers charge an annual fee for representation and you will probably want to unburden your friend of any responsibility as well.
However, if you are resident outside of Portugal or another EU country (or become resident), you will need a fiscal representative (see below).
To unlink yourself, which you can do once you have your temporary residence permit, simply take your residence card and NIF to your nearest Finanças office to make the change.
Do I need a NIF Number to live in Portugal?
Technically, it’s something you’re supposed to have if you’re resident here (as opposed to being a tourist). As mentioned, you don’t need to use it in the supermarket, but you may need it for a lot of other things.
If you’re not planning on buying a house or car, opening a bank account, or anything else official, you can get by without it. Normally you need it when renting an apartment but, since so few landlords offer contracts, it isn’t completely necessary.
Do I need a fiscal representative?
If you have financial affairs in Portugal (you own property or run a business there, for example) but aren’t resident in either Portugal or another EU country, you need a fiscal representative. Due to Brexit, this now applies to UK residents who own property or have other financial affairs in Portugal.
This doesn’t normally apply to people who move to Portugal. If you apply for a NIF in order to get a residence visa (such as the D7) and then you move to Portugal and change the registered address to your address in Portugal, you won’t need fiscal representation. If, however, you leave Portugal and continue to have financial affairs in Portugal (e.g. a property here) then you will need fiscal representation, whether from another person or company.
The company that obtains your NIF will normally offer a fiscal representation service. Costs vary, but are typically several hundred Euros per year. In the example of Bordr.io, mentioned above, the cost is $140 for the first year when you use the code PORTUGALIST (which includes the NIF) and $150 for each year of fiscal representation after that. If you make friends with someone in Portugal who’s willing to be your representative, you can also unlink yourself from your current fiscal representative (e.g. Bordr) and ask that person to be your representative instead.