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 often 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 this shop against your personal financial number or NIF.
A NIF isn’t something that you just use when paying for your groceries, though. While you don’t have to give over your NIF when doing your shopping, you will 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.
There are some benefits to you, however. When you use your NIF against certain purchases (such as food and haircuts) you do get some taxes back. You are also entered into a draw to win prizes as well, which in the past have included family cars.
There are a few different numbers that you’ll need in Portugal, but this is the main one and the first one that people get.
EU Citizens: You don’t necessarily need a representante fiscal (fiscal representative) to get a NIF and you can get a NIF simply by going to Finanças. However, you may find it easier to ask a friend or pay a company to be your fiscal representative rather than going through the hassle of attending an appointment.
Non-EU citizens: You normally need a representante fiscal (fiscal representative). If you’re applying for a visa, many consulates and embassies, particularly in the US, are now asking for a NIF when you make the visa application (so before you move to Portugal). So, to get one, you’ll either have to fly to Portugal and head to Finanças with a tax representative or just pay a company to do it for you. Most people find the second option easier.
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 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.
Bordr.io can get you a NIF within around 3 days for $150 (or $140 when you use the code PORTUGALIST at the checkout).
If you’re non-resident (i.e. you don’t live in Portugal yet) and are being asked for a NIF, this is probably the easiest option.
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 Portuguese person or someone who’s permanently resident in Portugal to be your tax representative. If you don’t know anyone you can ask, you will need to pay and use a company.
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.
Note: Due to covid, it’s no longer possible to simply visit your nearest Finanças office or Loja do Cidadão.
The most common (and perhaps least enjoyable) 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).
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. 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.
EU citizens do not need to bring a tax representative with them.
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.
If you’re an EU citizen, you might be able to get a NIF simply by emailing Finanças – and at no cost to yourself.
Since Covid, a number of Finanças offices have been registering people over email. Not all Finanças offices, unfortunately, but a few. Sometimes you’ll need to email a few different offices to get a positive response (or any response).
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.
NIFs & Tax Residency
If your NIF is registered to a Portuguese address, it’s assumed you are now tax resident in Portugal.
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.
To unlink yourself, which you can do once you have a residence permit, simply tax 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.