If you aren’t resident in Portugal, there’s a good chance you don’t have a NIF number. Although you could get one, you don’t really need to have one, unless you have certain financial commitments in Portugal, like owning a house or car.
However, there are a lot of people that come to Portugal regularly that run into a NIF-related problem: when they try to shop at Portuguese websites, such as Portuguese supermarkets, they’re often asked for a NIF number at the checkout stage.
Unfortunately, this is really down to the website owners only assuming that Portuguese residents will be using their websites. This is probably true 99% of the time in the case of supermarkets, for example, but an increasing number of tourists want to do their grocery shopping online when they come to Portugal. And what happens if you’re living in another country and you see something for sale on a Portuguese website. Naturally, you’ll want to shop online and get it delivered internationally, the way you would with a website in any other country.
According to Kathleen Lo, from Bordr, “If you’re not a Portuguese resident, it can be confusing when Portuguese websites (such as supermarkets) ask for your NIF. Some people put their passport number or a personal tax identification number from their own country. If that doesn’t work, try putting nine zeros e.g. 000000000.”
Kathleen also points out that there isn’t a legal obligation to use your NIF for most shopping related transactions.
“You are required to provide your NIF when making large purchases like a car or a house because these come with annual tax obligations. In the supermarket, giving your NIF is optional because this simply allows you to have tax deductions on your personal income.”
If you spend a lot of time in Portugal but don’t live there, is there any value to getting a NIF number?
Probably not. The main benefit of using your NIF is that it can reduce your Portuguese taxes, but as you don’t live there, that won’t benefit you. Using your NIF does enter you into a weekly lottery, so if you want a chance at winning some money whenever you do your shopping, it’s something to consider.