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23. july 2021 · 3 minute

What is a Portuguese NIF Number and why do you need it?

If you're planning to move to Portugal (or if you are already living there), surely you've heard about NIF – Número de Identificação Fiscal. To carry out any official or legal activities in the country, you'll need a NIF, whether you're a resident or non-resident in Portugal. We'll guide you through all the essential information you need to have about a NIF.

What is a Portuguese NIF number?

NIF – Número de Identificação Fiscal – also commonly known as "Número de Contribuinte" (Taxpayer Number) is a 9-digit unique personal identifier used for tax purposes necessary for:

• Paying taxes;
• Buying properties;
• Opening a Bank account;
• Signing up for utilities;
• And many other day-to-day activities and/or formal engagements.

It serves as an identifier between a taxpayer and the Portuguese Tax Authority (Finanças). All the information about your purchases, status, and others is found on their Website. It also serves to fight tax evasion and fraud. Usually, merchants ask for the NIF number to add to the receipts since most of them are deductible in the IRS, apart from the possibility of earning big monthly prizes in a National Lottery.

Is a NIF number really needed?

Non-residents don't need to obtain a NIF number, and it is not illegal to not have one. However, it is highly advisable to do it if the non-resident plans to stay for a few months in the country. A non-resident, for example, can't buy property by not having it, apply to employment in Portugal, do their taxes in the country, and several other things previously mentioned.

A non-resident or a temporary resident may receive a temporary NIF number, which is eventually replaced by a permanent one after a few months or when the non-resident becomes a permanent resident.

Getting a NIF: differences between EU and Non-EU citizens

The process for getting a NIF is easier if you're an EU citizen. In case you aren't, there are additional requirements to get it, specifically, the requirement of having a "Representante Fiscal" (fiscal representative).

1. For EU citizens: there's no requirement to have a fiscal representative, and you can do it yourself. However, some people find it easier to have it, asking a friend or paying a company/lawyer/accountant to be the representative and saving the trouble of attending an appointment at the Finanças.

2. Non-EU citizens: usually, you'll need a fiscal representative to vouch for your application. In case you don't know anyone in Portugal to be the representative, the options are:
• Paying a specialized company to be your representative;
• Hire a lawyer to support you in the process and act as a representative;
• Hire an accountant.

What are the requirements for a NIF number?

When it comes to documents needed for the NIF, the process is relatively straightforward: you just need to present a valid ID with a photo and a proof of address in Portugal (a rental contract, and utility bill, etc.). If the person applying is a national from outside the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland, then the ID document provided needs to be the passport.

If the application is not made by the person requiring the NIF but through a representative or lawyer instead, then the ID document provided must be scanned and signed by the ID holder and a Power of Attorney document (translated into Portuguese) granting the representative the right to represent the original requester.

Options to get a NIF number

1. In person (in a Finanças office or Loja do Cidadão) In this case, you simply need to go, in person, to one of these offices, take a ticket, wait your turn and go through the process. Due to COVID restrictions, you may need to schedule this appointment in advance, which you can do on the Finanças website. However, the appointment can take too long to be booked, or there may even not be available spots, so research first. If you're a Non-EU citizen, your fiscal representative needs to go with you and bring his valid ID and proof of address.

2. By email Due to the COVID restrictions and the high volume of appointments, some Finanças offices are now issuing NIF numbers through email. Through this method, you will need to send a scanned copy of your ID, signed by you, along with a proof of address and a small cover letter explaining the reasons why you're applying for a NIF number. However, not all Finanças offices use this method, so you may need to contact a few of them to get a positive response.

3. Through a private service Several companies specialize in this kind of service, where you can pay a fee. They handle the process while also being your fiscal representatives. Adding to this, you can also hire a lawyer or accountant to act on your behalf.

Being a fiscal representative of someone is a big responsibility since that person/company will receive all communications by Finanças and be held responsible for paying fines or other taxes. Therefore, research these private services properly first.

Costs of obtaining a NIF

Making the NIF number is, in general, free. However, in some situations, costs may apply:

• If you want your NIF number printed on a card (which is not obligatory, but some people prefer to have it instead of having to memorize the 9 digits), there's a cost of 6.80€
• In case you're hiring a private service to do it for you, the price varies, and it can range between 60€-1000€, depending on the company/lawyer/accountant hired.
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