Portuguese bureaucracy can be very complicated, but applying for a NIF is at least a relatively gentle introduction. If you are going to live and/or work in Portugal, this number will chase you around, as you’ll need it for any kind of contract (opening a bank account, buying or renting a house, utilities, Internet, employment, etc…), so getting it should be very high on your to-do list.
What is a NIF number?
NIF stands for Número de Identificação Fiscal (also called Número de Contribuinte) and it is a 9-digit unique personal identifier for tax purposes. This tax number is necessary for both individual and collective persons/companies, but for companies it is actually called NIPC (Número de Identificação de Pessoa Coletiva – Collective Person ID Number) instead of NIF.
Apart from its identification purposes, the NIF is also a way of fighting tax evasion and fraud. For example, it has become very common for businesses to ask customers if they want to include their NIF on receipts, because it results in deductions on their tax returns and may even grant them big prizes, as receipt numbers are drawn every month in a national fiscal lottery.
Quer contribuinte na fatura? Would you like your tax number on the receipt?
Who can ask for a NIF and where do you get it?
The NIF can be requested by any citizen at any given time, whether or not you’re a national or even a resident. However, if you’re a non-resident and non-EU/EEA citizen, you will need to designate a local representative (see more below).
The NIF can be asked for in person at any tax office (usually called Serviço de Finanças), Loja do Cidadão (Citizen Shop), or other designated offices or counters, such as those which provide national ID cards (Cartão de Cidadão). The number itself is issued on the spot, totally free of charge. However, there may be fees involved if you ask for an official card with the NIF or if you apply for it as part of the process for obtaining your national ID.
You will have the same NIF number for life and no renewal is needed, even if you never end up doing anything tax-related in Portugal. You do, however, need to renew your national ID card every few years, if you have one.
What do I need to bring to get my NIF?
Fortunately, the list of mandatory documentation is pretty short!
- For nationals and EU/EEA citizens:
- ID or Passport
- For non-EU/EEA citizens:
- Passport (ID not accepted)
- For children without ID or passport (EU and non-EU alike):
- Birth certificate
In addition to this, whether or not you’re residing in Portugal, proof of address will most likely be requested. This can be as simple as a utility bill (note that TV or phone bills may not be accepted).
As mentioned before, if you’re both a non-resident and non-EU/EEA citizen, you will need a local tax representative (representante fiscal). Anyone with fixed residence in Portugal who accepts the responsibility is eligible, regardless of nationality. The representative should come with you and also bring their own ID and proof of address. You/they should be asked to sign a power of attorney.
And that’s it! The process itself is quick and easy. But don’t be surprised if you find a long line before you… Good luck!