If you’re moving to Portugal or buying property here, you won’t get far without a NIF number. NIF stands for Número de Indentificação Fiscal, i.e. Tax Identification Number but is most commonly referred to as a NIF (pronounced niff) or (número de) Contribuinte, i.e. Taxpayer number.
Note: If you already know what a NIF is and why you need one but haven’t got yours yet, you can grab a $10 discount off Bordr’s online NIF service for non-residents by using my code: JULIE at checkout. The same code (JULIE) will also get you a $10 discount off their bank account opening service.
Your 9-digit NIF number is unique to you and doesn’t need to be renewed. It’s different from your Social Security number, which you’ll need in order to register with the health service and if you’re employed in Portugal but is further down the priority list of things to get.
You can apply for your NIF number before moving to Portugal or once you are resident. That said, it appears that for Non-EU/EEA citizens, you may be asked for a NIF to complete the visa application process. If that’s the case, you’ll have to get one before you actually make the move. The same applies if you are purchasing property or need to open a bank account.
Why do you need a fiscal number in Portugal?
You’ll be asked for your NIF or Contribuinte whenever you want to do anything vaguely official, including setting up utilities or mobile phone contracts, opening a bank account or for rental contracts, among many other situations.
You’ll also be asked in shops if you want to add your Contribuinte and therefore get a fatura (invoice-receipt). You might be wondering why this would be desirable but if you’re a tax resident in Portugal, you can get a tax deduction on certain purchases when you use your NIF. This is intended to cut down on tax evasion.
You don’t have to supply your NIF for everyday purchases from shops unless you want to.
However, if you want a fatura in order to get your tax breaks, or when purchasing things for a business, it’s best to mention this before the cashier starts ringing things up because some systems don’t allow them to add the number after the transaction has been completed.
How do you get a NIF number?
For EU citizens, in normal times, i.e. without Covid restrictions, you can go to your nearest Finanças office or Loja de Cidadão and get one for free, or €6.80 if you want a card with the number on. You’ll need to take a copy of your ID or a passport (and the originals) and proof of address (e.g. a utility bill or bank statement).
However, this in-person service has been temporarily suspended and you can apply online but you will need a fiscal representative (representante fiscal).
Non EU/EEA citizens, even when legally resident in Portugal, need a fiscal representative to accompany them to the tax office or apply on their behalf.
See the section below about services that can help you get your NIF online.
What’s a fiscal representative?
This is someone over 18 who is legally resident in Portugal who commits to making sure you comply with Portuguese tax regulations. They will need to prove their status with a passport/ID and proof of address. You can use a lawyer or someone you know but since they are assuming some risk on your behalf, it should either be someone you know well, or who is willing to do this as a paid service (see below).
Once you have moved to Portugal, it’s probably best to unlink your NIF from your fiscal representative to avoid paying annual fees or simply to relieve your friend or family member of this responsibility. All you need to do is take your residency card and NIF to Finanças.
How can you get a fiscal representative if you don’t know anyone in Portugal?
You can hire a lawyer or there are several companies who will gladly take your money to facilitate getting your NIF. Some charge a ridiculous amount for applying for your NIF on your behalf. If you use a lawyer, expect to pay between €300 and €700 per year for fiscal representation.
How to get your NIF online
One company that offers this service at a reasonable rate is Bordr.io.
For US$150, they will take care of the whole process. All you need to do is upload your ID and proof of address and digitally sign Power of Attorney to make them your fiscal representative so that they can request the NIF on your behalf.
It normally takes less than a week for them to get your NIF.
I got my NIF over 13 years ago so I haven’t needed to use them myself but I’ve checked them out and from reviews their customers seem delighted.