Portuguese fiscal numbers: What you don’t know can hurt you!
This is the first in a three part series about potential problems lurking below the surface with your Portuguese Fiscal Numbers:
What you don’t know can hurt you! The basics
WHEN FOREIGNERS first come to Portugal, one of the early steps to adapting to local bureaucratic prerequisites is acquiring a Portuguese Fiscal number. This tax identification card is essential for performing almost any legal act in Portugal: buying property, a car or mobile phone, taking on utilities for your house, signing just about any legal document or official paperwork. However, once you have it, don’t be lulled into thinking that everything will be all right.
Surprisingly, danger can lurk just below the surface whether you are new or old to Portugal. Having out-of-date or inaccurate information may lead to serious headaches, far-reaching liabilities and major tax bills that might otherwise have been avoided.
The fiscal number card
Let’s begin by gathering a few basics. There are three types of cards that are currently accepted and in use:
The oldest is an oversized beige document showing your name, fiscal number, local tax office and code.
The same information is shown on a somewhat smaller red, grey and white card issued in the 1990s.
Finally, the present-day variety is a green and black plastic “credit card” style card, equipped with a magnetic strip and an intelligent chip. Although these have an expiry date, they continue to be accepted even after they would appear to have run out.
All three are valid. When paying your taxes, signing official documents or opening a bank account, you will need to show the card (or a legible photocopy) along with your passport, identification card or Residência. Needless to say, the spelling of your name must coincide on all documents in order to avoid bureaucratic torment.
Not shown on the card is the information given at the time of registration. This data contains simple, but key elements about you: current address, nationality, date and place of birth, residency status and so on. In addition, non-residents need to identify their fiscal representative, who should also sign in the appropriate box to acknowledge acceptance of this appointment.
Normally, this information is furnished by the person applying for the card, usually a lawyer, estate agent or a Portuguese-speaking friend, but rarely you, the taxpayer. Besides information going out-of-date, inaccuracies and mistakes are all too common, leading to unforeseen consequences that can prove disastrous if left unchecked.
Keeping your registered information current with Finanças is not only prudent, but also in your best interest. Your tax advisor or qualified fiscal representative should be able to confirm your status and nip a problem in the bud. In fact, this is just one of many ways that competent professional service can prove to be a real money saver in the long run. Assuring the accuracy of your data confirms the adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”
Once you have been registered and received your fiscal number card, do not be lulled into complacency. Incorrect identity information problems can create serious liabilities, as well as prove to be very expensive. There are a number of potential problems that can arise:
All registered information is presumed to be current by Finanças. However, if your lawyer applied for your number at the beginning of the property purchase process, your address may appear as his office and not where you are living. Perhaps an alternative address was used, such as a local café or a neighbour’s house during the construction phase of your new ho