By Óscar Alberto Madureira – Lawyer at Lektou Advogados, Portugal

The purchase of a real estate in Portugal requires the non-resident buyer to have a Portuguese Tax Number (número de identificação fiscal a.k.a. NIF). The NIF can be obtained with any division of Portuguese Tax Authority (Autoridade Tributária) and will have a national coverage. I.e. despite the division where the NIF is obtained, it will be valid in any part of Portuguese territory, mainland or islands. In order to apply for the NIF, the applicant will be required to provide a proof of residency as well as the original of his/her passport. 

In case the applicant is not resident in a country of the European Union, he/she will be required to appoint a tax representative. The tax representative must be a Portuguese tax resident and will be the individual or legal person liable to receive official notifications from Portuguese Tax Authority addressed to the represented NIF holder and to forward such notifications to the latter. The role of the Tax Representative requires the appointed person or entity to formally accept that role and cannot be made unilaterally.

Applicants of NIF are not required to be present at the moment of the application but, in that case, the person who filed the application on behalf of the applicant will have to be empowered by a valid power of attorney specifically mentioning and appointing the required Tax Representative.

In case the applicant is married and the reason for the application of the NIF is the purchase of a real estate, the spouse of the applicant shall also apply for a NIF, following the same type of procedure and complying with the same type of requirements. Despite there is no particular reason for such application – namely, in cases where the matrimonial assets regime allow each member of the couple to purchase assets individually and without the consent and or participation of the other spouse – Portuguese Tax Authority will require the spouse NIF when issuing the tax payment slips required to be settled upon the purchase of the real estate. If for any reason the spouse of the buyer does not holds a NIF, the Tax Authority will not issue the referred payment slip and the purchase procedure cannot be completed. We will elaborate more about this topic when we discuss matters involving Taxes due for the acquisition of real estate in Portugal.

The NIF is also one of the mandatory elements to open a Portuguese bank account regardless of the banking institution one may select. Opening a Portuguese bank account is advisable when buying a property to avoid dealing with frequent changes in the exchange rate and mandatory for those targeting Portuguese Golden Visa scheme. Besides the NIF, Portuguese Banks require the provision of several different personal information including address proof, identification documents, proof of income amongst others. The procedure may vary from bank to bank but those targeting to open Portuguese Bank accounts must assume that scrutiny and diligences taken by Portuguese banking institutions are in line with the best practices of the European Union and worldwide industry. Despite efficient, the procedures is rigorous and those applicants failing to provide the required data may not be able to open a Portuguese Bank account.

In terms of timing, since the NIF is mandatory for the purchase of the real estate and opening of bank account, it is advisable such procedure to occur a.s.a.p. allowing the transaction to be completed within the shortest period of time. 

In order to act in the most efficient manner, it is always advisable to appoint a Portuguese qualified lawyer to handle also matters involving NIF and bank account opening. 

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