Americans are issued Social Security Numbers in the USA which are used to identify them—from taxpayer to pensioner.
Other countries assign their citizens (and residents) a variety of numbers. In Portugal, for example, in addition to a social security number, many of us also have a separate health care number, driver’s license number, and – of course – the ubiquitous “fiscal” (or taxpayer) number, technically known as our NIF but more popularly referred to as the número contribuente.
Every time we go shopping, we’re queried “Contribuinte?” by the cashier.
Merchants are required to ask if want to provide your “número contribuinte” for that purchase … although you aren’t required to give it. But, if you do, it’s recorded and reported to the tax office.
Will providing your NIFs for Lidl or Continente purchases affect your tax bill in Portugal?
Part of the reason behind tracking money spent and received is to thwart the “underground economy” and its financial transactions. But, thanks to giving our número contribuente, our own tax records display deductions we can take on our income taxes. And we’re entered in lottery-like “drawings” held regularly by Finanças and the tax office.
(Unless you pay income taxes here, however, you can’t claim these deductions. If you do pay taxes here, some “costs” are reclaimable.)
In welcoming us to their country, we want Portugal to know that we are investing in it, too, by purchasing from its businesses.
So, although not required or requested, when I head to SEF to renew my residencia, I’ll also be handing over a printout of the spending I’ve done here … attributed to my número contribuente!
Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.