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Portugeuse residency and taxes

By Mark Quinn
This article is published on: 12th June 2023

Residency, domicile, visas and non-habitual residency… it can be confusing. Mark Quinn and Debrah Broadfield of the spectrum IFA group explain NHRs generous tax breaks, tax planning opportunities, and how to reduce or even eliminate income and gains tax on savings and investments.

Legal residence
Legal residence relates to the right to reside in a particular country. If you are an EU citizen, you have the automatic right to reside in any other EU country without the necessity for a visa. If you are coming from outside the EU, you must apply for a visa to establish your residency rights – a common visa route is the D7 or ‘passive income visa’.

Legal residence is important as it determines how long you are allowed to spend in a country and your right to benefits such as healthcare and social security. Legal residence however does not impact or determine your tax status.

Tax residency
Generally, tax residency is determined by your physical presence in a country and Portugal, along with many other countries, uses the 183-day rule for determining tax residency.

Understanding your tax residency is important because it determines which country has taxing rights over you and can avoid double-taxation issues when you have links to more than one jurisdiction.

It is possible to have legal residence in Portugal, but not actually be Portuguese tax resident e.g. if you have the right to stay in Portugal but you do not spend enough time in Portugal in a given year to be considered tax resident.

Non-Habitual Residence (NHR)
NHR gives successful applicants a special tax status in Portugal for 10 years, but its name is somewhat misleading. ‘Non-habitual’ actually refers to the requirement that you must not have been resident in Portugal in the five years prior to application.

You must apply for residency before you can apply for NHR. On obtaining residency, you have until the following 31st March to apply for NHR. If you miss this deadline there is no second chance to apply.

Portugal residency

Domicile is something that is often confused with residency. Your domicile does not affect your income tax position, but it does affect your liability to UK Inheritance Tax. It is most likely to be a consideration for British nationals, individuals married to British nationals, or those who are not British but spend a considerable amount of time in the UK.

UK domicile is very adhesive and is difficult to shed; moving to Portugal does not automatically remove your liability to UK inheritance tax, no matter how long you have been out of the UK. Likewise, simply sheltering the bulk of your assets in a trust or QNUPS is unlikely to protect assets from UK IHT.

Tax liabilities in Portugal
Tax residents of Portugal must declare their worldwide income and gains in Portugal. For those with assets in several countries, you might also have tax and reporting obligations in the jurisdictions where you hold the assets e.g. UK rental income is always taxable in the UK but is also reportable and taxable in Portugal. Whether you will pay tax twice depends on the Double Taxation Treaty between the two countries, but there are usually rules in place to avoid this happening.

Potential pitfalls
Many people believe that, as long as they are paying tax somewhere they are meeting their obligations, but this is not correct. It is important that you have a clear understanding of where you are resident to avoid being taxed in more than one jurisdiction or being fined.

Registering yourself in Portugal does not automatically make you a tax resident. It is determined by your physical presence, so it is important to check your tax residency every tax year, as it could change.

Your nationality or citizenship does not change by coming to live in Portugal and becoming resident, although you do have the option of applying for Portuguese citizenship after five years.

Article by Mark Quinn

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