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The financial implications of your SEF appointment

By Portugal team
This article is published on: 31st January 2023

Brexit pushed many British expatriates to apply for residency – Immigration and Borders Service’s desk / Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) to be able to stay more than 90 days in every 180 within the Schengen area, but what some may not fully understand are the implications.

Triggering tax residency
When applying for residency in Portugal you are effectively declaring your intention to stay in Portugal for more than six months. Staying in Portugal for more than 183 days a year will trigger tax residency and financial reporting obligations; you cannot simply continue paying taxes in the UK.

Brits must also be mindful of the UK statutory residence test because this could inadvertently entangle you in the UK tax net if too much time is spent back in the UK, even if you are declaring yourself as a Portuguese tax resident and spending more than 183 days in Portugal. This is not something you want to be caught up in, especially if you intend to take advantage of Portugal’s Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) scheme. You want your tax residency status to be clearly in Portugal.

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 your assets. For example, UK rental income always remains taxable in the UK and is also reportable and taxable in Portugal. Conversely, UK tax is not due on UK pension income (unless it is a government scheme), but it is fully 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.

NHR Portugal

Make the most of it
New residents of Portugal can apply for NHR which gives generous tax breaks on foreign-sourced income and in some cases, Portuguese arising employment income, for a period of 10 years. However, the right planning and preparation is needed, and you may need to restructure your affairs to take full advantage of the scheme. Once the NHR period ends, normal Portuguese tax rates apply.

NHR certainly provides generous tax breaks but what many do not realise is that it is also a ‘window of opportunity’ where you can plan for a tax-efficient future after NHR. For example, it is much more tax advantageous to dispose of overseas property during the NHR period when gains are exempt in Portugal, rather than post-NHR when 50% of the gain is subject to scale rates of tax.

Even for those without NHR, there are compliant structures that can reduce or eliminate income and gains tax for significant long-term tax savings. Ideally, such structures are funded during the NHR phase, so it is never too early to start planning.

Expatriates have complicated affairs: tying up loose ends in their home country, navigating the legalities and processes in Portugal, keeping track of what taxes are due where, and ongoing compliance with changing tax rules in various jurisdictions. With so many moving parts it is important that planning is not done in isolation, it is reviewed regularly and undertaken with experienced and qualified advisers.

Debrah Broadfield and Mark Quinn are Chartered Financial Planners (level 6 CII) and Tax Advisers (ATT) with nearly 20 years of combined experience advising expatriates in Portugal on cross-border tax and financial issues. Find out more at or contact us at +351 289 355 316 or

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