The value of tax benefits to non-habitual residents keeps growing according to the “Tribunal de Contas” (National Audit Office). In 2018, there were €548 million in NHR exemptions granted to foreign pensioners. Nevertheless, this apparent tax giveaway would have never existed if the NHR regime had not attracted these foreigners to Portugal in the first place. For example, these pensioners paid almost €80 million to the state in Individual Income Tax (“IRS “) on non-exempt income. In addition, there are IMT, IMI and VAT levies which the Government collects above and beyond the scope of the Non-Habitual Residency scheme.
Despite an inauspicious start in 2009, the “NHR” programme has gained relevance, attracting thousands EU “tax refugees” to Portugal. Since 2014, new applicants have increased by 1400%. Between September of 2018 and March of this year, the number of new non-habitual residents rose by over 26%. Brazilians recorded the most significant jump with a gain of 52%, surpassing the Swedes. Citizens who qualify for “NHR” status pay “IRS” at a flat rate of 20% when they are linked to high added-value activities in Portugal. However, this group of targeted professionals accounted for just 7% of total applicants. Most are pensioners, seeking a 10-year tax holiday on their retirement benefits. In 2017, new “NHR” retirees numbered almost 10,000.
The guidelines of the Doctrine Declaration (“Ficha Doutrinária”) dated 04 December 2017 clarify tax liabilities based on nº 5 of article 81º of the IRS Code. Assessment of income from foreign sources classified under categories E (capital), F (long-term rent) and G (capital gains) earned by taxable persons considered to be Non-Habitual Residents follows the exemption method where the source country has the power to tax this income under the applicable Double Taxation Agreement. This rule infers that the tax exclusion does not hold for jurisdictions without such an agreement in place. Tax-exempt income must still be reported annually in Portugal to determine the final tax rate to be applied to total aggregate income subject to assessment.
Non-Habitual Resident migrants nearly double
Improved conditions and generous tax breaks have attracted more foreigners to Portugal in the last year and a half. The increase in the number of Non-Habitual Residents was 83% over the period, currently totalling 23,767 with NHR status. The rise is mainly from France, Italy and the UK. Emigrated Portuguese nationals are also returning but only account for 6% of the total.