I had thought once I’d gathered all the necessary paperwork and submitted them, that I would then be shortly be receiving my Portuguese driver’s license. That was back at the beginning of December of last year (2017). It is now nearing mid’ April and I have still not received the license. So upon returning to Lisbon I went and and checked in with the DMV (IMI in Portugal) to discover what may be holding it up. In my broken and very limited Portuguese, and after a few unsuccessful attempts at trying to find the right line I needed to be in, I finally found someone who told me that my original receipt letter that I received was my provisional license. I had a copy of it but she informed me that wasn’t good enough, I needed the original. For 30 euros I could get a new one. So I began to get my wallet out when she informed me that I’d need to go to another line to pay and get the letter.
Each time you get in a line-up, you begin by getting a ticket that is only available downstairs at the entrance. So I went back down, obtained another ticket (now for line “A”), and waited for my turn in the waiting room. Finally my number was called and ended up right beside the woman I had previously dealt with, and fortunately, knowing my situation, she explained it to the gentleman. He then took my money and printed out a new provisional license and then explained to me in good English that it was good for four months. I asked what was taking so long to get the real license. He said they have to check back with the country of origin in order to do the exchange (in this case, Canada), and that can take some time. Plus, he said, there’s so many ex-pat Portuguese who’ve been living in Brazil and who are moving back, that it has caused a 6-8 month backlog. Well, at least I had my provisional – although it was just for four months. Hopefully my original would arrive by then, or back to IMI and out another 30 euros.
We are finding that this is how the bureaucracy is in Portugal – slow. It is also difficult to get clear answers as to how things should be done correctly and in what order. We’ve spent a lot of time in government offices, only to find out that a new form is needed, or we needed something from another office before they could proceed in the one we were currently at.
As new residents, we are also new tax payers, and therefore have to now file in Portugal. We were in the process of selling a company while we were making the move, so this had to be reported in our tax declaration, along with a summary of the incomes we had earned over the previous year. Some of this income was from investments both inside and outside of Portugal, and some of it involved us billing a company back in Mexico for royalties.
We wanted to ensure we were doing this right, as we wanted to be straight with our tax paying obligations from day one. But we were also part of program in Portugal called the non-habitual residency residency status, (NHR) which meant that we pay no taxes on any income generated from outside of Portugal, for a period of ten years – a nice bonus along with obtaining European Union residency status.
The problem we incurred is that we began receiving conflicting advise on how this all should be reported with the tax authority. The company that took care of our NHR status did not do a great job, so we didn’t want to also continue having them provide tax advice and filing for us, a service they did provide. And we also questioned the advice that they had given us regarding taxes up to then. We got a recommendation from our notary, met with a very nice gentleman who informed us that the previous company had not filed my status correctly but they would correct it. Well, he didn’t and we found out a few months later we had a large tax bill that had to be paid right away.
He obviously didn’t know what he was doing. So we obtained a recommendation from the builder who was building our apartment. These guys were great, found the errors, re-submitted our tax declaration and said we should be getting a refund shortly, for nearly the full amount.
But they were very expensive, one of the top offices, so for the next year we decided to go with a accounting/consulting firm that our daughter had just started working for. We provided them with our previous tax information, documents for the new year filing, and asked if they could check on the status of our refund. Well, it seems that this as well, was not filed properly, or the proper documents to back up our status were never supplied by the previous company.
And after doing our tax return we knew that we owed more in taxes, but now we were paying again when we already had a credit with the tax department!
So we are now trying to get the two accountants to meet up with one another to go over our case, and come to some agreement as to how our documents should be filed and how we should be billing our company back in Mexico.
This, unfortunately, is part of living in Portugal today. It is progressing quite rapidly at the moment, with people moving in from different parts of Europe primarily, but also from Brazil, that the bureaucratic infrastructure can’t keep up. And it can be exasperating. It is also a case of Portugal trying to catch up with the rest of Europe. Those of us who are used to how things work in France or Germany can easily get frustrated.
But, that said, these are just a few things we have to deal with in order to enjoy life in Portugal. On the other side a lot the country has to offer; wonderful, friendly people, stunning places to visit and explore, wonderful weather, low cost of living, it’s safe, and currently has a dynamic, thriving economy. We just have to just regularly remind ourselves of that!