The 2017 State budget law (Law n. 42/2016 published on 28th December) approved a mechanism by which companies importing goods into Portugal are no longer required to pay import VAT upfront to the customs authorities [as per article 27 (8) and (9) of the Portuguese VAT Code].

According to this new mechanism, companies importing goods into Portugal can opt for paying import VAT together with the VAT due on their remaining operations (after offsetting it with deductible input VAT in the respective VAT return) instead of paying it upfront upon importation.

This new measure aims at reducing the companies' import costs in Portugal; note that currently import VAT shall be paid upon importation of goods and postponing this payment is only possible where a guarantee is provided.

By adopting this mechanism Portugal wishes to leverage its ports in comparison to other EU ports which already offer the possibility for taxpayers to postpone the payment of import VAT until the submission of the respective VAT return.

Portaria n. 215/2017 published on 20th July enlightens how and when this option for postponement of import VAT payment shall be made:

  • By an electronic request on Portal das Finanças (the tax authorities' website);
  • By the 15th of the previous month (e.g. if the company wishes for the measure to take place from 1st January it shall apply by 15th December).

In order to benefit from this VAT payment postponement companies shall comply with the following:

  • Being registered (including opting for it, as applicable) under the monthly VAT regime;
  • Having no tax debts;
  • Performing only taxable operations (not exempt or exempt which grant the right to deduct VAT), apart from ancillary real estate and/or financial operations;
  • Not having previous importations still subject to (current) VAT payment postponements at the time this option enters into force.

The relevant timeframe of the new measure is as follows:

  • From 1st September 2017 - only for imports of goods listed on Annex C of the Portuguese VAT Code (which includes commodities such as potatoes, cereals and seeds, coffee, cocoa, tea, silver, copper and aluminium) - note that mineral oils are excluded:
  • To apply by 16th August for the option to take place from 1st September;
  • From 1st March 2018 - for all the remaining imports of goods into Portugal.

The VAT return forms were also revised following the approval of this new measure, as per Portaria n. 221/2017 published on 21st July.