Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


The Complete Guide to CPF

Patrick Bruha

Patrick Bruha

Staff Writer
The Brazil Business


The CPF is of most importance to both Brazilians and foreigners that own taxable goods in Brazilian territory. In this article, we will see its history, how to obtain and maintain one, and all the obligations arising from its possession.

History of CPF

The Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas, which stands for Registry of Individuals or most commonly known as CPF, has grown to be one of the most important and most used documents used by individuals to perform almost any financial and commercial operation and used by several public and private organizations as a way to identify citizens.

In Brazil, the Royal Treasury Offices – which were the first tax departments – appeared in 1534. But, the institution inside which the CPF, which stands for Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas - Individual Taxpayer Identification Number - was inaugurated only in 1968. The Secretaria da Receita Federal, or SRF, which stands for Secretariat of the Federal Revenue, is the body of government responsible for federal tax administration with sole representation for the taxpayer.

The reformulation of the SRF led to the replacement of the antique tax model, based on the type of taxes administered individually, for a functional structure with joint administration of the internal and customs taxes in Brazil. Due to a government project, the SRF and the Social Security Revenue were united in 2007.

This was done so the federal tax administration could be reorganized to provide both the State and taxpayers a whole set of benefits:

  • Rationalization of tax collection and supervision process.
  • Increasing tax collections without increasing the individual tax burden.
  • Improvement of the taxpayer service systems
  • More effective measures against tax evasion.

The CPF itself was preceded by the Cartão de Identificação do Contribuinte, which stands for Taxpayer Identification Card or CIC, which was given to the taxpayers after 1968 when the SRF was created. Only in the middle of the 1980s, during a tax administration reformulation, was the CIC retired and the CPF became the main document in terms of tax-related accountability and, later on, Social Security.

How is it organized?

Formerly printed on a paper document, the CPF number was then printed on a blue credit-card-sized plastic card, and is now again issued only in paper which is given to you via mail. The number itself consists on an eleven-digit figure, the two last ones being the result of an arithmetic operation on the nine previous ones, thus preventing any typing mistakes on the first nine digits because that would result in an invalid number. To avoid tax evasion, the number, which used to be temporary, became permanent. The ninth digit of the CPF, the one before the two validation digits, reveals the federative unit where the bearer of the CPF first registered.

CPF in Everyday use

The CPF being a database managed by the SRF, which stores information about taxpayers, all the taxpayers in Brazil are required to possess a CPF number. That means, both Brazilian-born people who live in Brazil and all foreigners who pay taxes to the Brazilian government are required to do so. Besides that, all Brazilians, from newborns to people who are already deceased, are allowed to enroll a CPF, but only in specific cases where the necessity of owning a CPF is proven.

From December 1, 2002, the CPF registration or application became compulsory for people residing overseas who have possessions or property subject to Brazilian public registration, which include: real estate property, vehicles, vessels, aircrafts, shares of stock, bank account holders, financial market investments, and capital market investments.

CPF is mandatory for all individuals in any of the following situations:

  • Subject to Statement for the Income Tax payment.
  • Subject to inheritance.
  • Independent professionals that are registered in any Brazilian Professional Practice Inspection Organs, such as CREA, CRM, OAB, etc.
  • Real estate agents or individual people participating in Real Estate operations in Brazil.
  • Account holders, financial operators and shareholders
  • Contributing and applying for benefits from the INSS.
  • Living abroad (Brazilians or foreigners) with assets or rights subject to public registration in Brazil, such as Real Estate property, vehicles, vessels, aircraft, interest in corporations, bank accounts, capital or financial market investments in Brazil.

How to get a CPF?

First, to enroll a CPF, you can choose between five different places:

  • Agencies convened with the SRF: Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal or a Correios office, cost of BRL 5,70 (maximum).
  • Online, if the individual possesses a Voter Registration Card, by means of an online form, without cost.
  • On the public entities convened with the SRF, without cost.
  • Brazilian diplomatic representations abroad, without cost, although the process may take a longer time.
  • Directly with the SRF: non-residents in Brazil, enrollment of deceased person, or in case of request by bodies of public administration due to inability of attendance by the individual (custodial agency for imprisoned, and SUS, Sistema Único de Saúde, for the hospitalized).

Then, there are five different ways of enrolling a CPF:

1. Over 16 years old:

  • Identification Document of the enrolling person, certifying nationality, filiation and birth date (RG for example).
  • For Brazilians from 18 to 69 years old: Voter Registration Card or any other document certifying voter registration or document by the Justiça Federal, which stands for Electoral Justice, attesting absence of mandatory voter registration.

2. Under 16 years old, wards, under guardianship or other individuals bound to any kind of judicial custody:

  • Identification Document of the enrolling person, certifying nationality, filiation and birth date (RG or Certidão de Nascimento for example).
  • Identification Document from one of the parents, tutor, trustee or responsible of custody due to judicial determination.
  • Document that proves guardianship, trusteeship or guardianship responsibility as the case may be, unable or forbidden.

3. When the enrollment is requested by an attorney:

  • Documents of the enrolling person, according to items 2 and 3 above.
  • Identification Document card of the attorney
  • Document certifying the attorney’s enrollment in CPF.
  • Public power of attorney, or special power of attorney notarized (when plowed or notarized abroad, the power must have its validity recognized by a Brazilian consular office unless otherwise constant of law, international agreement or treaty).

4. When the enrollment is requested by a foreigner:

  • Sworn translated valid Identification Document of country of origin, or RNE/CIE (Registro Nacional de Estrangeiro/Cédula de Identidade de Estrangeiro), or Passport page containing the applicant's personal information, or protocol for the RNE in which appears the enrolling person’s registration data,
  • Identification Documents presented by foreigners do not need to present filiation in it, they must be valid in the country of residence and must have been sworn-translated.

5.When enrollment is requested in a Brazilian Diplomatic representation:

  • Besides the aforementioned documents, according to each case, it is also mandatory to fill and present the form Ficha Cadastral de Pessoa Física.

Why do you need a CPF?

A CPF is needed for almost everything nowadays in Brazil. Besides being the registry of a citizen to the SRF, the CPF number stores information provided by the taxpayers themselves and by other systems of the Secretariat. Having the CPF at hand is not mandatory, but it is a document necessary for most financial operations, like opening a bank account and getting credit, for example.

Other operations that require a CPF are: applying for public jobs, opening an entity, being up to date with taxes, and purchasing determined products. It is also necessary to present your CPF number when you enlist for making a driver’s license or when you enroll for a college entrance examination.

The CPF is mainly used by government bodies, banking agencies and private companies as an auxiliary instrument to testify the identity of the individual. Apart from that, the CPF can also be used in shops and other commercial establishments to issue a Nota Fiscal Paulista for the benefit of the taxpayer.

What's your legal responsibility by holding a CPF?

By holding a CPF, one has to either declare their taxable income or declare exemption annually as per the laws stipulated by the SRF.

How to maintain a CPF

Owning a CPF does not necessarily mean a tax liability for the payment of any taxes, unless the foreigner has taxable income by the Brazilian tax authorities, in which case the taxes due shall be collected at the source.

By means of an online form, the Comprovante de Situação Cadastral, taxpayers can keep up with the status of their CPF to see if it is still active or if it has any pendencies or irregularities on it. If there are any irregularities or pendencies, the CPF will be labeled as “registration status” or “fiscal status” in a rapid search via the SRF website.

The “registration status” becomes “regularization pending” or “suspended” if the individual has incorrect registration data, like a wrong Voter Registration Card number or failed to deliver his Declaração de Imposto de Renda, which stands for Statement of Income Tax.

To keep up with the ”fiscal status”, one has to issue a Certidão Negativa, which stands for clearance certificate via the SRF website. Then he will be informed if there are any tax-related pendencies. These tax-related pendencies are due to a federal tax charge, like Income Tax or Rural Property Tax. The pendencies can be consulted via the SRF website too, under Pesquisa de situação fiscal.

There are four different types of “registration statuses” that can be found by searching in the SRF website:

  • Regular: There are no pendencies in the taxpayer’s registration.
  • Pending regularization: The taxpayer failed to deliver some Statement that he was supposed to have delivered. It might have been any Statement of Income Tax in the last five years.
  • Suspended: The taxpayer’s registration is incorrect or incomplete.
  • Cancelled: The taxpayer’s CPF was cancelled due to “multiplicity”, in virtue of administrative or judicial decision or due to passing of the taxpayer.

It is important to state that Registration status is different than Fiscal status. The taxpayer can be with a regular Registration status despite having debts with the SRF. To check your fiscal status, issue a Certidão Negativa de Débitos, Clearance Certificate of Debts, or do a Fiscal Status Search.

So, to maintain your CPF, you only have to correctly issue every year the Statement of Income Tax, should you be living in Brazil or living abroad (Brazilians or foreigners) with assets or rights subject to public registration in Brazil.

Sanctions if you do not meeting the obligations

If the taxpayer does not comply with the obligations of owning a CPF, his name will be entered in CADIN, Cadastro Informativo dos Créditos não Quitados de Órgãos e Entidades Estaduais.

This system records the names of every individual or company which possess pendencies with the organs and entities of the State Public Administration. One’s name will be entered in the CADIN if:

  • The individual is responsible for financial obligations due and unpaid in respect of organs and entities of the direct and indirect administration, including state-controlled companies.
  • The individual has not met the accountability obligations due to legal provision, clause, covenant, agreement or contract, or whether one has been rejected.

Inclusion in CADIN will prevent the execution of the following acts with organs and entities of the State Administration:

  • Signing of covenants, agreements, arrangements or contracts involving the disbursement, in any capacity, of financial resources.
  • Transfers of agreements’ values or payments relating to contracts
  • Granting aids and subventions
  • Granting tax and financial incentives.
  • Release of credits generated by the Projeto Nota Fiscal Paulista

It is possible to lose your CPF in a number of different ways:

  • When the taxpayer does not issue his Statement of Income Tax two consecutive years
  • Due to administrative or judicial decision: for example, when the person gets robbed and someone else uses its CPF number.
  • As mentioned above, only one CPF number is allowed for each person, so if the SRF notices that more than one CPF number is registered under your name, it will cancel both to avoid fraud. In order to maintain the right number, people with more than one CPF number must present an Identification Document in order to cancel the irregular CPF numbers.

Common questions

What is needed to get a duplicate?

To get a duplicate of a CPF, one has to access the SRF website, and fill the Impressão do Comprovante de Inscrição no CPF form, and then you have to fill in all the following gaps:

  • CPF Number
  • Name
  • Mother’s name
  • Birthdate
  • Voter Registration Card number

Can I alter my registration data?

You have to go with your personal documents (Identification Document, Voter Registration Card, Wedding Certificate) to a Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal or Correios convened agency and request a registration alteration. Should a marriage occur, you only have to alter your registration if your name or address has changed. The maximum cost of a registration alteration is BRL 5,70.

Does CPF has an expiration date?

No, CPF does not have an expiration date, although it might be cancelled after some time after the person's death.

Extraordinary cases

Is it possible to hold multiple CPFs?

A lot of CPFs are canceled due to the existence of multiple numbers. As stated above, each person can only have one CPF number. But sometimes, during a new CPF registration, the attendant can miss checking if someone already owns a CPF.

To stop people from obtaining more than one registration, the attendant who is registering you checks for birth date, mother's name and Voter Registration Card’s number.

Can someone use my CPF for fraudulent purposes?

In case of CPF robbery, it is recommended to report the fact to the police. The former CPF card has no picture or signature of its owner on it, so it can be easily used by someone else, pretending to be you.

However, CPF is only valid if presented along an Identification Document or other official document with picture. But not all establishments are that careful to ask an Identification Document with a picture to certify its validity.

What are the needed safety measures to secure your CPF?

There are no preventive ways of securing your CPF, but you can always check in a Serviço de Proteção ao Crédito building, which stands for Credit Protection Service.

Since nearly all financial and online shopping operations make use of a CPF number, if there is an irregularity with your CPF (such as someone using it for fraudulent purposes), your name will be entered in the SPC.

To consult if your CPF has any credit-related pendencies, go to a SPC building with your CPF and another document attesting your identity.

Commercial use of CPF

Whenever you purchase or perform a financial operation, you have to inform your CPF. That serves companies in two different ways:

  • To issue the Nota Fiscal Paulista
  • To check if your data is correct and if your status is clear, via the SRF website
  • To check if there are any credit-related pendencies on your name, via SERASA.