The CPF is your Brasilian fingerprint. The equivalent to a US Social Security number on steroids.
My husband had a CPF already from living in Brasil in the past, and I will need to obtain one. When I said this is a Social Security card on steroids, I was not slightly exaggerating.
Your CPF is linked to your credit history. If you plan on opening a bank account. You need a CPF. If you plan on getting a cell phone plan, you need a CPF. In fact, if you are going to fill your car up with gas at the local gas station, you probably want to have your CPF.
Ok, so you don’t NEED your CPF to fill up with gas. But get this little gem that the hubby imparted to me today (we find the whole Brasil tax situation very interesting), your CPF entitles you to tax refunds. There are plenty of posts on how to get one, and what a CPF is, and all of the boring mumbo jumbo. I however found the whole “tax refund” CPF angle fascinating.
In Sao Paulo, your CPF is also like a credit card that pays you a percentage back at the end of the year based on what you purchased.
Being that Brasil is a pretty Socialist country (per my foreign observations), they like to legislate and tax everything. Which of course leads to people trying to get out of the legislation and heavy taxes, which of course inevitably leads to more legislation.
Like any country private business owners are incentivized to show as little income as possible. You know how when you go into that mom and pop liquor mart and they only take cash, you know the REAL reason they’re only taking cash is because your purchase will most likely go unreported come tax time. Well the state of Sao Paulo wanted to make sure they got every last Brasilian centavo, so they’ve incentivized buyers to legitimize the purchase… even if it’s a cash one. When you buy anything the people at the check out counter ask you for a CPF (my Brasilian isn’t good enough to know what they say, just that I am to respond “nao”), and they in return report the purchase to your CPF history. The government has proof of purchase, so they can tax the business owner. For your part in this collection of taxes, you are entitled to a percentage back at the end of the year.