Getting receipts

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Getting receipts

Supermarket receipt, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Notice the huge amount of transaction detail compared to a receipt in the USA or Canada. There are program names, software version numbers, a cryptographic checksum (MD-5), and what appears to be a line of encrypted data (5th line from the bottom). The value-added tax on the groceries is surprisingly high at 34.32% (9th line from the bottom labeled Val Aprox Tributos or "approximate value of taxes").

If you're visiting Sao Paulo for business reasons, you probably will need to collect receipts.

You'll always get a receipt for credit card payments of course. And you can almost always get a receipt when you pay in cash as well. The only exceptions are subway ticket booths, bus drivers, street vendors, and street fairs. Taxis always give a receipt if requested. If you pay in cash, the taxi driver will fill a form by hand. Supermarkets and chain stores will give you a receipt automatically, but in most other places you'll have to request it.

Small stores and small restaurants may sometimes give you a form filled by hand rather than a cash register receipt (despite having rung up the purchase on the cash register!).

The phrase to use to request a receipt, in order of increasing formality, is:

  • notinha
  • nota
  • nota fiscal
  • cupom fiscal
  • recibo (though this is the literal word for "receipt", it isn't a common word in Portuguese, so it's better avoided)

Most people in Sao Paulo will say either notinha or nota, as in Uma notinha, por favor (A receipt, please) or Você pode me dar uma nota? (Can you give me a receipt?).

Merchant asking for your CPF number

When you ask for a receipt in Sao Paulo, the merchant will almost always ask back a question to you, phrased as either CPF? (pronounced as seh-peh-effi) or Paulista?. Your reply should be não (no).

What the merchant is asking is, Do you want me to put your CPF number (Cadastro de Pessoa Física), a unique identifying number that all Brazilians have, onto the receipt? In the second case, the merchant is asking, Are you a resident of the state of Sao Paulo (and therefore a Paulista) and want to me to put your CPF number on the receipt?

The CPF number is roughly equivalent to the American SSN or Canadian SIN.

Residents of Sao Paulo who give their CPF numbers will receive a refund of small portion of the invisible sales taxes that they pay on their purchases. A middle-class Brazilian who consistently gives their CPF number on all their purchases can expect to receive back something like R$300 annually (i.e., not very much). The motivation of this scheme is a way for the state to use statistical methods to identify merchants who are under-reporting income, while refunding just enough sales tax to ensure that some percentage of people participate.

Unless you have a CPF number and you have a Brazilian bank account into which you would receive your remittance, you won't want to bother with this. (By the way, tourists and business visitors can get a CPF number, but a Brazilian bank account is nearly impossible for non-residents.)

If you have a Brazilian friend who does collect this money, then as a favor to him, you could always give their CPF number. Your receipt will then show their CPF number (but not their name). Be aware however that the person whose CPF number you provide can see on the Internet all the stores or locations you visited and total amounts you paid (though not the individual items you bought).

The CPF question might be phrased differently in other regions of Brazil. In Brasilia and the Federal District, the merchant might say either CPF? or Nota legal?

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