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[Solved] Huge Toll Road Fines, 4 Years later. Help!


Posts: 2
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Topic starter
(@jonnyh)
New Member
Joined: 6 months ago

Hello all,

I am posting to ask for advice, help, knowledge or expertise.

I lived in Lagos as a traveler between 2016 and 2017. During this time I owned a car and used the A22 toll road many times. Being young and ignorant, I didn't realize it was an electronic toll road that needed to be paid for. Whilst living in Portugal I never received any letters or notifications saying that I owed money. Four year later, in December 2020, my Portuguese friend, who signed on as my Tax representative so that I could attain a Fiscal Number (NIF), started receiving letters at his address directed at me, detailing fines to the value of 1600 euros. As I used the toll roads many times, and have accumulated fines on all of them, and then with the four years of non-payment/administration charges, they have grown from being very small, to this enormous number.

I no longer live in Portugal and have no intention of returning, however as my Portuguese friend is now receiving these letters because he is noted as my tax representative, I don't want him to get in any trouble and need to sort it out. Here are my questions to anyone who knows how the Portuguese tax law works.

1. Is this at best, a bit legally dodgy? Why didn't I receive any letters whilst living in Portugal, when the amounts were small enough to pay them and why did he only begin receiving the letters 4 years later, when the fines were already extortionate?

2. Is he, as my tax representative, actually legally bound to this at all? I know it looks that way as he is receiving the letters, but in reality, how solid is this system and if I refused to pay, would he be made to pay or can they not actually legally force him to do anything?

3. Surely there are thousands of unpaid tolls every year from travelers and most of them never get paid, the only reason I'm finding out about this is because I happen to have a tax number. Are there many many unpaid tolls and they try and scaremonger who they can into paying but in reality they only enforce it for those who bother responding?

4. Are there any legal aids for British or Australian citizens that aren't insanely expensive where I can talk to a lawyer or someone who knows about Portuguese law to ask these questions and get help. I tried contacting the British embassy but they were no help, they shrugged me off and said get a lawyer.

5. Has anyone had this experience? Does anyone has tax debt in Portugal from something trivial like this and has never paid it? Have there been any repercussions?

I'm feeling very lost and helpless at this point as I can't find any help and am on the other side of the world, I don't speak Portuguese and I'm completely unaware of how the tax system or law works over there. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Cheers

Jonny

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(@old-bloke)
Joined: 13 years ago

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Posts: 2111
Posted by: @jonnyh

Hello all,

I am posting to ask for advice, help, knowledge or expertise.

I lived in Lagos as a traveler between 2016 and 2017. During this time I owned a car and used the A22 toll road many times. Being young and ignorant, I didn't realize it was an electronic toll road that needed to be paid for.

That's surprising, there are advance warning signs on the approach to every toll road and on the junction sign itself then bloody huge signs on the SCUT road displaying the cost for each section you drive through. 

Whilst living in Portugal I never received any letters or notifications saying that I owed money.

The initial notice of SCUT fine is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle subject to the fine. I assume you were driving a foreign registered vehicle.

Four year later, in December 2020, my Portuguese friend, who signed on as my Tax representative so that I could attain a Fiscal Number (NIF), started receiving letters at his address directed at me, detailing fines to the value of 1600 euros. As I used the toll roads many times, and have accumulated fines on all of them, and then with the four years of non-payment/administration charges, they have grown from being very small, to this enormous number.

I no longer live in Portugal and have no intention of returning,

If so what was the need for your friend to get you a NIF number?

however as my Portuguese friend is now receiving these letters because he is noted as my tax representative, I don't want him to get in any trouble and need to sort it out. Here are my questions to anyone who knows how the Portuguese tax law works.

1. Is this at best, a bit legally dodgy? Why didn't I receive any letters whilst living in Portugal, when the amounts were small enough to pay them and why did he only begin receiving the letters 4 years later, when the fines were already extortionate?

Why do you think it's "dodgy", you used a toll road and didn't pay, it's no different than eating a meal in a restaurant and not paying the bill. How would they know what address to send any letters to? Were you driving a PT car registered in your name (unlikely with you not having a NIF at that time)? Had you registered you were living in PT at the local camara as you were obliged to do?

2. Is he, as my tax representative, actually legally bound to this at all? I know it looks that way as he is receiving the letters, but in reality, how solid is this system and if I refused to pay, would he be made to pay or can they not actually legally force him to do anything?

No, he isn't liable for your fines.

3. Surely there are thousands of unpaid tolls every year from travelers and most of them never get paid, the only reason I'm finding out about this is because I happen to have a tax number. Are there many many unpaid tolls and they try and scaremonger who they can into paying but in reality they only enforce it for those who bother responding?

There are. It's not scaremongering, they are informing you that you have a legally enforceable bill in Portugal that you need to pay that is only going to get bigger until it's paid.

4. Are there any legal aids for British or Australian citizens that aren't insanely expensive where I can talk to a lawyer or someone who knows about Portuguese law to ask these questions and get help. I tried contacting the British embassy but they were no help, they shrugged me off and said get a lawyer.

Lawyers in PT are not insanely expensive, but as you have no 'get out' from paying your debts they will just tell you to pay it.

5. Has anyone had this experience? Does anyone has tax debt in Portugal from something trivial like this and has never paid it? Have there been any repercussions?

I got a SCUT fine once having forgot to go to the post office and pay the toll within the specified time, they sent the bill and I paid it so it was never logged at the tax office.

I'm feeling very lost and helpless at this point as I can't find any help and am on the other side of the world, I don't speak Portuguese and I'm completely unaware of how the tax system or law works over there. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Cheers

Jonny

Whilst you may think it is a "trivial" thing, it is not viewed as such in Portugal, either under the tax system or the law. In fact cars (and other assets) have been seized in the past for such "trivial" matters, one such car seizure was for unpaid tolls (and associated fine for non payment) that amounted to €400.

The way I see it you have two options, pay what is due, or avoid the EU for the rest of your life (fines imposed by one EU member state are enforceable in all member states).

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Community Member
(@jonnyh)
Joined: 6 months ago

New Member
Posts: 2

@old-bloke

hey mate, thanks for the reply.

I certainly do not think it's trivial. Nothing funny about 1600 euros. I agree I'm an idiot for not finding out how to pay the eTolls, I must have seen the signs, you're right, they're huge. I grew up in a city without any toll roads, I had never used one before so I guess I just didn't realise the importance of them. Either way, I'm dumb, what's done is done and I'm now in this position.

You assume wrong however, the car was Portuguese, I owned it and it was registered to my address. Hence why I got the NIF, I needed it to buy a car in Portugal. This is what I think is legally dodgy. They could have sent letters to my address, even once I had left Portugal, my friend still lived at the address, I would have still been able to find out about the fines if they had sent them. To only find out about them 4 years later seems mad.

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VIP Member
(@old-bloke)
Joined: 13 years ago

Noble Member
Posts: 2111

@jonnyh 

Sorry about the incorrect assumption, I assumed you didn't have a NIF as you wrote "in December 2020, my Portuguese friend, who signed on as my Tax representative so that I could attain a Fiscal Number (NIF)" on your initial post (attain - to achieve).

I don't know whether or not the toll road company HAVE to inform you of any unpaid tolls before fines and overdue charges can be added. That is something that a PT solicitor will be able to advise you on for a minimal cost.

The circumstances you find yourself in should act as a wake-up call to anyone who doesn't notify the tax office when they change their address, which they are obliged to do within 60 days (fines apply for not doing so).

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Posts: 231
Ask Our Expats Consultant
(@pamalcobaca)
Estimable Member
Joined: 1 year ago

Hi, I can't answer all your questions but it is normal for them not to send letters about fines. As a driver it is your responsibility to know the local laws of driving. If you don't have the recording device for tracking electronic tolls in your car, you can check online for any outstanding fees. Also, as you have a NIF you can check any outstanding tax bills by logging onto your account on the finanças portal. So legally, if it appears there you have been notified.

Sorry but I agree with Old-bloke, you are liable for the costs and the fines, ignorance is no defense. 

I realise it is a big shock and an unexpected expenses, just reinforces how important it is to be as well informed as possible before relocating to a new country.

I don't know if anyone else thinks it is worth you speaking to a lawyer to see if you could get the fines reduced? Or if this is something that ACP would intervene it, but I'd say it's a long shot.

I had a similar experience before I moved here, I got a speeding fine about 2 years after driving a hire car - it just took them that long to track me down to the UK. 

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Posts: 406
Community Member
(@aspidistra)
Reputable Member
Joined: 10 months ago

I think you are about to waste a lot of energy trying to avoid the fines.
It doesn’t really matter whether they billed you in a time frame that you think is fair or not.

It's your responsibility if you want to use the better road (eg A22) to pay for it and to work out how to pay for it. As old-bloke says there is plenty of signage to indicate it is a toll road, plenty. 
I would suggest, just pay the fine and get over it. Not paying it is effectively stealing from that country.

I know there is an argument that they shouldn’t charge for some toll roads as they were EU funded but that is a matter for the government and the EU. As a guest in another country, you have to live by their rules, surely. And having a debt hanging over your head can cause you complications with travel at a later time.

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Posts: 734
VIP Member
(@mrbife)
Honorable Member
Joined: 17 years ago

If your Portuguese friend who is your 'tax rep' as you call him is in fact your 'fiscal representative' then he becomes personally liable for the full payment if you don't settle up. 

 

 

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