The first day of June this year saw the entry into force of amendments to the Act on Rules for Registering and Identifying Taxpayers and Tax Remitters, of 13 October 1995 (Act). They have redefined the rules concerning the PESEL (Universal Electronic System for Registration of the Population) and NIP (Taxpayer Identification Number) tax identifiers. As a result, PESEL has become the primary identifier for taxpayers who are individuals and are not registered as taxpayers of goods and services or are not engaged in business. According to the justification for the Act, the amendments are intended to enable foreigners to obtain a PESEL identifier without having to register their stay and does away with the practice of assigning NIP numbers to such persons. This change is of great practical significance, particularly for persons providing HR and payroll services to companies employing foreigners.
Assignment of a PESEL number before the amendment
Under the still valid general rule of the Population Registration Act of 24 September 2010, a foreigner is assigned a PESEL, if that person’s stay is being registered for more than 30 days. Nonetheless, the foreigner is often unable, for various reasons, to enter into a tenancy or other agreement of such type that would serve as a basis for the registration of the stay.
Another way of obtaining a PESEL number involved and still involves the submission of an application to the relevant authority (municipal office, district office). In addition to the basic personal details, the application should specify the relevant legal basis for the requirement to have a PESEL number. It is an open secret that the reason most often quoted for the need to obtain a PESEL number was that of a desire to set up a trusted online profile; although after obtaining the PESEL number, hardly anyone would set it up. During the submission of applications, the most diligent officials would ask about the place of residence, but most applications were accepted, knowing that ultimately it was all to do with settling an outstanding tax return or facilitating visits to the doctor.
A PESEL number and the settlement of personal income tax (PIT) and social insurance (ZUS) before the amendment
Before the amendment, foreigners were assigned a NIP number, which enabled them to deal properly with their tax obligations. In tax office matters, it was also usual practice for PIT-11 returns to be accepted bearing the series and number of the foreigner’s passport, or a sequence of repeating digits, such as “9999999999” instead of the NIP/PESEL number. It would happen that documents that had been completed in this way, were not processed or settled by the authority, despite having been submitted to the tax office, which the relevant party only discovered when applying for a residence permit in Poland. Incidentally, one may add that tax returns that have been completed and settled in this way in 2021 do not, as a rule, need to be corrected, even if the foreigner has been assigned a PESEL number. However, such a correction will be possible and is recommended. The correction may be made by submitting a new corrected tax return bearing the PESEL number.
For foreigners, the absence of a PESEL number also was not an obstacle to obtaining health care in Poland – it was sufficient to present any document proving registration for health insurance. Unfortunately, in practice, it often required obtaining additional documents, such as from the employer, and extended the time taken to register at a clinic. At that time, foreigners were identified in their contribution declarations by their passport numbers. This situation, although apparently straightforward, raised questions among HR and payroll service providers in companies employing foreigners. What is more, it could happen that after obtaining a PESEL number the foreigner ended up with two accounts at ZUS – one in which the person was identified by their PESEL number and another created based on their passport number. Unfortunately, also in this case, the problem would reveal itself only when attachments were being assembled for an application for a permit to reside in Poland. The solution was and is to merge the accounts, which, if not carried out ex officio by ZUS, one may do oneself by contacting the ZUS Call Centre, or in person at the appropriate ZUS branch.
Assignment of a PESEL number after 1 June 2021
A foreigner may still submit an application for a PESEL number stating that the purpose of obtaining a PESEL number is a burning need to sign a document electronically – using a trusted online profile. However, currently, such person may also refer in the application to the legal basis under Article 3 par. 1 pt. 1 of the Act. As before, the application itself is free of charge and may be filed personally or through a proxy.
The proper authority for accepting an application for a PESEL number (for a foreigner) is:
- the district administration for the taxpayer’s (worker’s) registered place of residence,
- the district administration for the employers’ registered office, if the taxpayer (worker) is unable to register their stay,
- the District Office for Warszawa-Śródmieście (ul. Nowogrodza 43) – if the taxpayer (worker) is not yet working or the employer has a registered office outside Poland.
The amending Act also includes a transitional provision specifying the situation of persons who, as a result of the changes, will be required to use a PESEL number. Until the date when they are assigned a PESEL number, such persons will be able to use the NIP tax identifier assigned to them before the Act’s entry into force, but for not more than 30 days from the date of the Act’s entry into force.
In the current legal position, a foreigner may be assigned a PESEL number upon their request, and the basis for assigning it is the amended Act on Rules for Registering and Identifying Taxpayers and Tax Remitters, of 13 October 1995. In accordance with Article 3 par. 1 pt. 1 of the Act, for taxpayers who are individuals and are not registered for VAT, or are not doing business, their tax identifier is, indeed, the PESEL number. On the one hand, this does away with the fictitious assignment of PESEL numbers on a legal basis that is inconsistent with actual status, or allows a solution to be found in a situation where a foreigner cannot, for various reasons, obtain a registration of stay. On the other hand, the change eases the work of persons who are responsible for personnel and payroll settlements by unifying the rules for Polish and foreign citizens, in particular with regard to the registration and completion of PIT and ZUS forms. As happens when changes are introduced, theory and practice do not always go hand in hand and situations do occur in which an authority still refers to the requirement to register stay, refusing to accept an application. Nevertheless, these are isolated cases.
Karolina Misiewicz, Oliwia Pecht