Mexico: Deciding Whether or Not You Need a Factura

Shortly after moving to Mexico, Linda and I went to Office Max in Playa del Carmen to buy some ink for our printer. While I was paying, the woman at the register asked me if I wanted a factura. Many years earlier, I had learned that the word factura meant receipt, so I responded that I wanted one.

I was surprised when she asked for my RFC, which is short for Registro Federal de Contribuyentes. An RFC is an alphanumeric tax identification code similar to a social security number in the U.S.

Since I didn’t have a Mexican tax number at that time, I decided to backpedal a bit and I told her that I didn’t need a factura after all.  She nodded her head and handed me a sales receipt printed by the register. I glanced at Linda to see her reaction and I saw that she was as confused as I was.

When we got home, I did a little research and discovered what all the confusion was about.

What’s a Factura?

In Mexico, the word factura refers to a special type of receipt that is generated for tax purposes. A factura contains more information than a standard sales receipt and is filed with the Mexican tax authority (SAT). At tax time, every declared business expense or qualifying deduction must be backed up by a factura that is on file with SAT.

In 2011, the Mexican government began requiring businesses to start issuing electronic facturas and sending that information immediately to the Mexican tax authority (SAT). This allows the government to track taxes that are due, including the value-added tax (IVA) on all goods and services.

In an attempt to evade taxes, some vendors may offer you a discount if you don’t want a factura.

By the way, if you just want a plain old sales receipt, just ask for a nota or a ticket. The salesperson may even ask you, “Factura o ticket (nota)?”

Verifying an Electronic Factura

To help prevent fraud, the Mexican government allows anyone to verify the authenticity of any electronically issued factura on the following website:

https://verificacfdi.facturaelectronica.sat.gob.mx/

This is particularly useful when buying a used car in Mexico. A vehicle’s original factura is used much like a car title is in the United States. It proves ownership. Running a vehicle’s factura through the site will help you identify counterfeit documents and avoid being scammed.

When You Need a Factura

If you need a receipt for official purposes, like making a claim to a medical insurance company following treatment, then you will need a factura. Don’t worry if you don’t have an RFC, SAT has generic ones for people who are not registered in the system.

It’s very important to ask for a factura at the time that you receive the service or product because you may not be able to get one later.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Frankly, I’m surprised that we don’t have a similar system in the United States. Not that the IRS needs any help or anything — I’m just saying.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

11 Comments on "Mexico: Deciding Whether or Not You Need a Factura"

  1. Good information as always Paul!
    So if you have a HSA in the US, I assume you would ask a medical care provider for a Factura, or is it just for goods?

  2. I’d like to add how important getting an electronic factura is if you have private health insurance through a Mexican company. We have insurance through MetLife Mexico, for example. No medical costs can be reimbursed to you (medicines, services of a doctor, etc.) without a factura—and in virtually all cases you have to ask for it at the time. You can’t go back and get it later. In our first six months in Mexico, my husband had a medical emergency and we lost some money because I did not carefully collect facturas as I should have. (Ouch!) MetLife requires the electronic form of the factura to be emailed to them, so it is best to have the provider or pharmacy email it to you, so you can in turn email it to the insurance company. (Then of course you have to have a Mexican bank account, if only for the purpose of the insurance company having somewhere they can deposit your refunds.)

    Alex

    • Thanks for sharing that experience, Alexandra. It demonstrates the importance of getting all the facturas when dealing with medical insurance companies.

  3. Extranjeros sin RFC / Foreign nationals without registration can always use this RFC number: XEXX010101000

    Good article

  4. Paul, this may be a subject for another blog, but what is the system that allows tourists to have sales tax refunded? I have noticed that just about all stores have a desk where you bring your receipt, fill out a form and supposedly get your taxes refunded. I have been kind of reluctant to do this, because the form is quite detailed and asks questions that I am not comfortable providing. Maybe my scam radar is just set too high?

    • Hi Ron. That is actually on my list of future topics to cover. You can get reimbursed for purchases — that part is not a scam.

  5. garrett klassen | January 8, 2018 at 11:17 am |

    I was told that a factura is important for major home improvements in order to offset applicable capital gains taxes when you sell your home? Do you know if that’s true?

  6. Happy New Year, and thank you for replying to my recent enquiries. I am trying to plan a trip to experience your piece of paradise. I am not on any timetable, so could you recommend time of the year you think would be optimal to experience the climate, people, festivals, etc?

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