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:
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.
Here’s the generic RFC for foreigners: XEXX010101000
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.