Home > Start a Business > Starting a LDA in Portugal: A Comprehensive Guide

Starting a LDA in Portugal: A Comprehensive Guide

By Bernardo Barbosa

Published on 15 April 2024

11mins read

share article icon
Detail Article Image

LDA is an acronym for "Limitada" and is the name most commonly given to a private limited company in Portugal. It's one of the most popular types of business structure in the country, and it's favored both by Portuguese companies and foreign investment projects.

Whether you're a Portuguese tax resident or a foreign entrepreneur looking to start a business in Portugal, understanding LDAs is crucial. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will be taking a close look at what LDAs are, how they can be set up, and what they represent to Portuguese and foreign companies.

Understanding LDAs: The Basics of a Private Limited Company

In the realm of business, an LDA refers to a private limited company, which is one of the most prevalent forms of legal structures in Portugal.

The primary characteristic of an LDA is that the liability of its members or shareholders is restricted to the amount they have invested or committed to invest in the company. This means that their personal assets are typically protected and separate from the company's debts and obligations.

While popular and versatile, LDAs come with specific attributes that set it apart from other business entities. Understanding the following basic features is key for anyone considering this route for their venture in Portugal:

Basic Requirements

To open any business in Portugal (including a limited company), you will need:

  • A Portuguese tax number, best known as NIF.
  • A Portuguese bank account.
  • A Social Security number.
  • A certified accountant (optional).

In addition, the relevant authorities will request additional documents such as the deed of incorporation, the certificate of eligibility, and a digital certificate of registration.

Business Name

Every LDA must have a unique business name that ends with the term "Limitada" or its abbreviation "Lda," which is one of the most important Portuguese companies code. This suffix is more than just a formality, serving as a clear indication to stakeholders, partners, and customers that a company operates with limited liability.

LDA vs. Unipessoal

While the term LDA often brings to mind a company with multiple members or shareholders, there's a subtype designed for solo entrepreneurs: the Individual Limited Liability Establishment or Single Member Limited Company, most commonly known as Unipessoal.

As the name suggests, a Unipessoal is a legal business structure with one single member. It enjoys all the benefits of an LDA but is tailored for individual business owners. The distinction is especially crucial for solo entrepreneurs who want to reap the advantages of a limited company without the need for multiple members.

Member Liability

One of the standout features of an LDA is the limited liability it offers to its members. Their assets remain protected, ensuring that business risks don't spill over into their finances.

In contrast, legal structures with unlimited liability such as, for example, a sole proprietorship, establish no legal distinction between personal and business assets, meaning there's no distinction between debts covered by the company and the entrepreneur.

Nevertheless, it's essential to understand that an LDA's limited liability isn't absolute. In cases of fraud, misconduct, or specific breaches of law, members still might face liabilities beyond their investment. However, with proper management and adherence to regulations, LDAs provide a robust shield against potential business debts and claims.

Detail Article Button

Setting Up LDAs: Key Requirements

Setting up LDAs implies certain key requirements, monitored by the Portuguese tax office, which are designed to help foreign and Portuguese enterprises structure their business investments.

Business Name Requirements

As previously stated, every private limited company in Portugal must incorporate the term "Limitada" or its abbreviation "Lda" at the end of its name. This isn't merely a naming convention, but a proper legal requirement set up by the Portuguese tax office.

In a nutshell, the Lda suffix serves a dual purpose: it informs the public and potential partners about the company's limited liability nature and ensures compliance with Portuguese business naming regulations.

If you want to establish a Unipessoal, you must explicitly indicate its single-member nature. This is usually achieved by incorporating the term "Unipessoal" before the "Limitada" or "Lda" suffix.

Member Requirements

LDAs can be established with a minimum of one member, but only in the form of a Unipessoal company. Apart from the Unipessoal structure, LDAs can have as many members as they desire.

LDAs are also open to anyone looking to do business in Portugal, regardless of the origin country. This fuels entrepreneurial success by authorizing people from outside of the European Union to invest in a business in Portugal. Naturally, they're still required to pay taxes and make Social Security contributions.

Capital Requirements

The minimum share capital required for establishing a limited company in Portugal is €5.000. However, most people conducting business in Portugal will need to inject capital above €5.000 into their companies for them to function. While the Portuguese Government has established no meaningful minimum investment to start LDAs, venture capital is still an essential part of how this type of business works.

For start, LDAs operate on quotas, not on shares (such as public limited companies), which affects a member's stake in the company. The capital gains obtained are distributed according to a member's rights and responsibilities, and these depend greatly on how much money they have invested in the business.

Financial support isn't everything, though, as members can contribute to the company's capital gains in various forms. Aside from money, they can make contributions in the form of property, equipment, intellectual property, and other business assets (including expertise and mentorship).

Structure Requirements

Every business in Portugal needs structure, and LDAs are no exception. A well-defined management structure ensures clarity in roles and responsibilities, allowing private initiatives to establish clear hierarchical guidelines.

Your small Portuguese business may do without strict structure requirements, but these are pivotal for medium sized companies and larger enterprises.

Main Benefits of LDAs for Portuguese Companies

There are multiple legal structures for a business in Portugal, but LDAs are perhaps the most popular. Perfect for everything from setting up a Portuguese agency to opening a tourism industry company online, LDAs offer benefits for all kinds of companies:
  • **Low risk:** Contrary to legal structures with unlimited liability, LDAs protect their members by limiting their financial exposure to the capital they have invested in the company.
  • **Scalability:** Contrary to Unipessoal companies, LDAs can be conveniently scaled because they can retain their basic structure even as they grow into larger enterprises.
  • **Ownership transition:** Contrary to larger share-based companies, LDAs offer greater flexibility for ownership transition due to their transferable shares.
  • **Incentives:** The Portuguese Government promotes several incentives for LDAs, including corporate and entrepreneurial innovation programs and international programs such as the Portugal Golden Visa scheme.

Despite these benefits, there's another side to LDAs too. People conducting business in Portugal may feel put back by their complexity, their requirement to have at least two partners, and their heavy regulatory oversight.

Detail Article Button

Liability Exceptions Set by the Portuguese Tax Office

There are some legal and financial intricacies to setting up LDAs, including liability exceptions. The following were put together by the Portuguese Government, and they should definitely inform how your business in Portugal works:

Liability Exceptions for Members

LDAs are designed to ensure a separation between personal and business assets. This means that, in most scenarios, a member's liability is restricted to their capital contribution to the company. If a partner's capital share is €10.000, for example, then the maximum amount he or she stands to lose is €10.000.

Yet, there are some cases in which members of a limited business in Portugal are required to assume liability that goes beyond their capital contribution. These include:

  • **Fraudulent activities:** If members are found to be involved in fraudulent or illegal activities that harm the company or its stakeholders, they might be held personally liable.
  • **Personal guarantees:** If members have provided a personal guarantee for a company loan or obligation, they might be held responsible if the company defaults.
  • **Mismanagement:** In cases where a member's negligence or mismanagement leads to financial losses or legal issues for the company, extended liabilities may be in order.

Liability Exceptions for Management

While the management structure of an LDA plays a pivotal role in its operations and decision-making processes, it's essential to understand that with authority comes responsibility.

Given their influential positions, managers are often subject to specific liabilities that go beyond the typical confines of member liabilities. These include:

  • **Breach of duty:** If managers fail to act in the best interests of the company, leading to financial losses or legal issues, they can be held responsible.
  • **Fraudulent activities:** Engaging in fraudulent or deceptive practices that harm the company or its stakeholders can result in personal liability for managers.
  • **Misrepresentation:** Providing false or misleading information, especially in official documents or financial contributions statements, can lead to legal consequences for managers.
  • **Failure to comply:** Managers are responsible for ensuring that the company adheres to all legal and regulatory standards. Non-compliance can result in personal liabilities.

Corporate and Entrepreneurial Innovation Programs for Portuguese LDAs

Incentives to attract investment, help early stage startups, attract highly qualified workers, and support technological development are common in the European Union. Portugal is an EU country with particularly strong incentives to attract investors, especially in the realm of LDAs.

Funding for Business in Portugal

European countries don't like it when an entrepreneur sets up a company abroad, and Portugal is no exception. There are several funding programs available for people who want to do business in Portugal, comprising everything from tax benefits to direct financial support.

Startup Investment Funding

Funding programs and initiatives for entrepreneurs in Portugal include:

  • The Tech Visa/Tech-Visa.aspx) program: For attracting foreign talent in the tech niche with a residence visa.
  • The Incubation Valley: For supporting your business in Portugal with professional incubation services.

In some cases, these programs can include specific tax benefits and exemptions to social security contributions that indirectly benefit entrepreneurs. 

To fully understand the information linked above, knowledge of the Portuguese language and/or professional translation services may be required.

Portugal Golden Visa

The Portugal Golden Visa is designed to foment foreign trade and tap into global income by granting a Portuguese residency card to investors outside of the European Union. It usually requires a minimum investment of €500.000 and traditionally attracts investors from China, Brazil, and South Africa.

The program covers the investor's entire family and has already allowed Portugal to secure more than €6.5 billion in international funding and establish several new medium sized companies.

Geographical Incentives

The Portuguese business landscape also includes incentives based on geography.

In mainland Portugal, these include incentives for setting up companies in territories with a low population density. Outside of mainland Portugal, these include benefits such as Madeira's municipal property tax exemption of 80%.


The legal form of your business in Portugal is closely related to its long-term success. It affects everything from paying taxes to your own exposure to financial risk, but it requires little more than a tax number, a social security number, and at least one other business partner.

But... Are LDAs the perfect legal form for your Portuguese business? Well, let's just say that there's just one form of knowing it: by setting up your private limited company and putting it up to the many tests of today's competitive business landscape!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What does LDA stand for?

LDA stands for "Limitada," which translates to "Limited" in English.

2. How many members are required to set up LDAs?

LDAs can be established with as few as one sole trader, but they fall under the specific umbrella of Unipessoal companies. To establish a traditional LDA, at least two partners are required.

3. Are there nationality restrictions for members of LDAs?

No. Both Portuguese residents and non-residents can be members or managers.

4. What's the minimum capital requirement for LDAs?

The minimum capital requirement for establishing LDAs in Portugal is €5.000.

5. How are LDAs different from other businesses in the Portuguese market?

LDAs offer limited liability to its members, meaning their personal assets are typically protected from company debts. This structure is a popular choice among entrepreneurs due to its blend of flexibility and security.

6. Do I need a social security number to open an LDA?

Yes. You're also required to have a working tax number and bank account.

7. Do LDAs need to pay Value Added Tax?

Of course! The typical rate is 23% but falls short to 22% in Madeira and 16% in Azores.

8. Can I change my LDA's business name after registration?

Yes, but changing the business name requires a modification in the company's articles of association and must be registered with the relevant authorities.

9. How do I know my company's social security number?

It's easy: just use your tax number to access the Social Security website and request your LDA's NIPC.

10. Can I convert my existing business structure to an LDA?

Yes, it's possible to convert other business structures to an LDA, but the process involves specific legal and administrative steps. Therefore, it's advisable to consult with legal experts or business consultants familiar with Portuguese regulations before doing so.

share article icon
Written by Bernardo Barbosa

Our specialised team focuses on bringing relevant and useful content everyday for our community of entrepeneurs. We love to stay updated and we thrive on sharing the best news with you.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latests insights and trends to help you start and run your business.

Want to stay updated with our latest news?

No spam, ever. Your email address will only be used for the company news.

©Rauva - 2024
Rauva is partnered with Swan who will be providing all payment services to Rauva clients. Rauva does not have access to client funds. Funds are kept in accounts provided by Swan, held in BNP Paribas. Swan is an EMI, based in France, supervised, and regulated by ACPR/Banque de France. Swan is authorized to carry out such services in Portugal and registered with Banco de Portugal under the registration number 7893.
Rauva is a certified accounting firm, but is not a certified legal services provider. As such, Rauva does not provide legal services. Rauva acts as an intermediary who facilitates the introduction to our customers of legal services partners who are legally registered and certified in Portugal. A list of Rauva’s partners can be found here.