Businesses are legally required to register for VAT only when taxable turnover for the previous 12 months exceeds £85,000. Therefore, many businesses around are not VAT registered

If your business is VAT-registered, you may want to deal with only VAT-registered businesses because that comes with many benefits. But how do you check if a company is VAT registered? Here we’ll answer that question and give you all the info you need.

What is a VAT Registration Number?

A VAT registration number is a unique ID that HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) provides for a UK company that registers for VAT.

The HMRC, which is the UK’s tax, payments, and customs authority, is responsible for the administration and collection of direct taxes (like income taxes) and indirect taxes (like value added tax).

When a business registers for VAT in the UK, the HMRC provides it with the unique eleven (11) character long VAT registration number.

The format of the UK’s VAT registration number is GB123456789. It’s made up of nine digits followed prefixed by the country code “GB.” The first seven digits in the VAT registration number are unsystematic numbers, while the last two are systematic numbers derived from the first seven numbers.

Format of VAT Registration Number

A valid VAT registration number follows a particular format. The EU (European Union) countries currently use the two-letter country code format, where the VAT number starts with two letters representing the country codes.

The VAT number of the European Union countries are as follows:

Country Country CodeNumber of charactersVAT number structure
AustriaAT1 block of 9 characters. The first character is always U ATU12345678
BelgiumBE1 block of 10 digits. Prefix the digits with 0 if the customer presents a 9-digit VATBE1234567890 OR BE0123456789
BulgariaBG1 block of 9 or 10 digitsBG123456789 OR BG1234567890
CyprusCY1 block of 9 characters. The last character must always be a letterCY12345678X
Czech RepublicCZ1 block of 8, 9, or 10 digits. If more than 10 digits are provided, delete the first 3, as they are a tax codeCZ12345678 OR CZ123456789 OR CZ1234567890
DenmarkDK4 blocks of 2 digitsDK12 34 56 78
EstoniaEE1 block of 9 digitsEE123456789
FinlandFI1 block of 8 digitsF112345678
France (including Monaco)FR1 block of 11 characters. May have letters as the first or second, or the first and second characters.FR12345678901 OR FRX1234567890 OR FR1X234567890 OR FRXX123456789
Germany DE1 block of 9 digitsDE123456789
GreeceEL1 block of 9 digitsEL123456789
HungaryHU1 block of 8 digitsHU12345678
IrelandIE1 block of 8 or 9 characters. May include one or two letters as the last, or second and last, or the last two characters.IE1234567X OR IE1X23456X OR IE1234567XX
ItalyIT1 block of 11 digitsIT12345678901
LatviaLV1 block of 11 digitsLV12345678901
LithuaniaLT1 block of 9 or 12 digitsLT123456789 OR LT123456789012
LuxembourgLU1 block of 8 digitsLU12345678
MaltaMT1 block of 8 digitsMT12345678
Netherlands NL1 block of 12 characters. The 10th character is always B NL123456789B01
PolandPL1 block of 10 digitsPL1234567890
Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira)PT1 block of 9 charactersPT123456789
RomaniaRO1 block of 2 to 10 digitsRO12, RO123, RO1234, RO1235, RO123456, RO1234567, RO12345678, RO123456789, OR RO1234567890
Slovak RepublicSK1 block of 10 digitsSK1234567890
SloveniaSI1 block of 8 digitsSI12345678
Spain (including the Balearic Islands, but excluding Ceuta, Melilla, and the Canary Islands)ES1 block of 9 characters. It includes one or two letters as the first or last, or first and last characterESX12345678 OR ES12345678X OR ESX1234567X
SwedenSE1 block of 12 digitsSE123456789012

Why Checking Whether a Company is VAT Registered Matters

Most VAT-registered companies add a VAT price to the price of goods and services they supply. Thus, most often than not, you pay VAT when you pay for goods or services supplied.

If the invoice you get from your supplier includes a valid VAT number, you can get back the VAT you paid on supplies. But if the VAT number on your invoice is not valid, you cannot reclaim VAT, as the HMRC will reject the claim. In fact, attempting to reclaim VAT with an invalid VAT registration number may even prevent you from reclaiming the VAT that you are entitled to.

Thus, a valid VAT number can result in tax savings as you can get back the VAT you paid, while an invalid VAT number can lead to hefty bills as you cannot reclaim the VAT that you pay.

For these reasons, it is important to check that the VAT registration number of any company you deal with is valid. The particulars that need to be present in a valid VAT invoice for reclaiming VAT from the HMRC include:

·   The VAT registration number of the company you did business with

·   The name and address of the company

·   The invoice number

·   A description of the goods or services supplied

·   The date the transaction was carried out


Checking For the Validity of a VAT Registration Number

VAT registered companies will include their VAT number on invoices they issue for goods or services they provide. VAT registered companies will also have their unique VAT number on their official websites. 

So, to see the VAT number of a company you are doing business with, simply check the invoice is issued to you, or check its website.

After finding the VAT number, there are two main ways to check that the number is valid. These include:

  • Calling the HMRC VAT helpline
  • Using the online VIES (VAT Information Exchange System) platform

1. Calling the HMRC VAT Helpline

An easy way to determine the validity of a VAT registration number is to call the HMRC VAT helpline (0300-200-3700). The telephone service is available between 8 am – 8 pm throughout the week.

One limitation of this method is that it works for only the VAT number of businesses registered in the UK. Another limitation of the service is that it is not available round the clock (24/ 7). It means you’ll be unable to inquire about VAT outside the “8 am – 8 pm” working hours of the service.

2. Using the online VIES platform

The VIES (VAT Information Exchange System) digital platform is managed by the European Commission to help businesses verify the validity of VAT registration numbers.

The VIES platform uses real-time data feeds from the VAT systems of all member states, so the information provided is always up to date. It is also very easy to use the VIES platform.

·   Visit the VIES portal

·   Select the country of the business whose VAT number you want to verify

·   Enter the VAT number you want to verify

·   Select your country

·   Enter your business’ VAT number

·   Click “verify”

The portal will then tell you whether the VAT number is valid or not. If it is valid, the portal will show you the name of the business and its registered address.

Final Thoughts

If your business is VAT-registered, make sure the other businesses you deal with are also VAT-registered so that you can reclaim the VAT they charge you.

If a company is VAT-registered, its invoice will have its unique VAT registration number. You can check that the VAT number is valid by either calling the HMRC’s VAT helpline or using the European Commission’s VIES platform.

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