A VAT identification number is a unique code that allows companies to be detected in the taxation databases as VAT payers. It also serves as a proof of VAT registration whenever a company charges VAT from its customers.
Whenever you receive an invoice that includes a VAT tax in the total amount and are in doubt whether the VAT is charged rightfully, you might want to check whether the company is VAT-registered. Unfortunately, it is not possible to reach out to the local tax authorities and submit them with the company name to check its VAT registration status. Instead, you can use the VAT ID number provided by the company and learn if it is verified. If the company has not issued an invoice with a VAT number or any other document holding this information yet, you might want to try searching for the company data in one of the local online business registrars.
When not sure whether a given VAT number is correct or real, you can take the benefit of several ways to proceed with the VAT ID check.
A quick way check if the VAT number is correct at the first glance is comparing it to the VAT number format of the country where the company is registered. Most VAT numbers currently begin by the country identification code. For example, the UK VAT code begins with letters GB and the VAT ID Germany operating companies have starts with DE.
Here is a full list of country codes: Austria – AT, Belgium – BE, Bulgaria – BG, Cyprus – CY, Czech Republic – CZ, Germany – DE, Denmark – DK, Estonia – EE, Greece – EL, Spain – ES, Finland – FI, France – FR, United Kingdom – GB, Hungary – HU, Ireland – IE, Italy – IT, Lithuania – LT, Luxembourg – LU, Latvia – LV, Malta – MT, The Netherlands – NL, Poland – PL, Portugal – PT, Romania – RO, Sweden – SE, Slovenia – SL, Slovakia – SK.
The country code is followed by a unique VAT ID numeric code. In the UK, the code is 9 digits long. In the European countries the length of the code ranges from 8 to 12 digits:
|Bulgaria||9 or 10|
|Czech Republic||8, 9 or 10|
|Lithuania||9 or 12|
|Romania||2 – 10|
Keep in mind that this method does not guarantee a full EU VAT ID verification, but it can help to decide whether you need to take extra steps or can dismiss the number immediately.
The EU has put together a useful tool that allows individuals to check VAT ID online. The system, called VIAS, allows verify the validity of VAT numbers in the EU countries by simply submitting a number online and seeing the company registered by that number within seconds. Similar service is also provided in the UK by the HMRC.
Another simple way to verify a VAT number is by reaching out directly to the local tax offices. Local tax representatives will confirm if the VAT number is correct after checking their internal database. They will also consult you in case any additional questions arise.