I’ve updated this post on 5 August 2020
If you are trying to find your VAT number or you want to check whether the information provided by a supplier is correct, then this guide is for you.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to find a VAT number and use the EU central database to carry out a VAT number check.
How to Find a VAT Number
All VAT registered businesses are legally required to disclose their VAT number and the amount of VAT charged on every sales invoice they issue.
If you have been given an invoice from a supplier then the first place to check is on that invoice.
On checking the invoice, if you find that they have charged you VAT but not provided a VAT registration number, then you must contact them and ask for it.
If you are trying to find out your own VAT number, then you can start by logging into your HMRC business account and check for your VAT registration certificate. You’ll need to choose the option to “View Your VAT Account” and then you’ll find the option to see your certificate.
What is the Format of a UK VAT Number?
All UK VAT numbers are 9 digits long. In the UK they are prefixed by the letters GB.
Other countries will use a different prefix and number of digits. For example; French VAT numbers are 11 digits and prefixed with FR.
Is a Company Number the Same as a VAT Number?
No, these two numbers are not the same.
If you are dealing with an invoice from a VAT Registered Limited Company then you should expect to see two numbers on their invoices:
- a Company Registration Number and
- a VAT number
You can check a Company Registration Number on the Companies House Website.
If you are dealing with a VAT registered Sole Trader then there will probably be only the VAT number on their invoices.
Some sole traders do opt to include their UTR number on their invoices. There is no legal requirement to do this. But you should remember that this is a different number to their VAT reference.
How to Check if UK VAT Number is Valid
If you have been given a VAT number by a supplier, then you can check it’s right by either phoning HMRC on 0300 200 3700 or going online to use the EU VAT number database.
How to Use the VIES Checker Online
VIES stands for the VAT Information Exchange System. It’s a central EU database that holds all the valid VAT numbers issued by each country in the European Union.
It’s a way to protect everyone in the EU from becoming victims of VAT fraud by allowing them to check VAT registration numbers of everyone who has on in the EU.
To check a UK VAT registration number on the online databse go to the European Commission website. Then:
- Choose the country code (two letters at the start of the VAT registration number);
- Enter the VAT number you have been given.
If the VAT Number is Valid
If the results of the VAT checker should the number is valid you’ll receive the following information from the VIES database:
- Member State
- VAT Registration Number
- Full Company Name
- Trading Address
If the VAT Number is NOT Valid
If you carry out a VAT check and the number you enter does not correspond to any VAT number the European Commission hold on their database then you will receive a message saying ‘No, invalid VAT number for cross border transactions within the EU ‘.
What To Do If You Have Been Given a False UK VAT Number
Accidents happen. So if you have done a VAT number search and the results come back as not valid, then go back to the person who gave it to you to double-check what you have.
If they are unwilling or insist that their VAT number is correct then:
- Ask them to double-check with their accountant, Director or in their online HMRC business account;
- Consider reporting them to HMRC by phoning 0300 200 3700.
Why is a Valid UK VAT Number So Important
If you have received an invoice from a supplier which includes VAT, you can only claim back the VAT you pay if THEY have a true VAT Number. HMRC won’t refund you in the event of fraud.
This means it is really important that if you have any doubt or are suspicious about of a registration number it is very much in your interests to check it and take appropriate steps if you find out it is incorrect.
New Here? Learn how to set up the financial side of your business with these easy to understand guides and resources:
- Sole Trader or Limited Company? – Download my free calculator to check which business structure would help you to pay less tax;
- Tax Records and Bookkeeping – Understand what tax records you’ll need to keep and how to set up your own bookkeeping system;
- Self Employment Taxes Explained – Learn what taxes you’ll pay, how much and when;
- VAT Guides – From registration to de-registration, VAT schemes and thresholds, these guides will take you through the basics every UK small business owner needs to know;
- Invoice Template – Free template and step-by-step guide so you can get paid by your clients.