How to check if a VAT number is valid
If you need to determine if an EU VAT number is valid there are quite a few ways to do the job. There are many solutions that can assist you. However, they are not equal in terms of price, ease and time required on your part.
Why is it important to determine if an EU VAT number is valid?
If you are a B2B company that supplies goods to businesses in other EU member countries you can do so without charging VAT only if the buyers have a valid VAT registration. In such cases you must validate the buyers VAT identification number to determine if VAT charges should be added to the invoice.
When dealing with recurring customers you are obliged to validate the numbers regularly.
If you simply need to check that a single VAT number “looks” like a valid EU VAT registration number, then you can use the following link to determine this:
However, this step alone is not sufficient to determine if the aforesaid number is in fact a valid VAT identification number and whether you are allowed to invoice your customer without VAT. So, read on if that is what you need…
There are a lot of other options for checking the validity of VAT-Ids or VAT registration numbers. The article below lists important and relevant issues which addresses the different options with their strengths and weaknesses including:
- EU VIES from the EU Commission
- National databases
- Websites relaying information from VIES
- Bulk checking systems
- Systems that automatically checks multiple numbers on a recurring basis
The EU Commision has put forward a central system which can be used by EU companies to check the validity of VAT numbers when doing trade in The European Single Market.
“Under the new VAT system intra-Community supplies of goods are exempt from VAT in the Member State of dispatch when they are made to a taxable person in another Member State who will account for the VAT on arrival. Therefore, any taxable person making such supplies must be able to check quickly and easily that their customers in another Member State are taxable persons and do hold a valid VAT identification number. For that purpose, inter alia, each tax administration maintains an electronic database containing the VAT registration data of its traders. Such information includes the VAT identification number, the trader’s name, the trader’s address.”” (EU commission, https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/vat/eu-vat-rules-topic/vies-vat-information-exchange-system-enquiries_en)
VIES is short for VAT Information Exchange System. It is a system that allows you to query national EU VAT registration databases. The VIES website lets you check a single VAT number one at a time.
The system merely relays your query to the right national database and informs you on whether a VAT number is valid or not. It is important to check whether the name of the organisation and address matches against the VAT number. All but for two Member States (Spain and Germany) will provide the name and the address of the organisation in question.
The VIES system is available in 23 different languages and you can find it here: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies/?locale=en
The system will let you validate an EU VAT number (although there is a disclaimer stating that the EU Commission is not responsible for the accuracy of the information provided). It is a great website if you just need to validate a single customer. But, if you need to validate more customers, it is not the best tool.
When using this service you need to type in the VAT number and country code of your customer and then type in your own VAT number and country code. Doing this for many customers may become cumbersome, so if you need to check more than a few VAT numbers then do read on….
Links to VIES
You can find more information on VIES here: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/vat/eu-vat-rules-topic/vies-vat-information-exchange-system-enquiries_en
and you can do a search here: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies/?locale=en
Limitations of the national EU databases
The different national databases in EU do not have high availability and sometimes experience official downtime. This means that all the systems relying on VIES for live checks will be affected by the schedules of the individual national database. Therefore, using some of the solutions in this article may occasionally give you a message telling you that the national database is closed and to try again.
Some EU countries have a website that lets you validate the VAT registrations of that country. If it only occasionally occurs that you trade with a business in one other EU member country (ie, the same country) then using the registry of that particular country might be a good fit for you.
Unfortunately, it is only a few countries that lets you query their databases through a public website, so for most people this is not an option.
Here are some links:
To find other websites that lets you query the national registries, it might be helpful to know the local word for VAT. Check out this list: How to write “VAT” in the 28 member countries
Websites relaying information from VIES
There are a few companies that have set up websites that lets you validate a VAT number. The ones listed here all use the VIES system.
The websites ultimately validate the VAT identification numbers through the VIES system, but they might have better usability and offer extra features. On the down side: They also just let you check one number at a time and checking many numbers can be time consuming.
Some of these websites allow you to skip the step of entering in your own VAT number. Either by checking under a different VAT number or by letting you create an account, so that you do not have to enter it every time you need to check a number.
Some sites that let you check a single VAT number one at a time:
- https://vatvalidation.sanocast.dk/ (bulk checking is also available)
Multiple checks and bulk VAT number checking
There are a few different solutions that do bulk checking of VAT registration numbers. The process of checking a lot of numbers against the VIES system is however not instant. So most of these services will let you wait some time before they return a result to you.
Some solutions let you copy and paste your VAT numbers into a field on a website and then returns the result to you after a while either on screen or by e-mail notification when the result is ready (waiting time can be several hours). Other solutions let you upload a file and then returns the file to you after some time, for example, PwC VAT Registration Service, which costs approximately £1750 pounds per year per user.
There are however, other solutions which let you do all the checking directly within Excel.
Use Excel to bulk check if the VAT numbers are valid
Another example of services in this category is our own VAT validation service. We have an Excel Add-In that lets you do all the checking within Excel. When this feature is used with the Excel Add-In it makes it very easy to validate VAT numbers of many clients in a single operation. It is free to try and use but if you need to check more than 15 numbers on a regular basis you need to be on a paid plan (19€/mo per user). Most ERP systems lets you easily save your client or debitor list to an Excel file.
This service can be found here: www.sanocast.dk/vat-validation/
Fully automatic validation
There are other solutions that saves you even more time by doing the checking in a more automated way. This is done by integrating with your ERP system (Enterprise Resource Planning system). When integrated with your ERP the system can check all your customers on a regular basis. Fully automatic solutions will save you the most time as validation and documentation will be generated and stored automatically and your staff only need to spend time if some of your customers cannot be validated.
Several European providers can help develop such integrated solutions. If you are interested in such a solution you should consult your ERP solution provider or give us a call for further information.
Sanocast ApS, Denmark, +45 20646457, email@example.com
We hope that this text has given you some pointers to how to validate an EU VAT number. Your feedback for improvement is welcome and appreciated.. If you know of VAT Validation solutions that deserve a mention here, then please do not hesitate to let me know.