How and Why You Need to Verify a VAT Number

Whenever you do business with a company, it pays to know something about them. While a quick Google search might fill you in on some of a company’s back story – and throw up reviews from past customers – using a service such as DueDil can give you a more in-depth look at things like turnover, profit and assets.

Yet, no matter how thorough you choose to be, it’s vital that you verify the VAT number of any VAT registered business you deal with.

What is a VAT number?

A VAT number – or VAT registration number – is a unique code issued to companies which are registered to pay VAT. Businesses can find their own number on the VAT registration certificate issued by HMRC, while the numbers for other businesses should be stated on any invoice they issue.

What does a VAT number look like?

If you’re new to VAT, it’s worth knowing that UK VAT numbers are nine digits long, and often have the letters ‘GB’ at the start.

Check out the Government’s website to understand the style and format of VAT numbers in the EU.

Why it’s important to check a VAT number

If you don’t check a VAT number and you end up entering an invalid number on your return, then you could invalidate your invoice and HMRC could disallow your tax input claim – leaving you counting the cost and facing a big paperwork headache.

In most cases, errors with VAT numbers come from innocent mistakes but there are instances in which some people try to fraudulently use someone else’s VAT number.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to perform a quick check. Just follow the steps below to avoid any issues with this.

How to perform a VAT registration check

You have two options when it comes to performing a VAT registration check in the UK. You could:

  • Call the HMRC VAT Helpline on 0300 200 3700. This line is open between 8am and 8pm during the week.
  • Use the VIES website, an online VAT checker for businesses in the EU. This website uses real-time data feeds from individual member states’ VAT systems.

If the website shows a VAT number as invalid, you should double check with the company to make sure you have the correct number. You might also wish to inform them that the VIES site is displaying the number as invalid so they can contact HMRC to correct any problems with this.

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