What is a VAT identification number?
Sometimes also known as a VAT registration number, this is the unique number that identifies a taxable person (business) or non-taxable legal entity that is registered for VAT.
Who needs a VAT number?
Most businesses (and other persons carrying out an economic activity) need a VAT number (see Article 214 VAT Directive for full details).
In particular, business is obliged to register for VAT in the following cases:
- when it carries out the supply of goods or services taxed with VAT;
- when it makes an intra-EU acquisition of goods;
- when it receives services for which it is liable to pay VAT (under Article 196 VAT Directive);
- when it supplies services for which the customer is liable to pay VAT (under Article 196 VAT Directive).
Does the same VAT number apply for all EU countries?
Every EU country issues its own national VAT number.
This means that business supplying goods or services in several EU countries might be liable to get a VAT number in each of these countries.
A simplified registration (One Stop Shop) is available for businesses supplying telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services.
Format of VAT numbers
Every VAT identification number must begin with the code of the country concerned and followed by a block of digits or characters.
Each EU country uses its own format of VAT identification number.
Who issues a VAT number
The EU Commission has been made aware that companies in different Member States have been receiving proposals offering to obtain a valid VAT number against an advance payment. These proposals have the appearance of an official EU document.
The EU Commission reminds that only tax administrations have the right to issue a VAT number. If you are suspicious of unsolicited messages concerning obtaining a VAT number you are advised to check with the tax administration concerned.
The importance of VAT numbers
- Used to identify tax status of the customer
- Help to identify the place of taxation
- Mentioned on invoices (except simplified invoices in certain EU countries)