Any European company subject to VAT has an intracommunity VAT number, also known as the “tax identification number” (TIN). This number is issued free of charge by the tax authority of each member country of the European Union.
The VAT number is national and always begins with the first two or three letters of the issuing country. Each company has a unique number which is, moreover, impossible to change. A company can have only one VAT number per member State, although it can have a VAT number in each member State. To find out more about obtaining a VAT number in another member State, go to our tax agent page.
COMPOSITION OF AN INTRA-COMMUNITY VAT NUMBER
In France, the VAT numbers are made up of 13 characters as follows:
- the country code (FR)
- a two-digit computer key
- the SIREN number of your company
Each member country has a different composition. The structure of the numbers is shown in the following table:
|Country||Country Code||Characters||Country||Country Code||Characters|
|Bulgaria||BG||9 or 10||Lithuania||LV||9 or 12|
|Czech Rep.||CZ||8, 9 or 10||Malta||MT||8|
|Germany||DE||9||Slovakia||SK||9 or 10|
VERIFICATION OF AN INTRA-COMMUNITY VAT NUMBER USING THE VIES DATABASE
The tax identification number (intracommunity VAT number) of companies in the member States of the European Union are collected in a computer database which can be consulted at the official EU website, Europa. The validity of the VAT numbers of clients and suppliers can be verified on this database. It is advisable to retain proof of validation of the number. This proof is also very useful in the event of a tax audit. Furthermore, it is important to check each new client or supplier and to conduct verification regularly. Some countries may deactivate a VAT number from one day to the next.
Caution: some countries, such as Germany for example, have two types of VAT numbers: a local VAT number (steuernummer) and an intracommunity VIES VAT number. It is important to state the intracommunity VAT number of your clients on invoices and not the local VAT number.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF THE VIES DATABASE SHOWS THAT THE NUMBER IS NOT VALID?
If the system shows that the number is not valid, you must first of all check with your client or supplier that the number given is correct (number of characters, etc.). If the number is still not valid, your client or supplier must approach their tax authority to update the company data in the VIES database. Any amendments concerning the VAT identification number are always reserved for the tax authority which allocated the number. You can identify it by referring to the country code which precedes the VAT number.
It is important to note that if the VAT number of your trading partner is not valid, the latter will not be regarded as a taxpayer. If you make intracommunity deliveries to a non-taxpayer, VAT is applicable in terms of the distance-selling regime. In other words, you must make sure that your client has a valid VAT number in order to apply the VAT exemption; otherwise you must invoice the VAT.
The European Commission has prepared FAQs on the VIES system. Please consult them on this page.