The European Union uses a "Value Added Tax" (VAT) system to raise revenue from products and services sold in Member States. Traders selling goods to a trader in another Member State do not have to collect VAT if the other trader has a valid VAT number. The European Commission has an online VAT database that traders can check to confirm the validity of a VAT number. Traders should check the VAT number of a European Union trading partner before selling goods to that trader.
Obtain the VAT number and Member State (issuing country) of the trading partner. Each country in the European Union issues VAT numbers to companies in that country. You need both the country and VAT number to check a number's validity. A business that seeks to avoid collecting VAT for goods shipped to a business in another Member State should always get and check a VAT number of the proposed trading partner. You will either have to avoid doing business with a trader whose VAT you cannot check or collect VAT as usual when selling merchandise to that trader.
Access the "VIES VAT number validation" page on the European Commission website. This online VAT check, part of the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES), allows you to determine if the number provided by the trader is a valid VAT number issued by a particular Member State.
Enter the Member State and VAT number provided by the trading partner. Optionally, you may also enter your own Member State and VAT number. Do not incorrectly enter your own VAT information. You will get an error if your own VAT number is invalid. Click the "Verify" button.
View the results of the VAT check. The results state whether the searched number is a valid VAT number. Results with a valid VAT number also give the name and address of the trader.
Germany, Italy and Spain have an online system to check for VAT numbers of registered traders in those countries. However, these websites appear in those countries' languages. A trader who can speak that language can get links to these additional search systems from the European Commission's "VIES (VAT Information Exchange System) Enquiries" page. Residents of other countries may also contact the Central Liaison Office in the home country to perform a VAT check. The process for checking a VAT number directly from a Member State depends on the local rules for that EU Member State. Contact the Central Liaison Office for the local procedure.
The European Commission's VAT database comes from the databases of the Member States. It will have up-to-date information only when a Member State's database is up to date. You may not use information from the database for any reason except to check for a valid VAT. For example, you may not use a VAT database to collect and sell VAT numbers to the public.