The European Union utilises a value added tax (VAT) to raise revenue from the sale of goods within EU member states. The VAT has features and even tax exemptions similar to the sales tax in the United States. EU traders obtain a VAT number and then use that number to receive tax exemptions when buying goods from a trader in another member state. Before giving such exemptions, traders selling goods need to use European Commission VAT search tools to verify a VAT number provided by a buying trader.
Obtain the complete VAT number of the trader whose number you want to verify. The structure of a VAT number depends on which of the member states issued the number. Each VAT number contains both letters (a country prefix) to represent the issuing member state and a set of numbers after the letters. Make sure you have all this information when you wish to verify a VAT number.
Open the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES) number validation page. The VIES contains a database of VAT registration information for registered companies throughout the EU. The European Commission gathers all trader registration data from individual member states and consolidates it into the VIES system.
Use the "Member State" drop-down menu to select the country that issued the VAT number you are trying to verify. The system then automatically fills in the country prefix next to "VAT Number."
Enter the VAT number in the box next to the country prefix. Type in the number without spaces. You may get an error if you put spaces in the number. You may also enter your own VAT information if you are a seller confirming a buyer's VAT information. However, you do not have to enter this information to verify a trader's number. Click on the "Verify" button.
Look at the "VAT Validation Response" page to confirm the VAT number. If the number is valid, you can see the VAT number, the issuing member state, the name of the trader holding that VAT number, and the address of the trader. If the number is not valid, you will see a message informing you that the number is invalid.
If the issuing member state fails to properly record a VAT number, that mistake carries over to the VIES system. If a trader is certain the trader's number is, indeed, valid, that trader should contact the issuing member state as soon as possible to rectify the problem. Otherwise, a selling trader who cannot confirm the VAT number may refuse to give the VAT trader exemption.