ePrivacy and GPDR Cookie Consent by CookieConsent.com

How to check if a company is VAT registered?

accountancy franchise
Sumit Agarwal Sumit Agarwal 06 Jun 2024 VAT return

How to Check if a Company is VAT Registered | A Complete Guide

If you do business with other companies, it's important to know if they are registered for Value Added Tax (VAT). Checking a company's VAT registration status can help you avoid potential penalties and ensure you are properly accounting for VAT on transactions.

VAT is a consumption tax levied on most goods and services sold in the UK by VAT-registered businesses. Companies with a taxable turnover above £85,000 must register for VAT and charge it on their sales. Businesses below this threshold can register voluntarily.

Verifying a company's VAT number confirms they are legitimately registered for VAT purposes. This allows you to properly reclaim the VAT you paid to them and remit the correct VAT amounts collected from your customers.

There are several ways to validate a VAT registration, including checking company websites, invoices, using HMRC's online checker tools, searching business databases, or contacting HMRC directly. This guide will walk you through all the methods to easily confirm a company's VAT status.

What is a VAT registration number?

A VAT registration number is a unique identification number that's assigned to every business registered for Value Added Tax (VAT) in the United Kingdom. It serves as proof that the company is authorised to charge VAT on taxable supplies and services.

The VAT number consists of the prefix "GB" followed by 9 digits, sometimes grouped with a space after the first 5 digits (e.g. GB 123 4567 89). This standardised format allows the number to be easily recognised across the European Union.

Having a valid VAT registration number is mandatory for any business with a VAT-able turnover above the registration threshold, which is currently £85,000 per year. Companies below this level can register voluntarily if desired.

The VAT number must be displayed prominently on all invoices, receipts, orders, and other accounting records related to VAT transactions. It allows customers to identify you as a VAT-registered trader and reclaim any VAT paid. Checking a supplier's VAT number ensures you are only paying VAT to legitimately registered businesses.

Why is it Important to Check a VAT Registration Status?

Checking if a company is registered for VAT is a crucial step, especially if you conduct business-to-business transactions with them. There are several important reasons why verifying their VAT status should be a priority:

  1. Avoid VAT penalties: If you pay VAT to a company that is not actually VAT registered, you cannot reclaim that VAT amount. HMRC may charge penalties if you attempt to reclaim VAT paid to non-registered entities.

  2. Reclaim VAT on purchases: When dealing with VAT-registered suppliers, you can reclaim the VAT paid to them on valid business purchases and expenses. But you need their accurate VAT number to do so.

  3. Charge correct VAT on sales: Knowing your customer's VAT status allows you to properly charge (or not charge) VAT on sales to them. This ensures you collect and remit the right VAT amounts.

  4. Identify VAT fraud: Checking VAT numbers helps identify potential fraud, such as companies using invalid VAT numbers or charging VAT without being registered.

  5. Comply with tax regulations: Verifying VAT details demonstrates good governance and tax compliance practices, protecting your business from penalties for errors or negligence.

How to Check if a Company is VAT Registered?

There are several ways to find a company's VAT registration number. The easiest methods involve checking the information they have publicly available. If that fails, there are official government resources and databases you can use.

Check the company's website

Many businesses will prominently display their VAT number on their website, usually in the footer or contact/about sections. Look for phrases like "VAT Reg. No." or "VAT Number" followed by a long number sequence. VAT numbers in the UK are 9 digits, potentially with a "GB" prefix.

Look at their invoices or documents

Companies are required by law to show their VAT registration number on all invoices, quotes, orders, receipts and other business documents they issue. Check the fine print at the bottom for the VAT number.

Use HMRC's VAT Number Checker

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) provides an online VAT Information Exchange System Trader Validation check. On this website, you can enter a company's VAT number, name and postcode to confirm if they are currently VAT registered.

Check VAT number:


The results will show the company's registered name and address, VAT number validity, registration date, and any cancelled/deregistered dates. This is the most reliable way to validate a VAT number.

Search on business information databases

There are several commercial databases that collect and provide access to public records on registered businesses. These can be useful for finding a company's VAT details if you cannot locate it elsewhere.

Some examples of business information providers are DueDil, Endole, CompaniesHouse, and CreditSafe. Many have free basic searches or paid subscription plans.

Contact HMRC directly

If you cannot find a company's VAT number through other means, you can call or write to HMRC's VAT Helpline. They can look up the VAT registration details for you, but will likely require evidence that you have a legitimate reason to request this data.

The HMRC VAT Helpline number is 0300 200 3700. They are open Monday to Friday 8AM to 6PM.

Ask the company

As a last resort, you can simply ask the company directly for their VAT registration number. Most businesses will be happy to provide it, especially if you explain you need it for tax recording purposes when doing business with them.

If a company refuses to disclose their VAT number or you cannot validate it through official sources, this could be a red flag. Properly VAT-registered businesses should have no issues confirming their number.

By utilising these methods, you should be able to quickly and easily find and verify the VAT registration status of any UK company you need to transact with. Having this number on file ensures you are handling VAT compliantly.

Using the VIES System

One of the most reliable ways to validate a VAT registration number is through the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES), operated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The VIES allows you to check the validity of any VAT number issued by a European Union (EU) member state, including the UK. It cross-references the number against the central EU VAT registry database.

To use the VIES VAT number validation service:

  • Visit the European Commission VIES VAT Number Validation page

  • Select the EU member state that issued the VAT number

  • Enter the full VAT number including the prefix (e.g. GB123456789)

  • Complete the captcha test

  • Click "Verify"

The system will then confirm whether the VAT number is currently valid and registered in that country's system. It will also display the associated business name and address.

Using the VIES VAT checker is quick, easy and provides an official verification straight from the tax authority's records. This makes it one of the most authoritative sources for VAT number validation.

Companies Exempt from VAT Registration

While most businesses providing taxable goods or services in the UK must register for VAT once their taxable turnover exceeds £85,000, there are some exceptions where companies are exempt from VAT registration requirements.

One major exemption applies to businesses whose entire supply of goods and services is classed as VAT-exempt. This includes:

  1. Many commercial property transactions

  2. Insurance services

  3. Postal services

  4. Betting and gaming activities

  5. Education and training

  6. Subscriptions to sports clubs/associations

Even if their taxable turnover exceeds the £85,000 threshold, companies dealing solely in VAT-exempt supplies do not need to register for VAT.

Very small businesses operating below the £85,000 taxable turnover limit are also exempt from compulsory VAT registration, though they can register voluntarily if desired.

Certain other types of organisations are automatically exempt as well, regardless of their turnover levels. These include:

  1. Charitable organisations meeting certain conditions

  2. Corporate businesses in their first year of trading

  3. Some businesses run by the disabled or institutionalised

So when checking a company's VAT status, keep in mind that some businesses are legitimately not registered due to the nature of their activities or special exemptions. Verifying their line of business can explain why they may not have a VAT number.

FAQs about VAT registration checks

What if a company claims to be VAT registered but has no valid number?

If a company cannot provide a valid VAT registration number when requested, they are likely not registered for VAT. You should not pay VAT to them and report the discrepancy to HMRC.

Do I need to check a company's VAT status every time we do business?

No, once you have validated a VAT number, you do not need to recheck it frequently unless you have reason to believe their VAT status has changed. Annual checks are advisable.

Can a company operate with multiple VAT numbers?

Yes, larger companies with multiple divisions, branches or subsidiaries may have more than one VAT registration number. Always verify the specific number used for your transactions.

Need Help with VAT Registration?

If you need any help related to VAT registration numbers or are looking for VAT registration services in the UK, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We have a team of expert VAT accountants who can guide you through the entire process and ensure compliance with all VAT regulations.

Our VAT accountants will assist you in determining if your business needs to be VAT registered, help you complete the registration process accurately, and provide ongoing support for VAT return filing and record-keeping.

Don't let VAT complexities overwhelm you. Contact us today at 033 0088 3616, email contact@dnsaccountants.co.uk, or book a free consultation. Our friendly experts will be happy to discuss your specific requirements and provide tailored solutions to make VAT management hassle-free for your business.

Contact Us

By clicking submit, you are agreeing to us collecting and storing your details in order that we can contact you to arrange a free consultation with us and to keep you informed about our latest products and services. Read our GDPR compliant Privacy Policy to see how we use your data.

About the author

Sumit Agarwal
Sumit Agarwal
Sumit Agarwal (ACMA ACA India), the Managing partner of dns accountants