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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Examining Accounts: False Invoices

Checking a VAT registration number

Even if there is a VAT registration number on an invoice it may be a false number. All United Kingdom (UK) VAT registration numbers have nine digits. You can check a VAT registration number in two ways

  • The first and simplest, although the least reliable method, is to use the VAT Number Checker in SEEs. You can find this is SEES / Business Analysis / VAT No Checker.

This relies on the fact that for UK VAT registration numbers, the last two numbers are calculated by applying a standard formula to the other seven numbers. This checker can only confirm whether a VAT registration number complies with the required format. It cannot check whether the number is a current valid registration number, or whether it belongs to the person who is using it. Fraudsters may in practice borrow and misuse another person’s legitimate VAT registration number.

  • The second and more reliable method of checking the validity of a VAT registration number is to use the European VIES database.

This EU-wide database is maintained by the European Commission and records details of VAT registration numbers validly issued and in use across the EU. VIES can confirm both the validity of any VAT-registration number and in most cases, will give details of who the number is registered to. You should bear in mind however that the database may not yet include new VAT registrations.

If after following these checks you have any further doubts about the validity of a VAT registration number you should contact VAT colleagues to check whether the trader has been registered under the number shown on the invoice.