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HMRC internal manual

VAT Government and Public Bodies

Government departments and health authorities: registration

Registration limits and procedure

Government departments and health authorities are not subject to the normal VAT registration requirements. Government departments must register for VAT regardless of the value of the taxable supplies they make.

Applications received from government departments must be referred to VAT Supply Team (see VATGPB1600) and those from health authorities to the NHS Compliance Team (see VATGPB9200).

VAT Registration numbers

Both health authorities and government departments are listed under special registration sequences. Health authorities can be identified as they have registration numbers beginning with 654 followed by six digits.

Government departments, however, are registered under a special ‘Government Department’ registration series with registration numbers all beginning with GD, followed by a three digit identifying number. They are often referred to as GD numbers. GD numbers are quoted on VAT returns and also used when government departments contact HMRC.

In addition to the GD numbers, all government departments have been issued with a nine-digit number, which begins 888 8 followed by their GD number and two check digits. This is used for Single Market purposes. Government departments are encouraged to use the nine-digit number on all their documentation (including invoices issued to UK customers), but use of the old GD prefixed number need not be challenged.

The Government of Northern Ireland is registered under a single VAT number assigned to the Department of Finance and Personnel which manages the finances of all departments.

Government registrations are not listed on the VAT mainframe computer and it is not possible to access return or other details. The validity of health body and nine digit government department registration numbers (but not GD numbers) can, however, be checked through the VIES system.