Business Glossary

What is a VAT Number?

Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.

When you register for value-added tax (VAT), HMRC issue you with a unique VAT number which identifies your business for tax records and payment purposes. It’s also referred to as a VAT registration number (VRN).

Your VAT number is unrelated to your unique taxpayer reference or your company number.

When to register for VAT

You must register for VAT if your turnover in the last 12 months exceeds the £85,000 threshold or you expect your turnover to go over £85,000 in the next 30 days.

Regardless of turnover you have to register for VAT if you’re based outside the UK or your business is based outside the UK, and you supply any goods or services to the UK.

You can choose to register if you’re under the threshold. It means you charge your customers VAT, but it also means you can claim back the tax on costs you incur during the normal course of business. This can be particularly useful for cash flow in the early days of setting up when costs can be high. However, you must report your VAT at regular intervals and file a VAT return which must include your VAT number.

How to register for VAT

To register for VAT, get in touch with HMRC. It’s a fairly straightforward process which can be done online via the Government Gateway service platform. If you can’t register online you can do so by post, filling out the VAT1 form.

When you register online, you create a VAT account which you also use for submitting your VAT returns. Do it yourself or employ an accountant (or agent) to do it for you.

Once you’ve registered, you receive your nine-digit VAT registration number which you need to include on all future invoices, confirmation of your registration date and information on when to file your VAT return and make any payments.

If you encounter problems getting your VAT number, you can call the HMRC VAT helpline on 0300 200 3700 or +44 2920 501 261 if calling from abroad.

Checking a VAT number

If you start dealing with a new supplier or customer, it’s a good idea to check that their VAT registration number is correct. Invalid VAT registration numbers mean you might not be able to claim VAT back on goods and services you buy from them – you can only claim it back if they’ve given you a valid VAT invoice with the right information, including their correct VAT registration number.

You can check a VAT registration number online. You need your own VAT number to do so as well as the name and address of the customer whose VAT number you want to check.

Frequently asked questions

What is a VAT number?

A VAT number is a unique nine-digit code issued by HMRC to any business which is registered to pay UK VAT. It’s essentially an identification number which means the government can keep track of how much VAT you need to pay each year.

Where can I find my VAT number?

Find your VAT registration number on the certificate HMRC sends you once you’ve registered. The first two digits refer to the country code (GB for UK businesses) while the remaining numbers are made up from a specific set of numbers.

How do I get a VAT number?

VAT numbers are issued by HMRC once you apply to be VAT registered. Register for a UK VAT number online or by post either voluntarily or when your turnover in the last 12 months exceeds the £85,000 threshold or you expect to go over £85,000 in the next 30 days.

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