To succeed in the global market, businesses must understand international trade regulations and tax complexities. The EU VAT number is essential in this context.
Our guide provides a comprehensive and easy-to-understand overview of everything businesses need to know about EU VAT numbers, including their significance, application process, and VAT rates in different EU countries.

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1 Minute Breakdown

Having an EU VAT number is crucial for businesses operating in the European Union. This number identifies businesses that need to pay VAT on goods and services traded within the EU. Accurate tax reporting is essential for compliance. Even if you’re not based in the EU, if you’re conducting business with EU countries, you may need an EU VAT number. The registration process varies by country and requires precise documentation.

What is VAT?

The Value Added Tax (VAT) is a tax on consumption that applies to most goods and services bought and sold within the European Union (EU) for use or consumption. Although the EU has set standard VAT rules, each member state may apply them with minor variations. Usually, VAT must be paid at every stage of the supply chain, including the sale to the end customer. This encompasses the entire production process, including purchasing components, transportation, assembly, provisions, packaging, insurance, and shipping to the final consumer.

If you’re a company in the EU selling or purchasing goods, you’ll likely need to pay VAT. The tax is charged based on the country where the consumer consumes the goods, and services are also subject to VAT. More information about how VAT works – can be found here, on this official EU website.

What is an EU VAT Number?

In the European Union, businesses must obtain an EU VAT number for compliance with VAT regulations, accurate tax reporting, and cross-border transactions.
The EU VAT number allows businesses to account for and remit VAT in the member state(s) where they operate, avoiding potential penalties and legal consequences. Obtaining an EU VAT number is essential for a streamlined and legally compliant business operation within the European Union.

EU VAT Number Format

EU VAT numbers have a standardized format that usually includes a two-letter country code and a series of unique numbers for each business. Though minor differences may exist among EU member states, the general structure conforms to this format. For example, a French VAT number may start with “FR” and be followed by a set of numerical digits specific to that business.

Is EIN the Same as VAT?

The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a unique identifier issued by the IRS in the US. It should not be confused with the EU VAT number (VIES), which is exclusively used for EU VAT compliance purposes.

Identifiers have specific purposes and should not be confused. A US company needs an EIN for taxes but an EU VAT number to operate in the European Union.
You can check a firm’s VAT number using VIES, here. VIES is an online system provided by the European Commission that allows businesses to verify the validity of VAT numbers issued by EU member states.

Do I Need to Be from the EU to Have an EU VAT Number?

If a business outside the European Union engages in taxable transactions within the EU, it can acquire an EU VAT number. This number allows the business to abide by VAT regulations within the EU and collect and charge VAT from their EU-based customers. By obtaining an EU VAT number, non-EU businesses can fulfill their tax obligations and ensure compliance with the relevant laws and regulations.

How Can I Get an EU VAT Number?

For EU Businesses:
To register for VAT in your EU member state, you must identify the responsible tax authority. Remember that this authority may differ depending on the country where your business is located.
For example, for businesses in Germany, you can apply for an EU VAT number through the German Federal Ministry of Finance. You’ll then have to submit an application, which will require essential documentation (proof of business registration, details of your business activities, etc). It is important to make sure that you provide precise and comprehensive details when completing the VAT registration form issued by the tax authority. Omitting any information could potentially result in unwanted complications or delays.

For Non-EU Businesses:

To register for VAT MOSS (Mini One-Stop Shop) in the EU, choose a specific country and register through their national system. The Irish VAT MOSS is a popular choice for foreign businesses due to its user-friendly design and English interface. You’ll need to provide your company information, bank account details, and personal contact information. Be sure to include your company’s VAT history. Before applying, review the summary page to ensure all information is accurate. Once submitted, you’ll receive your VAT number electronically or via mail, depending on the chosen country’s procedure.

Understanding VAT Rates in Different EU Countries

It’s important to be aware that VAT rates differ among EU member states. This knowledge is crucial when conducting business with these countries as it helps you to accurately price your goods or services and calculate the correct amount of VAT to charge or reclaim. Below are some examples of standard VAT rates in various EU countries.

Country Standard VAT Rate
Austria 20%
Belgium 21%
Bulgaria 20%
Croatia 25%
Cyprus 19%
Czech Republic 21%
Denmark 25%
Estonia 20%
Finland 24%
France 20%
Germany 19%
Greece 24%
Hungary 27%
Ireland 23%
Italy 22%
Latvia 21%
Lithuania 21%
Luxembourg 17%
Malta 18%
Netherlands 21%
Poland 23%
Portugal 23%
Romania 19%
Slovakia 20%
Slovenia 22%
Spain 21%
Sweden 25%

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