VAT number – What is a VAT number?

A VAT number is a unique identification number that’s assigned to every business registered for VAT.

Learn more about VAT invoices and when you need to issue them. 

VAT numbers are used for tax purposes and are only given to businesses that are registered for VAT. As such, a VAT number is also commonly referred to as a VAT registration number or a VRN.

A VAT number is unrelated to a Unique Taxpayer Reference or a Company Registration Number, and it's possible to have more than one of these numbers.

Why do I need a VAT registration number (VRN)?

The purpose of a VRN is to help identify VAT-registered businesses. Therefore, you may need a VAT number in a variety of different tax-related situations.

VAT Returns and VAT numbers

If you’re registered for VAT, you need to report your VAT at regular intervals throughout the tax year, either manually through HMRC’s website or using authorised Making Tax Digital software.

When completing your VAT Return, you need to provide your VAT registration number so that HMRC can confirm the periods for which you need to report VAT and whether you have fulfilled your VAT reporting obligations.

How to get a VAT number

When you register for VAT, you’ll be assigned a VAT number. Once you’ve completed the VAT registration process, you’ll be sent a VAT registration certificate that confirms your VAT number, the date of your first VAT Return, and your ‘effective date of registration’ (which is either the date your VAT taxable turnover crossed the VAT threshold or the date you requested to register voluntarily).

How to check a VAT number

If you use an incorrect VAT number, you might run into issues with your VAT Returns further down the line.

It’s therefore a good idea to double-check that the VAT number is valid and accurate whenever you sell to a client who’s provided their VAT number, put your VAT number on an invoice, or give your VAT number to a supplier.

The easiest and most accurate way to check the VAT number of a UK business is through the UK Government website

VAT number format

The format, length, and structure of VAT numbers vary from country to country. Within the EU, VAT registration numbers always start with two letters that refer to the country, which are followed by a sequence of numbers.

In England, Scotland, and Wales, a VAT number consists of the letters ‘GB’ followed by nine numbers. An example of a VRN that follows the UK VAT number format could be ‘GB123456789’.

If your business is located in Northern Ireland and you trade to the EU, you will use the prefix “XI” instead of GB. For example, XI123456789.