Overview A value-added tax, or VAT, is a levy that customers pay when buying goods or services throughout Europe as well as a number of other countries, though not (yet) in the United States. Unlike a sales tax, which is collected at the point of purchase on the total value of goods or services, a VAT applies only to the value added at specific points in production or delivery. In the European Union, businesses that charge VAT—including retail outlets and service providers—must display a nine-digit VAT registration number at the time they collect the levy. That can happen at the point of sale for retailers, or when a supplier or service provider invoices a customer. You can find a VAT registration number in three ways.
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Look on the company's invoice or other paperwork. Companies in the United Kingdom that levy VAT, for example, must print their VAT registration number on an invoice, receipt or other documentation, according to the U.K.'s Revenue and Customs office. Some companies even print their VAT registration numbers on letterhead or business stationery.
Call the VAT help line. Almost all governments that levy a VAT have developed help lines or websites to assist customers in finding VAT information, including registration numbers. For example, the United Kingdom's Revenue and Customs office operates a help line (0845 010 9000) where you can verify a company's VAT registration number or ask for help in locating it.
Call the company and ask. If you are doing business with a company and they have not provided you with their VAT registration number, call its headquarters and ask for it. Service providers, customers or suppliers who relate a legitimate need for a company's VAT registration number to its headquarters staff should have no problem getting it by telephone.