How do you obtain an Intra-Community VAT number? Does your company have to register for VAT in one or more EU countries?
Why register for VAT in the European Union?
What is an intra-community VAT number?
Each EU Member State allocates its own VAT number: :
- to local companies that are established there.
- but also to companies that are not established in that country, but must declare and/or pay VAT on their purchase or sales activity in that countr
The structures and formats of intra-community VAT numbers differ from one country to another.
→ See our article: VAT numbers and their structures in different EU countries.
What is the purpose of an intra-community VAT number?
A VAT number is used by the tax authorities, so traders can be recognised and carry out their VAT obligations: to create and submit VAT returns, pay VAT (VAT collected from its customers but also reverse-charged VAT from its suppliers) and, if needed, claim a VAT refund. It may also be required for customs purposes to carry out certain import/export operations.
What are the alternatives?
A simple VAT identification is an inexpensive operation, which can be used to avoid creating a structure that requires you to keep accounts and pay corporate tax in the Member State where you are operating.
As a reminder, a company that engages in operations in a country may have different levels of presence, with different tax obligations:
- Resident company: must pay various taxes (including VAT), keep accounts, etc.
- Permanent establishment: obligations include corporate tax on profits made in the country, VAT, accounting, etc.
- Non-established company, registered for VAT: tax obligations revolve around VAT declarations, the EC Sales List and Intrastat.
- Non-established company not registered for VAT: even when only undertaking transactions not subject to VAT, this type of set-up can recover VAT by using a tax representative.
VAT identification is often the best option for undertaking a variety of operations legally in a country other than your own, without excessive red tape.
When does a company have to obtain an intra-Community VAT number?
A company that carries out taxable transactions in a Member State of the European Union without being established there is considered a taxable personand is liable for VAT in that State. This obligation applies equally to a company established in another country of the European Union, or to a foreign company established outside of the European Union, as soon as it undertakes one or other of the following operations (non-exhaustive list):
Sales of goods subject to VAT
When goods are located in a Member State and sold there:
→ the intra-community VAT number can be used to invoice your customers for VAT. It will allow you to collect VAT from your customers, declare it and pay it to the tax authorities of the Member State concerned.
When goods are located in a Member State and dispatched to another Member State (sale or transfer of stock).
→ the intra-community VAT number will be used to justify VAT exemption in the event of a sale . It will allow you to declare these operations on the VAT returns, EC sales lists (ESL) and Intrastat declarations of the origin Member State.
When goods are located in a Member State of the European Union and exported to a country outside the European Union (sale or transfer of stock).
→ the intra-Community VAT number will be used to justify VAT exemption in the event of a sale. It will allow you to declare these operations on your VAT returns and to draw up a customs export document (SAD – Single Administrative Document) in the origin Member State.
→ the intra-community VAT number can be used to invoice your customers for VAT. It will allow you to collect VAT from your customers, declare it and pay it back to the tax authorities of the state concerned.
Purchases of goods subject to VAT
When goods are located in a Member State and you bring them to another Member State (purchase or stock transfer):
→ the intra-community VAT number will be used to pay VAT in the final goods destination State (reverse charge). It will allow you to declare these purchases subject to VAT on the VAT return and Intrastat declaration in the destination Member State.
When goods are located in a country outside the European Union and you import them into an EU Member State (purchase or stock transfer):
→ the intra-community VAT number will be used to import the goods, settle the VAT, draw up a customs import document (SAD – single administrative document) and, if necessary, make refund claims in the destination country.
VAT regulations vary from country to country on many aspects: eligibility for reverse charges, thresholds triggering obligations, specific regulations for certain sectors, etc.
To work out which country you should register in for VAT, you have to analyse your purchase and sales flows, and check the regulations in the countries concerned. Don’t panic… Our specialists can help you.
Use our simulator or contact us directly for an initial analysis. It’s free, no strings attached!
How do you get a VAT number in different countries?
How do you proceed with VAT identification?
Once you are sure of your obligations, you must apply to the relevant authorities in each of the countries to register for VAT.
What documents are required?
The documents required to obtain a VAT number vary between national administrations.
At the very least you need:
- An original certificate of registration in the business register or similar from your country of residence.
- A VAT certificate that shows you are registered for VAT in your country of residence.
- The company’s articles of association.
- An application form for VAT identification.
Depending on the country, you may also be asked for:
- In Spain: a certificate of entry in the business register or similar in the country of residence that’s less than one month old, with a certified translation into Spanish and an original Hague apostille.
- In Italy: an original ANR/3 form completed and signed in Italian, as well as the original “Dichiarazione sostitutive di Certificazione” completed and signed in Italian.
- In Poland, the following forms: NIP2 (original, completed in Polish and signed in cell 119), VATR13 (original, completed in Polish and signed in cell 70), and UPL-1 (original in Polish and signed in cell 46), to be signed after receipt of the local VAT number, and a PPO-1 original, in Polish, supplied by the service provider and signed in cell 31.
How long does it take to obtain an intra-community VAT number?
The average time it takes to obtain a VAT number is about 4 weeks, but this varies considerably from country to country.
How much does an intra-community VAT number cost?
The cost of a VAT number also varies according to the country both for tax stamps and complexity of operations – the average is somewhere between €500 and €1000.
Why use a
The Companies established outside the EU that carry out taxable operations in EU Member States are obliged to appointa fiscal representative to ensure their tax compliance with the local authorities. A fiscal representative will handle all the necessary steps to obtain the required VAT numbers, and perform all other declarative obligations.
Companies established within the European Union are allowed to undertake these steps themselves, but most also prefer to appoint a “tax advisor”to minimise the hassle of VAT compliance. These experts are undoubtedly the best placed to handle thevast differences between the Member States:
- the languagesused
- the doctrines (local practice)
- the procedures for obtaining an Intra-Community VAT number
- the format and arrangements for VAT returns (period, submission dates) – VAT rates, etc.
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For all European Union countries and some third countries.
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