Verifying an Italian VAT registration number

Italy flagUK VAT does not need to be charged on most goods exported to Italy if the customer’s Italian IVA registration number (including the IT prefix) is obtained, and shown on the invoice. Obtaining the IVA number is also useful evidence that a service is being received for ‘business purposes’, which may mean that UK VAT does not need to be charged. It is therefore important to ensure that an IVA number is valid and correct before deciding whether or not to charge UK VAT on a sale.

Initially, the UK business should ask the Italian customer for its IVA number, in writing. It is in the customer’s interest to provide this number, since without it, UK VAT may have to be charged, which they will be unlikely to be able to claim back.

Valid IVA registration numbers comprise a series of 11 digits (numbers only). Any number given in a different format is likely to be an internal Italian tax reference number. To confirm the validity of the number that is supplied, an initial check can be made online. This service will only confirm that the number is a valid IVA number - it will not reveal who it belongs to.

It is therefore advisable to check with the UK VAT National Advice Service that the IVA number agrees with their record of the Italian business name and address. This can be done by telephone on 0845 010 9000, and it is a good idea to keep a note of the time and date of the call, and the call reference.

It is also a good idea to check the IVA number at regular intervals, in case the Italian business cancels their IVA registration at any time.

If reasonable steps are not taken to check the validity of an IVA number, and the number turns out to be wrong, generally the UK business is likely to have to pay UK VAT on the transaction.