Verifying a French TVA registration number

UK VAT does not need to be charged on most goods exported to France if the customer’s French TVA registration number (including the FR prefix) is obtained, and shown on the invoice. Obtaining the TVA 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 a TVA number is valid and correct before deciding whether or not to charge UK VAT on a sale.

Initially, the UK business should ask the French customer for its TVA number, in writing. It is the 11-digit TVA number that is required, and not the 14-digit SERIT number. 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.

TVA registration numbers have 11 characters, and can be in any of the following alphanumeric formats:

99 999999999
X9 999999999
9X 999999999
XX 999999999

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 TVA number - it will not reveal who it belongs to.

It is therefore advisable to check with the UK VAT National Advice Service that the TVA number agrees with their record of the French 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 TVA number at regular intervals, in case the French business cancels their TVA registration at any time.

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