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Understanding VAT and EORI Numbers: Are They the Same Thing?

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For business owners engaged in importing or exporting goods within or outside the EU, understanding various regulatory requirements is crucial. Among these requirements, VAT (Value Added Tax) and EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) numbers stand out. However, there is often confusion about whether these two numbers are the same or serve different purposes. This article aims to clarify these concepts, highlighting their definitions, purposes, and differences.

What is a VAT Number?

A VAT number is a unique identifier that is used to manage and track VAT transactions and compliance. It is issued by national tax authorities in EU countries to businesses that are registered for VAT. Here's what you need to know about VAT numbers:

Purpose of the VAT Number

Tax Tracking: It helps tax authorities track VAT transactions within a country and across the EU.

Business Identification: Enables businesses to prove their VAT registration status to other businesses, which is necessary for tax exemption on qualified transactions like intra-community acquisitions.

Tax Compliance: Essential for filing VAT returns and claiming input tax credits.

Who Needs a VAT Number?

Businesses need a VAT number if they are supplying goods or services subject to VAT. Registration thresholds may vary by country, but in the UK, for example, the threshold is currently £90,000 – meaning that businesses with taxable turnover above this amount must register for VAT.

What is an EORI Number?

An EORI number is used to identify exporters and importers by customs authorities throughout the European Union. It was introduced to streamline the customs clearance process for businesses engaged in importing or exporting goods into or out of the EU.

Purpose of the EORI Number

Customs Clearance: Facilitates the customs clearance process for goods entering or leaving the EU.

Security and Safety: Enhances security and safety measures for international trade following various customs regulations and directives.

Data Collection: Aids in the accumulation and analysis of import and export statistics.

Who Needs an EORI Number?

An EORI number is required by businesses and individuals involved in importing or exporting goods into or out of the European Union. It is essential for customs declarations and for the exchange of information between customs and other governmental authorities.

Are VAT and EORI Numbers the Same?

Although both VAT and EORI numbers are related to business activities, they serve different purposes and are not the same. Here are the main differences:


VAT Numbers are issued by the national tax authorities of the countries where the business is established.

EORI Numbers are also issued by the customs authorities in the EU member state where the business is headquartered.


VAT Numbers are primarily used for tracking and managing VAT obligations and compliance within the tax system.

EORI Numbers are used to track and regulate goods as they move in and out of the EU, ensuring customs compliance.

Use Case

VAT Numbers are used in all transactions involving VAT, such as invoicing, filing VAT returns, and claiming tax credits.

EORI Numbers are required for customs declarations when importing or exporting goods, and for interacting with customs authorities.


VAT and EORI numbers are integral to businesses involved in the European market, whether they are selling goods and services or engaged in import/export activities. However, they are not the same. A VAT number deals with tax collection and compliance within the VAT system, whereas an EORI number is necessary for customs and import/export regulations. Understanding the distinctions between these numbers can help ensure compliance with EU regulations and the smooth operation of cross-border transactions.

For UK business owners, keeping abreast of these requirements and understanding when and why you might need a VAT or an EORI number is essential for maintaining compliance and optimising your business operations in international trade.

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