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Intra-Community cif number?

A UK limited company trading in Spain has been asked for their cif number by a Spanish customer. As far as I can tell, this is a VAT number with a suffix identifying the country of origin. The UK company is not registered for VAT, but the client won't accept their invoice without it. What can they do?


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20th Dec 2012 15:58

The CIF number is the Certificado de Identificación Fiscal number which is the Spanish VAT number which in part equates to a UK VAT number. The problem with Spain is that any business, however small, is required to register for VAT and companies can only trade with VAT registered businesses. A Spanish business is required to verify the VAT number of its' supplier and if the supplier doesn't have a VAT number the Spanish company is not allowed, under Spanish law, to trade with it. The probem is that the Spanish do not recognise the UK registration threshold and I know from experience there are only two options.

1) Register for UK VAT

2) Lose the client.

The Spanish company will not accept anything other than a valid VAT registration number.








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20th Dec 2012 16:49

What a fantastic answer!

Thanks, Shaun - I didn't know!

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20th Dec 2012 17:02

CIF is ALSO the company reg. no.

A CIF number is not only the equivalent to a VAT no, it also is equivalent to a company registration number.  CIF is a reference they give to companies to cover both these things whereas in the UK there are separate references for company no. and VAT as you know. 

See here for more information:

"As far as this translation is concerned, a CIF in Spain is a registration number specifically and ONLY for companies. A VAT number in the UK is for EVERY type of comercial structure or organisation trading over the VAT threshold - this can include the self-employed (who NEVER have a CIF in Spain). Equally, there can be companies in the UK who do not have a VAT number because they don't do enough business - this could NEVER happen in Spain. A company registration number is issued for companies registered at companies house and are regulated by companies Acts and other company legislation. This is exactly the sort of body a CIF is issued to in Spain which is why the only possible translation for the UK market is Company Registration number. "

As Shaun says above you would need to just register the UK company for VAT to avoid problems!!

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20th Dec 2012 17:04

I have tried the company registration number route but to no avail as they will check the number against VIES and it will come up as invalid.

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20th Dec 2012 17:18

Thanks Shaun

Thanks for confirming -yes I thought that if it was to do with VAT then they would need a UK VAT reg for it to be valid :) Had a similar 'problem' like this recently as well :)

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By smayles
21st Dec 2012 10:52

What a great resource this site is!

Many thanks for the responses. I have spoken to HMRC this morning and they have also confirmed that the co.reg. should be sufficient as a cif number. Watch this space!

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21st Dec 2012 17:11

Oh good old HMRC - rong information as usual. they just have no idea how other Tax operations work. Good luck though

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By Suzy
16th Jan 2014 17:39

Intra-Community cif number

Thanks for this advice. Has anyone tried an accountant letter to Spain? What happens to sole traders? Do they exist in Spain?

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