However, if the country leaves the EU without a deal on 31st October that service will be no longer available. VIES also operates an applications programing interface (API) that allows the details of VAT registered companies to be looked up.
"Although No Deal does not look that likely," said John Hemming CEO of Cirrostratus Exedra, "My reading of Boris Johnson's deal is that after the Transitional Period the UK would leave the Single Market on terms which could be described as Canada - (rather than Canada+++). Apart from the effect on the economy this would also involve stopping access to Vies for GB companies (and it is probably GB rather than UK). Hence some replacement for VIES is needed".
HMRC have now provided developers with details of their new API. This is, however, only available for developers who are up to speed with API development, it is not generally available.
The API has two separate but related functions. One simply looks up a VAT number. The second looks up a VAT number using also the VAT number of the requesting company. This then gives a reference number for the request.
"The Second function", said John Hemming, "is interesting because it enables HMRC to require that people have looked up the vat number for B2B transactions. They can require that the reference number is used when claiming vat back on an invoice so that there is no uncertainty as to whether both parties to a transaction are vat registered."
"Although HMRC have said this API will go into production (live) on 31st October if there is no deal, I would expect that it will be made more generally available in a relaxed manner at some stage in the future. The format of the API for addresses is better than that from VIES and it would be a useful API to have access to in the future".
Cirrostratus have successfully tested the interface between their networks and HMRC for the VIES replacement API. "We can be certain," said John Hemming, "that people who already have a Cirrostratus account will be able to look up this information. Although we are not making a charge for this we may need to limit the numbers of new accounts to deal with the volumes of requests if there are too many people who want this service. People who already have a Cirrostratus Account, however, will be able to use it for that purpose."