VIES (VAT Information Exchange System) is the EU-wide VAT ID portal where you can validate customer and vendor Tax IDs (also known as TINs or VAT IDs). In the many years since its introduction, the VIES system has helped simplify reporting obligations for intra-community transactions and has been a critical component in the fight against cross-border VAT fraud.
Nevertheless, this invaluable portal has its limitations.
One limitation you’ve no doubt encountered is the multiple times each month when VIES is experiencing ‘downtime’, perhaps due to high usage or maintenance. This primarily occurs during VAT filing periods and year-end closes when companies typically run large batches of VAT IDs to be checked through VIES.
Calculating VIES’ downtimes in 2023
For instance, over a particularly bad three-day period in January 2023, Fonoa calculated that VIES was unable to provide a TIN validation service for Belgium (~32% of the time), Germany (~32%), and Romania and Bulgaria (~9.8% and ~9.5%, respectively). There were seven EU countries with downtimes above 5% during this short span.
You can see the details for each country here:
While this is a small snapshot, this data is quite telling. When we looked at similar snapshots throughout the year, we found obvious trends. Some connections are persistently down – Germany in particular, compared to other jurisdictions. (As you can see, downtimes vary from country to country, and also depend on the time of year). This is what a particularly bad period can look like, as it takes place during an especially busy time. However, even on outside of these three days we know that Germany has the toughest database to catch on a good day.
Running validations may feel like a lottery, but the EU Commission’s Department of Taxation and Customs does publish VIES self monitoring statistics, which highlights traffic responses per second and reports major outages via its Twitter account (yup, it has the blue check mark).
Workarounds to VIES
Is there a way to validate TINs without relying solely on VIES? Glad you asked. Most of the EU member states have their own publically accessible VAT registry, which doesn’t follow the VIES downtime pattern. Keep in mind that while these local VAT registries might act as an alternative source to VIES during such high usage periods, it may require a developer to help you build a tool to properly interface with each country’s registry. Moreover, the type of information and the way it is surfaced is also different across these local databases.
How Fonoa can help
Fonoa is integrated with all local EU member state VAT registries, and can automatically validate tax IDs across both VIES and local government databases, reducing the impact of VIES downtimes.
Instantly validate tax ID numbers from 95+ countries with Fonoa Lookup. We make batch processing easy, too. Lookup also ensures you’re applying the correct tax rate for every transaction. Get in touch today for a free trial.