Verify VAT registration numbers

Fraud and tax-evasion are first cousins. It is always a good idea to verify a vendor’s VAT-registration status before finalizing any transaction. If you thought that this information is confidential you’d be wrong. In 2001 the VAT Act was amended and Section 6(2)(e) of that Act paved the way for the names and registration numbers of vendors to be made publicly available. On the South African Revenue Services website one is able to enter a VAT registration number to check its validity or one can enter a vendor’s name and verify whether they are VAT registered. Here’s how to go about it:

Either point your browser directly to https://secure.sarsefiling.co.za/vatvendorsearch/application/VendorExactSearch.aspx or visit the SARS website (http://www.sars.gov.za), select VAT, and the VAT Vendor Search. You should now have the following screen displayed.

VAT screen step 1

Figure 1

Here’s what you should see when checking a genuine vendor.

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But what can you expect to see if the number is bogus? Yep, you guessed it…

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Smarter crooks will provide you with a genuine VAT registration number – but one that belongs to another vendor – as in this case:

Scam Business

As you can see, the VAT registration number is indeed valid but the company name is completely different. In this instance it was this particular fact that aroused the initial suspicion which led to the scam being thwarted. Had the fraudsters also made use of the company name on their document then it is possible that the scam may have succeeded. In a future article i’ll explain how to check company names and registration numbers.

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