VIES: validates VAT numbers but may get addresses wrong
The European Commission operates the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES), a web-based service that appears to be quite good at its intended task, which is VAT number validation. However, attempts at using VIES as a directory of postal addresses may produce inaccurate results.
In a recent case, VIES reported the address of a Finnish business as OSOITE TUNTEMATON, which is Finnish for unknown address. This phenomenon convinced a British mail order company that a customer paying by credit card had provided an incorrect delivery address. Fortunately, the supplier contacted the customer instead of shipping the goods to the pseudo-address indicated by VIES.
BIS: provides authoritative information about Finnish businesses
The National Board of Patents and Registration and the tax administration are the authoritative sources for information about registration and taxation of Finnish businesses. These authorities make such information, including postal and/or street addresses, available through the web-based Business Information System (BIS), a service that is available in Finnish, Swedish and English. Second-hand versions of the same data may be provided by other entities, but errors can be avoided by going to the source instead of using third-party mashups.
The BIS includes instructions for its use, but the basics are simple: enter a search term, such as a name or a Business ID, and click the magnifying glass icon.
The Finnish tax administration does not explicitly issue VAT numbers. Instead, Finnish businesses form their own VAT numbers by appending the leading letters FI to the Business ID and removing the hyphen. As an example, if the Business ID is 2175703-7, the VAT number becomes FI21757037.
VAT numbers are only needed in so-called intra-Community trade. Within Finland, Business IDs are used instead.