Best country to get your business VAT-registered?

Greetings digital nomad peers around the world!

I’ve been travelling and working remotely for 2 years now, without having to register a business. I have two big clients; one pays USD into my CurrencyFair account, the other pays EUR into my TransferWise account. I know it’s probably going to bite me later, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyway, I now have a new client, in France, that requires me to have a VAT-registered business for us to do business together (I provide digital services). This is going to be a steep learning curve for me as I have to register a business and get it VAT registered during COVID-19, whilst not in my domicile country. Thus any and all suggestions/recommendations would be incredibly appreciated!

Here are the facts:

  1. I’m a South African/Canadian dual citizen.
  2. I’ve never been to Canada so I don’t have a social insurance number or bank account there in case you were wondering.
  3. I’m currently in Palma, Spain on a tourist VISA until 4th June.
  4. COVID-19 travel bans are in effect, so I can’t leave Palma, unless it’s to go to South Africa or Canada.
  5. I do not yet have a business registered.
  6. The only proper bank account I have is in South Africa (I believe although TransferWise does give you your own banking details, it is not a proper bank account per say).
  7. I believe bank accounts are easy enough to open in Spain, even on a tourist VISA.

To reiterate, my goal is to register a business and get it VAT registered during COVID-19 travel bans and national lock-downs.
Any recommendations would be super!

I think you have to educate them about the uselessness of this.

I have a UK limited. But if you open a UK limited without living in the UK you will not get a VAT number. Invoices I send to other companies in the EU are without VAT. And that has never been a problem.

It’s easy to setup a UK limited online. Getting a bank account is more difficult. I now have 2 business accounts with Revolut and Transferwise. I don’t know if your nationality makes it more complicated. Getting a real bank account for a UK limited outside the UK but in the EU is already difficult as a EU citizen. In my country (where I was born and lived at that time) I did not find a real bank who wanted to open a bank account for my UK ltd. Opening a private bank account in Spain is easy, but I think getting a business account for a UK limited will be difficult as well.

Or at least, I need to educate myself! I took it for granted that they were right, but now that I think about it, how are small businesses that are below the VAT threshold who have not registered a VAT number supposed to serve other businesses?
Would you mind shedding some more light on this or pointing me in the right direction? If I can educate this client and not have to register a business and get a VAT number, that would be ideal.

Well, registering in France for VAT is not a problem even during the lockdown. Yes, they are a bit slower than usual, but as far as I know couriers and post work as usual, so you can still send your papers. Also for now they accept scans over e-mails.

The problem might be your residency / status. Since you are from outside of the EU (SA I gathered), you will need a French fiscal representative. And obviously it will cost.

Somebody mentions establishing business in the UK. As a UK company you wouldn’t have a problem with gaining French VAT. But in 2021 nobody knows what status of the UK will be because of the Brexit.

I read that Estonia is quite easy for establishing your company on line. You can have your residency and all. But this is just some articles on the internet. You would have to check it.

Getting VAT in the Netherlands is relatively easy and fast. I guess registering a company should be straight forward, too. Most Dutch government employees work from home, but the services are available.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts.
Here is an update of the situation.
Dimitri was right for me to question the client regarding whether I actually NEED a VAT number. It turns out my client misunderstood what her accountant told her. In fact, I didn’t need a VAT number, I only needed a registered business (it doesn’t matter where). So I registered a business in South Africa (being a citizen) online. It was very easy, taking about 2 hours and R125 (less than 10EUR).