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Regular Expressions Cookbook, 2nd Edition

Cover of Regular Expressions Cookbook, 2nd Edition by Jan Goyvaerts... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. Regular Expressions Cookbook
  2. Preface
    1. Caught in the Snarls of Different Versions
    2. Intended Audience
    3. Technology Covered
    4. Organization of This Book
    5. Conventions Used in This Book
    6. Using Code Examples
    7. Safari® Books Online
    8. How to Contact Us
    9. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. Introduction to Regular Expressions
    1. Regular Expressions Defined
      1. Many Flavors of Regular Expressions
      2. Regex Flavors Covered by This Book
    2. Search and Replace with Regular Expressions
      1. Many Flavors of Replacement Text
    3. Tools for Working with Regular Expressions
      1. RegexBuddy
      2. RegexPal
      3. RegexMagic
      4. More Online Regex Testers
      5. More Desktop Regular Expression Testers
      6. grep
      7. Popular Text Editors
  4. 2. Basic Regular Expression Skills
    1. 2.1. Match Literal Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    2. 2.2. Match Nonprintable Characters
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations on Representations of Nonprinting Characters
      5. See Also
    3. 2.3. Match One of Many Characters
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. Flavor-Specific Features
      6. See Also
    4. 2.4. Match Any Character
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    5. 2.5. Match Something at the Start and/or the End of a Line
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    6. 2.6. Match Whole Words
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Word Characters
      5. See Also
    7. 2.7. Unicode Code Points, Categories, Blocks, and Scripts
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    8. 2.8. Match One of Several Alternatives
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    9. 2.9. Group and Capture Parts of the Match
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    10. 2.10. Match Previously Matched Text Again
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    11. 2.11. Capture and Name Parts of the Match
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    12. 2.12. Repeat Part of the Regex a Certain Number of Times
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    13. 2.13. Choose Minimal or Maximal Repetition
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    14. 2.14. Eliminate Needless Backtracking
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    15. 2.15. Prevent Runaway Repetition
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    16. 2.16. Test for a Match Without Adding It to the Overall Match
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Alternative to Lookbehind
      5. Solution Without Lookbehind
      6. See Also
    17. 2.17. Match One of Two Alternatives Based on a Condition
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    18. 2.18. Add Comments to a Regular Expression
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
    19. 2.19. Insert Literal Text into the Replacement Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    20. 2.20. Insert the Regex Match into the Replacement Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    21. 2.21. Insert Part of the Regex Match into the Replacement Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Solution Using Named Capture
      5. See Also
    22. 2.22. Insert Match Context into the Replacement Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
  5. 3. Programming with Regular Expressions
    1. Programming Languages and Regex Flavors
      1. Languages Covered in This Chapter
      2. More Programming Languages
    2. 3.1. Literal Regular Expressions in Source Code
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    3. 3.2. Import the Regular Expression Library
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
    4. 3.3. Create Regular Expression Objects
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Compiling a Regular Expression Down to CIL
      5. Discussion
      6. See Also
    5. 3.4. Set Regular Expression Options
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Additional Language-Specific Options
      5. See Also
    6. 3.5. Test If a Match Can Be Found Within a Subject String
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    7. 3.6. Test Whether a Regex Matches the Subject String Entirely
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    8. 3.7. Retrieve the Matched Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    9. 3.8. Determine the Position and Length of the Match
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    10. 3.9. Retrieve Part of the Matched Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Named Capture
      5. See Also
    11. 3.10. Retrieve a List of All Matches
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    12. 3.11. Iterate over All Matches
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    13. 3.12. Validate Matches in Procedural Code
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    14. 3.13. Find a Match Within Another Match
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    15. 3.14. Replace All Matches
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    16. 3.15. Replace Matches Reusing Parts of the Match
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Named Capture
      5. See Also
    17. 3.16. Replace Matches with Replacements Generated in Code
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    18. 3.17. Replace All Matches Within the Matches of Another Regex
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    19. 3.18. Replace All Matches Between the Matches of Another Regex
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    20. 3.19. Split a String
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    21. 3.20. Split a String, Keeping the Regex Matches
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    22. 3.21. Search Line by Line
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    23. Construct a Parser
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
  6. 4. Validation and Formatting
    1. 4.1. Validate Email Addresses
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    2. 4.2. Validate and Format North American Phone Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    3. 4.3. Validate International Phone Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    4. 4.4. Validate Traditional Date Formats
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    5. 4.5. Validate Traditional Date Formats, Excluding Invalid Dates
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    6. 4.6. Validate Traditional Time Formats
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    7. 4.7. Validate ISO 8601 Dates and Times
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    8. 4.8. Limit Input to Alphanumeric Characters
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    9. 4.9. Limit the Length of Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    10. 4.10. Limit the Number of Lines in Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    11. 4.11. Validate Affirmative Responses
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    12. 4.12. Validate Social Security Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    13. 4.13. Validate ISBNs
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    14. 4.14. Validate ZIP Codes
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    15. 4.15. Validate Canadian Postal Codes
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    16. 4.16. Validate U.K. Postcodes
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    17. 4.17. Find Addresses with Post Office Boxes
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    18. 4.18. Reformat Names From “FirstName LastName” to “LastName, FirstName”
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    19. 4.19. Validate Password Complexity
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    20. 4.20. Validate Credit Card Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Extra Validation with the Luhn Algorithm
      5. See Also
    21. 4.21. European VAT Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
  7. 5. Words, Lines, and Special Characters
    1. 5.1. Find a Specific Word
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    2. 5.2. Find Any of Multiple Words
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    3. 5.3. Find Similar Words
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    4. 5.4. Find All Except a Specific Word
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    5. 5.5. Find Any Word Not Followed by a Specific Word
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    6. 5.6. Find Any Word Not Preceded by a Specific Word
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    7. 5.7. Find Words Near Each Other
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    8. 5.8. Find Repeated Words
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    9. 5.9. Remove Duplicate Lines
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    10. 5.10. Match Complete Lines That Contain a Word
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    11. 5.11. Match Complete Lines That Do Not Contain a Word
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    12. 5.12. Trim Leading and Trailing Whitespace
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    13. 5.13. Replace Repeated Whitespace with a Single Space
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    14. 5.14. Escape Regular Expression Metacharacters
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
  8. 6. Numbers
    1. 6.1. Integer Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    2. 6.2. Hexadecimal Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    3. 6.3. Binary Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    4. 6.4. Octal Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    5. 6.5. Decimal Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    6. 6.6. Strip Leading Zeros
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    7. 6.7. Numbers Within a Certain Range
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    8. 6.8. Hexadecimal Numbers Within a Certain Range
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    9. 6.9. Integer Numbers with Separators
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    10. 6.10. Floating-Point Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    11. 6.11. Numbers with Thousand Separators
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    12. 6.12. Add Thousand Separators to Numbers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    13. 6.13. Roman Numerals
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Convert Roman Numerals to Decimal
      5. See Also
  9. 7. Source Code and Log Files
    1. Keywords
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    2. Identifiers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    3. Numeric Constants
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    4. Operators
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
    5. Single-Line Comments
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    6. Multiline Comments
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    7. All Comments
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    8. Strings
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    9. Strings with Escapes
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    10. Regex Literals
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    11. Here Documents
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    12. Common Log Format
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    13. Combined Log Format
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    14. Broken Links Reported in Web Logs
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
  10. 8. URLs, Paths, and Internet Addresses
    1. 8.1. Validating URLs
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    2. 8.2. Finding URLs Within Full Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    3. 8.3. Finding Quoted URLs in Full Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    4. 8.4. Finding URLs with Parentheses in Full Text
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    5. 8.5. Turn URLs into Links
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    6. 8.6. Validating URNs
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    7. 8.7. Validating Generic URLs
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    8. 8.8. Extracting the Scheme from a URL
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    9. 8.9. Extracting the User from a URL
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    10. 8.10. Extracting the Host from a URL
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    11. 8.11. Extracting the Port from a URL
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    12. 8.12. Extracting the Path from a URL
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    13. 8.13. Extracting the Query from a URL
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    14. 8.14. Extracting the Fragment from a URL
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    15. 8.15. Validating Domain Names
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    16. 8.16. Matching IPv4 Addresses
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    17. 8.17. Matching IPv6 Addresses
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    18. 8.18. Validate Windows Paths
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    19. 8.19. Split Windows Paths into Their Parts
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    20. 8.20. Extract the Drive Letter from a Windows Path
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    21. 8.21. Extract the Server and Share from a UNC Path
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    22. 8.22. Extract the Folder from a Windows Path
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    23. 8.23. Extract the Filename from a Windows Path
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    24. 8.24. Extract the File Extension from a Windows Path
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    25. 8.25. Strip Invalid Characters from Filenames
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
  11. 9. Markup and Data Formats
    1. Processing Markup and Data Formats with Regular Expressions
      1. Basic Rules for Formats Covered in This Chapter
    2. 9.1. Find XML-Style Tags
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Skip Tricky (X)HTML and XML Sections
      5. See Also
    3. 9.2. Replace <b> Tags with <strong>
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    4. 9.3. Remove All XML-Style Tags Except <em> and <strong>
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    5. 9.4. Match XML Names
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    6. 9.5. Convert Plain Text to HTML by Adding <p> and <br> Tags
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    7. 9.6. Decode XML Entities
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    8. 9.7. Find a Specific Attribute in XML-Style Tags
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    9. 9.8. Add a cellspacing Attribute to <table> Tags That Do Not Already Include It
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    10. 9.9. Remove XML-Style Comments
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    11. 9.10. Find Words Within XML-Style Comments
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    12. 9.11. Change the Delimiter Used in CSV Files
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    13. 9.12. Extract CSV Fields from a Specific Column
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    14. 9.13. Match INI Section Headers
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. Variations
      5. See Also
    15. 9.14. Match INI Section Blocks
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
    16. 9.15. Match INI Name-Value Pairs
      1. Problem
      2. Solution
      3. Discussion
      4. See Also
  12. Index
  13. About the Authors
  14. Colophon
  15. Copyright
O'Reilly logo

4.21. European VAT Numbers

Problem

You’re given the job of implementing an online order form for a business in the European Union.

European tax laws stipulate that when a VAT-registered business (your customer) located in one EU country purchases from a vendor (your company) in another EU country, the vendor must not charge VAT (Value-Added Tax). If the buyer is not VAT-registered, the vendor must charge VAT and remit the VAT to the local tax office. The vendor must use the VAT registration number of the buyer as proof to the tax office that no VAT is due. This means that for the vendor, it is very important to validate the buyer’s VAT number before proceeding with the tax-exempt sale.

The most common cause of invalid VAT numbers are simple typing mistakes by the customer. To make the ordering process faster and friendlier, you should use a regular expression to validate the VAT number immediately while the customer fills out your online order form. You can do this with some client-side JavaScript or in the CGI script on your web server that receives the order form. If the number does not match the regular expression, the customer can correct the typo right away.

Solution

To keep the implementation simple, this solution is split into two parts. First we strip out spaces and punctuation. Then we validate what remains.

Strip whitespace and punctuation

Retrieve the VAT number entered by the customer and store it into a variable. Before performing the check for a valid number, replace all matches of this regular expression with a blank replacement text:

[-.]
Regex options: None
Regex flavors: .NET, Java, JavaScript, PCRE, Perl, Python, Ruby

Recipe 3.14 shows you how to perform this initial replacement. We’ve assumed that the customer wouldn’t enter any punctuation except hyphens, dots, and spaces. Any other extraneous characters will be caught by the upcoming check.

Validate the number

With whitespace and punctuation stripped, this regular expression checks whether the VAT number is valid for any of the 27 EU countries:

^(
(AT)?U[0-9]{8} |                              # Austria
(BE)?0[0-9]{9} |                              # Belgium
(BG)?[0-9]{9,10} |                            # Bulgaria
(CY)?[0-9]{8}L |                              # Cyprus
(CZ)?[0-9]{8,10} |                            # Czech Republic
(DE)?[0-9]{9} |                               # Germany
(DK)?[0-9]{8} |                               # Denmark
(EE)?[0-9]{9} |                               # Estonia
(EL|GR)?[0-9]{9} |                            # Greece
(ES)?[0-9A-Z][0-9]{7}[0-9A-Z] |               # Spain
(FI)?[0-9]{8} |                               # Finland
(FR)?[0-9A-Z]{2}[0-9]{9} |                    # France
(GB)?([0-9]{9}([0-9]{3})?|[A-Z]{2}[0-9]{3}) | # United Kingdom
(HU)?[0-9]{8} |                               # Hungary
(IE)?[0-9]S[0-9]{5}L |                        # Ireland
(IT)?[0-9]{11} |                              # Italy
(LT)?([0-9]{9}|[0-9]{12}) |                   # Lithuania
(LU)?[0-9]{8} |                               # Luxembourg
(LV)?[0-9]{11} |                              # Latvia
(MT)?[0-9]{8} |                               # Malta
(NL)?[0-9]{9}B[0-9]{2} |                      # Netherlands
(PL)?[0-9]{10} |                              # Poland
(PT)?[0-9]{9} |                               # Portugal
(RO)?[0-9]{2,10} |                            # Romania
(SE)?[0-9]{12} |                              # Sweden
(SI)?[0-9]{8} |                               # Slovenia
(SK)?[0-9]{10}                                # Slovakia
)$
Regex options: Free-spacing, case insensitive
Regex flavors: .NET, Java, XRegExp, PCRE, Perl, Python, Ruby

The above regular expression uses free-spacing mode to make it easy to edit later. Every now and then, new countries join the European Union, and member countries change their rules for VAT numbers. Unfortunately, JavaScript does not support free-spacing. In this case, you’re stuck putting everything on one line:

^((AT)?U[0-9]{8}|(BE)?0[0-9]{9}|(BG)?[0-9]{9,10}|(CY)?[0-9]{8}L|↵
(CZ)?[0-9]{8,10}|(DE)?[0-9]{9}|(DK)?[0-9]{8}|(EE)?[0-9]{9}|↵
(EL|GR)?[0-9]{9}|(ES)?[0-9A-Z][0-9]{7}[0-9A-Z]|(FI)?[0-9]{8}|↵
(FR)?[0-9A-Z]{2}[0-9]{9}|(GB)?([0-9]{9}([0-9]{3})?|[A-Z]{2}[0-9]{3})|↵
(HU)?[0-9]{8}|(IE)?[0-9]S[0-9]{5}L|(IT)?[0-9]{11}|↵
(LT)?([0-9]{9}|[0-9]{12})|(LU)?[0-9]{8}|(LV)?[0-9]{11}|(MT)?[0-9]{8}|↵
(NL)?[0-9]{9}B[0-9]{2}|(PL)?[0-9]{10}|(PT)?[0-9]{9}|(RO)?[0-9]{2,10}|↵
(SE)?[0-9]{12}|(SI)?[0-9]{8}|(SK)?[0-9]{10})$
Regex options: Case insensitive
Regex flavors: .NET, Java, JavaScript, PCRE, Perl, Python, Ruby

Follow Recipe 3.6 to add this regular expression to your order form.

Discussion

Strip whitespace and punctuation

To make VAT numbers easier to read for humans, people often type them in with extra punctuation to split the digits into groups. For instance, a German customer might enter his VAT number DE123456789 as DE 123.456.789.

A single regular expression that matches VAT numbers from 27 countries in any possible notation is an impossible job. Since the punctuation is only for readability, it is much easier to first strip all the punctuation, then validate the resulting bare VAT number.

The regular expression [-.] matches a character that is a hyphen, dot, or space. Replacing all matches of this regular expression with nothing effectively deletes the punctuation characters commonly used in VAT numbers.

Tip

VAT numbers consist only of letters and digits. Instead of using [-.] to remove only common punctuation, you could use [^A-Z0-9] to strip out all invalid characters.

Validate the number

The two regular expressions for validating the number are identical. The only difference is that the first one uses the free-spacing syntax to make the regular expression more readable, and to indicate the countries. JavaScript does not support free-spacing unless you use the XRegExp library. The other flavors give you the choice.

The regex uses alternation to accommodate the VAT numbers of all 27 EU countries. The essential formats are shown in Table 4-3.

Table 4-3. EU VAT number formats

Country

VAT number format

Austria

U99999999

Belgium

0999999999

Bulgaria

999999999 or 9999999999

Cyprus

99999999L

Czech Republic

99999999, 999999999, or 9999999999

Germany

999999999

Denmark

99999999

Estonia

999999999

Greece

999999999

Spain

X9999999X

Finland

99999999

France

XX999999999

United Kingdom

999999999, 999999999999, or XX999

Hungary

99999999

Ireland

9S99999L

Italy

99999999999

Lithuania

999999999 or 99999999999

Luxembourg

99999999

Latvia

99999999999

Malta

99999999

Netherlands

999999999B99

Poland

999999999

Portugal

999999999

Romania

99, 999, 9999, 99999, 999999, 9999999, 99999999, 999999999, or 9999999999

Sweden

99999999999

Slovenia

99999999

Slovakia

999999999

Strictly speaking, the two-letter country code is part of the VAT number. However, people often omit it, since the billing address already indicates the country. The regular expression will accept VAT numbers with and without the country code. If you want the country code to be mandatory, remove all the question marks from the regular expression. If you do, mention that you require the country code in the error message that tells the user the VAT number is invalid.

If you accept orders only from certain countries, you can leave out the countries that don’t appear in the country selection on your order form. When you delete an alternative, make sure to also delete the | operator that separates the alternative from the next or previous one. If you don’t, you end up with || in your regular expression. || inserts an alternative that matches the empty string, which means your order form will accept the omission of a VAT number as a valid VAT number.

The 27 alternatives are grouped together. The group is placed between a caret and a dollar sign, which anchor the regular expression to the beginning and ending of the string you’re validating. The whole input must validate as a VAT number.

If you’re searching for VAT numbers in a larger body of text, replace the anchors with \b word boundaries.

Variations

The benefit of using one regular expression to check for all 27 countries is that you only need to add one regex validation to your order form. You could enhance your order form by using 27 separate regular expressions. First, check the country that the customer specified in the billing address. Then, look up the appropriate regular expression according to the country in Table 4-4.

Table 4-4. EU VAT number regular expressions

Country

VAT number regular expression

Austria

^(AT)?U[0-9]{8}$

Belgium

^(BE)?0[0-9]{9}$

Bulgaria

^(BG)?[0-9]{9,10}$

Cyprus

^(CY)?[0-9]{8}L$

Czech Republic

^(CZ)?[0-9]{8,10}$

Germany

^(DE)?[0-9]{9}$

Denmark

^(DK)?[0-9]{8}$

Estonia

^(EE)?[0-9]{9}$

Greece

^(EL|GR)?[0-9]{9}$

Spain

^(ES)?[0-9A-Z][0-9]{7}[0-9A-Z]$

Finland

^(FI)?[0-9]{8}$

France

^(FR)?[0-9A-Z]{2}[0-9]{9}$

United Kingdom

^(GB)?([0-9]{9}([0-9]{3})?|[A-Z]{2}[0-9]{3})$

Hungary

^(HU)?[0-9]{8}$

Ireland

^(IE)?[0-9]S[0-9]{5}L$

Italy

^(IT)?[0-9]{11}$

Lithuania

^(LT)?([0-9]{9}|[0-9]{12})$

Luxembourg

^(LU)?[0-9]{8}$

Latvia

^(LV)?[0-9]{11}$

Malta

^(MT)?[0-9]{8}$

Netherlands

^(NL)?[0-9]{9}B[0-9]{2}$

Poland

^(PL)?[0-9]{10}$

Portugal

^(PT)?[0-9]{9}$

Romania

^(RO)?[0-9]{2,10}$

Sweden

^(SE)?[0-9]{12}$

Slovenia

^(SI)?[0-9]{8}$

Slovakia

^(SK)?[0-9]{10}$

Implement Recipe 3.6 to validate the VAT number against the selected regular expression. That will tell you if the number is valid for the country the customer claims to reside in.

The main benefit of using the separate regular expressions is that you can force the VAT number to start with the correct country code, without asking the customer to type it in. When the regular expression matches the provided number, check the contents of the first capturing group. Recipe 3.9 explains how to do this. If the first capturing group is empty, the customer did not type the country code at the start of the VAT number. You can then add the country code before storing the validated number in your order database.

Greek VAT numbers allow two country codes. EL is traditionally used for Greek VAT numbers, but GR is the ISO country code for Greece.

See Also

The regular expression merely checks if the number looks like a valid VAT number. This is enough to weed out honest mistakes. A regular expression obviously cannot check whether the VAT number is assigned to the business placing the order. The European Union provides a web page at http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/vies/vieshome.do where you can check which business a particular VAT number belongs to, if any.

Techniques used in the regular expressions in this recipe are discussed in Chapter 2. Recipe 2.3 explains character classes. Recipe 2.5 explains anchors. Recipe 2.8 explains alternation. Recipe 2.9 explains grouping. Recipe 2.12 explains repetition.

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