If anyone is traveling to Europe this summer, congrats! If you are planning to make any large purchases then read on to see how you can “save” money by claiming your VAT refunds!
VAT stands for Valued Added Taxes, think of it as a “sales” tax in the European Union and any individual living permanently outside of the EU is eligible to get VAT refunds when you leave the country.
You must pay for the full price of the item (including the VAT) in stores then get a refund later. Goods must leave the E.U and must be purchased within the last three months to be eligible for a VAT refund. Keep this time restriction in mind if you are studying abroad or traveling in Europe for an extended period of time.
Individuals are eligible to receive refunds on exportable items. Goods you purchase to take home are considered exports and are eligible for VAT refund. Services in general are not eligible for VAT refunds. However, if you are traveling for business, some services are eligible.
Key Documents / Items Necessary to Getting VAT Refund
- Passport – May be required in stores to prove your eligibility
- VAT refund form – Tax free form filled out by the merchant and yourself used to claim your refund
- Stamp – The tax free form must be stamped by the customs for you to receive refunds
- Good – Custom official may ask to see the product prior to stamping the form
- Credit Card – Will be required if you elect to receive refunds via a credit card
The VAT Refund Process
Step 1: Tax Free Form
VAT returns require a VAT refund form from the merchant, so look for stores that have a “Tax Free” sign on the window or door. When you purchase the item, please ask the store associate for a VAT refund form or a tax free form. They might ask to see your passport or flight ticket so be prepared. The sales associate will help you fill out the form, but if they don’t offer, don’t hesitate to ask!
Step 2: Stamp From Customs
The second step is to get customs officials to stamp the tax free form at the airport. Customs may ask to see the good, so make sure you don’t check in the item prior to obtaining the stamp. Note, you must be a stamp from customs to get a refund so make sure to budget extra time at the airport to process your VAT refund.
Step 3: Get Your VAT Return
Once you get the stamp, you can mail the completed paperwork back to the merchant using a postage-free, pre-addressed envelop. Then the VAT return can be refunded to your credit card or a check.