EU Tax Refunds: Save Money on Shopping in Europe

EU Tax Refunds: Save Money on Shopping in Europe

As the price of every part continues to rise, many vacationers are in search of methods to scale back prices on their journeys. While incomes and redeeming factors is likely one of the greatest methods to reduce prices, there are different helpful strategies to concentrate on, too.

Many international locations provide a rebate on taxes paid for items and companies, whereby vacationers might be refunded a number of the taxes paid throughout their journey. Each program has various inclusion and exclusion standards, and individuals who make giant purchases have a tendency to learn most.

In this put up, let’s take a look on the European Union’s tax refund program, which is named the VAT refund. Specifically, we’ll take a look at what a VAT refund is, eligibility standards, and the best way to submit claims to get again a few of your cash on your subsequent journey to Europe.

What Is a VAT Refund?

Value Added Tax (VAT) is much like the gross sales tax that you just’d discover when procuring in North America. It’s a tax added onto bought items and companies, and is used as an alternative of gross sales tax in many components of the world, together with in the European Union.

While VAT is much like gross sales tax, the quantities are usually considerably larger in the EU, with the usual VAT starting from a low 17% in Luxembourg to a excessive of 27% in Hungary.

Although these are the usual VAT charges, some gadgets could have a decrease VAT fee, as international locations can select to supply a lowered VAT fee on sure gadgets.

The normal VAT fee is 27% in Hungary

In common, European international locations provide tax refunds to encourage vacationers to go to and spend cash, thus serving to to spice up their economic system.

In the European Union, exports are exempt from VAT. Purchases by foreigners in the EU are thought of to be exports, so long as you are truly taking the gadgets outdoors of the EU.

It’s necessary to know that in contrast to sticker costs in North America, which generally exclude gross sales tax, European costs embrace VAT. So, whereas the VAT could also be 17–27%, you will not obtain a refund of 17–27% of the entire buy, however reasonably on the bottom quantity earlier than the tax is utilized.

For instance, when you purchase a VAT refund-eligible merchandise for $1,000 in Hungary, with 27% VAT already factored in, you may truly be paying $787.40 earlier than tax. Thus, you are eligible to obtain a VAT refund of $212.60, which is 27% of the bottom worth of $787.40.

As you may see, relying on the quantity of your buy and the EU nation in which your buy was made, it will probably completely be value your effort and time to finish the VAT refund course of, particularly when you’ve made any bigger purchases on your journey.

VAT refunds encourage vacationers to spend cash on their holidays

Who and What Is Eligible for a VAT Refund?

Most importantly, you are solely eligible for a VAT refund as a non-EU resident visiting the EU for lower than six months.

To be eligible for a VAT refund, you should:

  • Be a customer in the EU
  • Reside in a rustic outdoors the EU
  • Spend over a selected threshold for VAT-eligible gadgets

There are additional necessities to concentrate on, which differ from nation to nation.

Not all purchases are eligible for a VAT refund. The EU VAT refund is meant to refund VAT on gadgets that aren’t consumed whereas in the EU, and that may be carried in private baggage.

This implies that bigger gadgets, comparable to automobiles and yachts, are excluded. Similarly, purchases which are consumed or used whereas touring, comparable to meals and resort stays, are additionally excluded from VAT refund eligibility.

Not all items and companies are eligible for VAT refunds

Note that there are particular business-related eventualities the place a VAT refund should still be relevant to VAT on purchases which are in any other case ineligible, which is past the scope of this text.

The product(s) bought should meet a minimal spending threshold in order to be eligible for a VAT refund. To additional complicate issues, the minimal quantity is totally different in every nation.

For instance, the minimal quantity eligible for VAT refunds in Germany is just €25, whereas in France it is a lot larger at €175.

Note that this minimal quantity is per transaction at a single retailer. If you’ve gotten a number of gadgets which are every beneath the brink, you may wish to pay for all of them collectively at one retailer, as you will not be capable to mix purchases made throughout totally different retailers for VAT refund eligibility.

You should pay for the merchandise in full. The refund comes later on in the method, and you will not obtain an instantaneous refund on the acquisition worth.

The traveler making use of for the VAT refund should be there in individual. While another person pays on your behalf, you may need to bodily be current whereas making the unique buy to show your eligibility along with your passport.

Bring your passport when procuring to show you are eligible for a VAT refund

Importantly, the VAT-refundable merchandise should depart the EU with you by the top of the third month after it was purchased. For instance, when you made a purchase order from an relevant VAT-free store on June 5, it must depart the European Union no later than September 30 of the identical 12 months.

Technically, the gadgets should even be in brand-new situation, with worth tags hooked up, once you depart from the EU. In apply, I’ve discovered that this requirement is usually a little versatile, although it is best to respect it each time you may.

Keep in thoughts that when you could fulfill all the above circumstances, not all outlets provide VAT refunds. You’ll wish to be sure that forward of time earlier than making a big buy, both by contacting the particular retailer forward of time, or by asking somebody when you’re in the shop.

Many outlets may have a sticker displayed stating that it is a tax-free or VAT-refund eligible retailer.

While this information is restricted to international locations in the EU, be aware that different international locations could provide their very own model of the VAT refund. Be certain to look into such applications earlier than heading out on your subsequent journey.

For instance, some, however not all, European international locations participate in the VAT refund program. Switzerland has its personal VAT refund program, whereas the UK ended theirs on January 1, 2021.

How to Claim a VAT Refund in the European Union

If you meet all the above necessities, there are nonetheless some steps you should comply with to obtain your VAT refund. Preparing for a VAT refund might be damaged down into 4 steps:

  1. Show your passport or different documentation offering that you just reside outdoors the EU at check-out.
  2. Fill out a refund kind that the eligible retailer may have on hand, and be certain that the retailer additionally fills out their part.
  3. Receive an bill or receipt for the acquisition(s), and hold it with you till you might be prepared to depart the EU.
  4. Bring the products bought, refund kind, and receipt/bill with you to customs officers on the final EU nation you permit from. You’ll have to have the customs officers stamp your refund kind as proof of export.

Once you’ve got accomplished these steps, the final hurdle to get a VAT refund is to carry every part to a separate kiosk on the departure level, if one is offered. The commonest companies are Global Blue and Planet, whose stickers you may additionally see in outlets who provide VAT refund-eligible procuring.

Get your VAT refund at Global Blue or Planet kiosks

At the kiosk, you may be refunded instantly when you have all the eligible paperwork, both in money or issued to a bank card quantity that you just present to the kiosk agent.

If there may be not an accessible service at your level of departure, you may need to mail your stamped refund kind to a selected tackle that will likely be supplied to you in the store. After that, you may obtain the refund both on to your bank card or by a verify in the mail.

Other Things to Know About VAT Refunds

No matter which EU international locations you obtain your VAT refund-eligible gadgets from, you may get the refund kind(s) stamped on the place of departure from the EU.

Suppose you obtain a customized outfit in Italy, soccer cleats in Germany, after which designer footwear in France. Before flying dwelling from Paris, you need to have three separate refund varieties that may all should be stamped by a customs officer on the Paris airport.

If you are leaving the EU by airplane, you may wish to be sure that to permit for additional time on the airport, as generally the VAT refund strains might be fairly lengthy.

And when you’re departing from the EU by practice, you need to seek the advice of the nationwide authorities or refund firm on what’s required on your particular practice route. You could need to get off the practice on the final cease in order to get your refund kind stamped.

Some retailers could situation a refund on web site for a payment

Despite saving cash by way of the VAT refund, you may nonetheless be accountable for declaring all items and companies introduced again into your own home nation. Depending on the worth and sort of merchandise you are bringing again, you could have to pay extra duties and/or taxes on the imported items.

There’s one other approach of VAT-free procuring with out having to undergo this complete course of. You can all the time have gadgets shipped straight from the shop to your own home nation, if the shop gives that service.

Going this route will even spare you from paying the VAT; However, you may almost definitely pay much more for delivery, in addition to any customs and dealing with charges, that won’t make it definitely worth the effort.


Whether you are shopping for designer items otherwise you’re simply trying to choose up some souvenirs on your subsequent journey to Europe, it is useful to know the ins and outs of the European Union’s VAT refund program.

Be certain to verify the minimal spending thresholds in every nation you intend to go to, after which be sure that your purchases are eligible.

Since there are various steps concerned, claiming VAT refunds could solely be worthwhile if there are bigger purchases concerned. It’s not usually that your remaining transaction on a visit outcomes in a hefty refund, but it surely’s a pleasant option to end up a global journey.

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