If you’re looking for a gift to bring home after you’ve vacationed in the European Union, look no further than tax free stores. Most European goods have a built-in VAT tax that are passed along to EU residents, but there is a little known travel hack to get taxes refunded to visitors upon departure. There are many ways to save, but we’ve tracked down the easiest ways to get your money back!
First Things First – What is the VAT Tax?
VAT stands for value added tax. It’s a European tax that is added to the value of most exportable goods before you purchase them. The VAT tax can range depending on the item, but most rates can start at 10% and go as high as 25%. As this tax only benefits residents of the country, most visitors qualify for an EU tax refund upon departure.
Who qualifies for the VAT Refund?
I’m sorry to all European readers – the VAT refund is only eligible for short term visitors. According the European Commission, all visitors to the EU are defined as individuals with permanent addresses outside of the EU. This can include:
– Tourists visiting for a short period of time.
– People residing in the EU for an extended period of time, but who plan on returning to a permanent address outside of the EU at the end of their stay.
– Citizens of the EU who currently reside in a permanent residence outside of the EU.
What to Do While Shopping
Look for the shops that participate in the VAT-free program. While these stores aren’t like the duty free shops that you see in airports, you’ll still find a nice deal on your travel souvenirs. Most shops will advertise themselves with a “Tax-Free” or a “VAT-Free” sign in the window. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask the sales associate!
As you approach the register with your purchases, notify the sales associate that you’re a visitor to the EU and are interested in a VAT refund. Your sales associate will guide you through the rest of the process. You may need to follow a few steps before your transaction is completed. These can include providing :
– Proof that you’re visiting the EU.
– Proof of an approaching departure date via your plane ticket.
You will have to pay full price for your purchases at the store, but your sales associate will hand you an invoice for your refund.
How to Reimburse Your VAT Return
Luckily, there are many services that make it convenient to reimburse all of your VAT invoices before you head home. Most of the major airports in the EU have a customs office that can stamp and handle your refund. Just be sure to gather and present all of your VAT refund forms before you check your luggage. You also have to have present your purchases as proof that you are leaving the EU with them.
Lugging all of your purchases might be a hassle. If that’s the case, remember to ask each sales associate if they offer shipping options. According to the Barcelona Tourist Guide, you’ll still gain your refund by using this service.
The easiest method of earning your tax free is to register for a SHOP TAX FREE card. There are several companies that partner with European stores to make it easier for visitors to get their tax refunds. The leader in this service isGlobal Blue Tax Free, which collaborates with over 270,000 retailers. Not only while you save time by avoiding the VAT refund forms, but it’ll be easier to get your refund after your European trip.
Not traveling in Europe? Get on Grabr and find a Traveler to do your tax-free shopping for you! Goods will be hand-delivered to your city.