Guide to VAT Refund for EU visitors

February 7, 2018

The new Louis Vuitton boutique in Place Vendôme in Paris

If you're planning to make big purchases in Paris or London this post is for you.  Lots of people leave the EU not claiming the VAT (value added tax) refund.  Either they don't want to go through the trouble or they are not aware that it is even possible to get a refund.  I've been to Paris many times, but I never really had any big purchases until recently.  Below is how you can get a VAT refund.  Keep in mind that the amount of the purchase varies from country to country, but for the UK and France you can claim a VAT refund on purchases over £30 in the UK and €175 in France.  In order for your purchases to qualify for a VAT refund, the purchase needs to be a single transaction from a retailer.  You cannot add up all your purchases from various retailers to reach the required amount.  Depending on the country, the refund can be up to 12%.

1.  Get a Global Blue Tax Free Form from the store you purchased your item(s).  This must be filled out prior to arriving at the point of departure.

Since I purchased my super cute Louis Vuitton clutch in Selfridges in London I was able to get my Tax Free Form filled out for me thanks to the Tax Refund Lounge in the 4th floor.  My husband made a purchase in Paris so he had to fill out the Tax Free Form himself, but it wasn't complicated.


2.  Plan to arrive at the airport an hour earlier than usual.  There is almost always a queue to get the Customs stamp and refund.

3.  Make sure to get a Customs stamp.  Bring the following with you to get your Customs stamp:
  • purchases
  • receipts
  • completed Tax Refund Form
  • passport
You must show your purchases and receipts to the Customs Officer to get a stamp.  Do not check-in your purchases yet.  A good example is a lady who was standing in line in front of me waiting to get a Customs stamp.  She said she bought a bunch of expensive face creams from La Mer, but had to check it in her luggage and wasn't aware she had to present her purchases.  The Customs Officer couldn't give her the Customs stamp so she didn't get a refund on the VAT.  If you need to check-in your purchases due to TSA restrictions, you need to get a Customs stamp before check-in.  You should ask an airline employee where you can do this.  If you're traveling within the EU like I did, get the stamp on your Tax Refund Form at the final point of departure from the EU.

Since our final point of departure from the EU was London, my husband received his refund from London, not where he made his purchase in Paris.

4.  Go to the Refund Office displaying the Global Blue logo.  You have a choice to receive the refund in cash or to your credit card within five days.  If you decide to receive the refund back to your credit card, mail your completed and stamped Tax Refund Form in the envelope they provide to you.  It is advised that you write down the Tax Free Form number (DOC ID) of each form for your reference before mailing the documents.  I received a credit refund back to my credit card within 3 days.

Do you want to know how much your refund will be?  Click here for the Refund Calculator.


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