VAT refund

hello, Is there a maximum purchase limit for VAT refund? I'm traveling to France, thanks for your help in advance.

Posted by Ed
7978 posts

If you mean 'can you spend ten grand on a piece of jewelry and still get a vat refund'? Yes, you can.

Posted by Elaine
Mission Viejo, Calif., USA
784 posts

Just make sure you FOLLOW ALL THE RULES FOR RECEIVING YOUR REFUND. Some of the stores make you wait in a long line to fill out the paper work. You have to show your passport also. The two main dept. stores, (Printemps and ?)have very limited hours that the VAT offices are opened. After showing all your information at the store, you have to jump through more hoops to get your refund processed at the airport also. Make sure you allow extra time at de Gaulle, if you plan on turning in your receipts, showing your items, I.D., etc. Your are supposed to have all the items you bought in your carry-on. The agent will ask you where the items are. You have to go to a particular counter. The counter is very hard to find. The guys who work there are not very nice either, to put it mildly. France doesn't want you to get your refund, you know? France wants your money. You have to check-in your luggage and for your flight, before you go and see them. Heathrow is much nicer than Charles de Gaulle.

Posted by Rose
922 posts

Fa, a while ago someone on these boards said something that surprised and disappointed me about VAT refunds. I hardly shop when I travel (only a few little souvenirs that aren't worth the effort for any refund), but for an upcoming trip there was something I would like to buy in London and actually wear for an event during the trip. Turns out that if I want the VAT refund apparently the clothing can't have been used and must still have its original price tag on it. So my plan won't work, unless what I was told earlier isn't actually the case.

Posted by Rosalyn
1009 posts

There's not a maximum, but most shops have some minimum amount you must spend in order for them to be willing to do the necessary paperwork. I haven't gotten a refund for several years; but the last time I did, in London, I believe, the minimum was something like 100 GBP. The refund wasn't all that much - - $10?, maybe not even that much; but then it wasn't as much hassle as the other poster described. (I think we left the EU from Italy.) My philosophy is that if I spend enough to qualify, I try to get the refund. The details of the process have been described accurately. If you do try for it, don't be surprised that you get less than the whole VAT amount. The company that processes the paper slices off a commission; and, if you want it immediately rather than as a credit on your cc at some distant time in the future, they take some more.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
781 posts

You can't claim a VAT refund for goods that have been 'used or partly used in the EU'. Wearing clothes may count as using them - although the examples HMRC give are consumables such as chocolates and perfume which can't be used again.

Posted by Angela
Eau Claire, WI, United States
51 posts

I have a reverse question from Fa...what is the minimum amount necessary in spending to qualify for a VAT refund? I would probably be inclined to let it go for the headaches outlined in previous posts, but my dear hubby is an Accountant and will want to apply for any refund he could. I may try to use this thread to convince him otherwise. We aren't big shoppers and so we won't have much spending--maybe the equivalent of $200 maximum for our 3 weeks in Europe. Thanks!

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

The rules for VAT refunds are quite complex. You must make a minimum purchase (I want to say it's 175€ at Galleries Lafayette, but I can't remember). Doesn't have to be one item, but must be in one store on the same day. You'll need to request the de-tax paperwork (some stores may not want to do this) and have everything filled out correctly. As was mentioned, you'll need to show your passport. At the airport, you'll need to have the item(s) in your carry on bag, as you may be required to show them as part of the final step of completing the paperwork. Then, you'll leave the paperwork in one of hte appropriate mailboxes. And you only get about 12% back. Not the full VAT amount. There will be an official record of what you bought, so be careful with regards to reporting items to customs in the US and the possibility of having to pay duty on those items. Whether it's worth it is up to you. I know from personal experience that Galleries Lafayette is very organized and if there isn't a long line, you can get through it all fairly quickly.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
781 posts

Angela, there is no legal de minimus limit, but shops can't be bothered to complete forms for VAT refunds for trivial amounts. There are various schemes operated by companies with different minimum purchase amounts - the lowest I know of in the UK requires a £30 purchase.

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
679 posts

"Heathrow is much nicer then Chaeles de Gualle" Not based on my experience. Heathrow's is hard to find and then the line was literally 100 people long. The agents were screaming at people, it was a nightmare I just left. Never had any issues at CDG.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
781 posts

Travelex act as agents for HMRC at Heathrow for most of the major refund schemes.

Posted by Cici
St. Augustine, FL
51 posts

We were just at Galleries Lafayatte and contributed enough to the store's bottom line to qualify for a VAT refund (175 Euros). In the store, we followed the sign that said, "Tax Refund" to the basement where there were about 20 stations set up to help you process the paperwork. You either need your actual passport or some type of copy...we had the picture on our iPhone that we had emailed to ourselves and they accepted it with no problem. It was very efficient, the line moved quickly and our paperwork was completed in about 5 minutes. He printed it out, showed us a map, told us where to take it at the airport (CDG), get it stamped and then put it in the special mailbox. He said they do not open until 6am so if we were there earlier there was a kiosk right next to the mailbox where we could scan the barcode from our paperwork and the machine would print out our stamp. We could simply affix it to the paperwork and then put it in the mailbox. Since we had an early morning flight, we finished checking in just after 6am and the tax refund place was right next to our Delta check-in at Terminal 2E...there was one person ahead of me. The woman looked at my paperwork but did not ask to see the items I purchased (which I am thankful for as they were in my checked luggage). She stamped my stuff and 30 seconds later it was in the special mailbox. Easy peasy. The refund is supposed to go back on my credit I will monitor my account. Not a lot of money for sure, but hey, 12 percent is 12 percent! Cici

Posted by Faith
Seattle, A, USA
1 posts

I had a similar question and googled it, and found this website explaining the VAT and showing which countries have what minimum purchase price before a VAT refund is applicable: However, I was disappointed that the site didn't mention that if you USE the product, you can't get your VAT refund. I am glad to learn that from this thread. I wanted to buy a Brompton folding bike in Paris (October) and use it while I'm there (a month), then bring it back to the USA with me. Looks like I won't get the VAT back on that purchase (over $1000), so I may cancel that plan and just buy a 2nd hand bike to use and leave it in Paris. Any suggestions about other options are welcome. The Vélib rental bikes would be too expensive because I intend to use the bike for several hours a day to explore the banlieues and side streets and outer limits of Paris. (I may start a separate thread on this subject unless I can find one already started on Grafitti wall.)
Also, I'm trying to find out if I can get a break with US Customs duty by bringing back a USED new bike (if I do decide to buy a Brompton). Any info. on that would be helpful. Thanks

Posted by JerryG
winston salem, nc, usa
655 posts

My experience: bought a ring for wife in Antwerp, got all the needed paperwork and was going to apply for the refund when I flew out of MAN, however, there was a renovation going on and they moved the VAT counter, so couldn't apply for it then.
On my next trip(about 6 months' later) brought it back with me with the ring, box, and paperwork, took it to the VAT office when I left Lisbon, and it was inspected, stamped, and refund to CC in 30 days! Didn't know if it would work, but it did with no hassles.