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VAT Refunds

Hello again!
My family and I have truly enjoyed our first European trip in Rome and Milan (despite being the victim of a gypsy pickpocket in Rome, though thankfully my daughter and hubby got my wallet back 🙂). We leave in a couple of days. We have done some shopping so would like to know if anybody has had experience with the VAT refund process. What has everybody’s experience been with the VAT refund at the Malpensa airport? I know I have to arrive very, very early and need to have the paperwork to be stamped. Does anybody know if this customs stamping can be done a day before the flight (because our flight leaves at 7:00 am)? Thank you.

Posted by
613 posts

You are screwed. The VAT refund is one of the greatest legal scams ever perpetrated. You had better be there at 5:00 am or whenever the window opens. Then after an infinite wait, you might get cash back. In Euros. What are you going to do with more Euros? Spend them at an overpriced airport shop? Example. Last fall I bought my wife a trip present at the most expensive department store in France for $100. It cost $127 at the airport duty free shop. Better to pay the VAT than to avoid it.

instead of cash, they might say they will send you a check. They will. The check will be in Euros. Your bank will change a gross fee for cashing a foreign currency check and another fee for converting the foreign currency into $$$. I did that once. Lost 40% in bank fees.

You can't add up your purchases. You only get a VAT refund if something costs $125 or more (if I recall} & each item is a separate bunch of paper work.

Odds are the customs worker won't speak Englih and will reject your claim because you can't answersome obscure question in Italian.

With globalization, the only things worth buying in EU for souveners are herbs & spices. To cheap for a VAT refund.

Posted by
8889 posts

Did you get the paperwork from the shop when you bought your items? Without the paperwork you cannot get your refund.
Taxes are not charged on exported goods, only on goods sold inside the country, this is true in all countries. So if the shop can prove the goods were exported from the EU intact and unused (important condition), they do not need to pay VAT on them. In order to prove that, they need the forms returned to them with the customs stamp to prove the goods left the EU.
They can then refund the tax you paid them.

Of course this is in Euros, that is what you paid the tax in. If you paid by credit card, it is normally refunded to that credit card.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks, kb1942, for the response. I suppose I’ll just keep my fingers crossed and pray to God that I’ll be one of the lucky ones to get a VAT refund without any issues. And we already planned to be at the airport super early anyways.

Posted by
11 posts

Chris F, thank you. Yes, the shops did give me the paperwork including the envelopes to use so I can just drop them off at the designated boxes in the airport after getting the Customs approval stamp. And yes, I’m opting to get the VAT refunded to my cc as that would be a lot easier, I think. I just wish I could get the Customs stamp the day before my flight as I leave at 7:00 am and my airport is close to my hotel.

Posted by
8889 posts

I just wish I could get the Customs stamp the day before my flight

Legally and logically impossible. The stamp certifies the goods have left the EU (intact and unused). The day before they have not left the EU.

Posted by
11 posts

Chris F, gotcha!! Thank you for pointing that part out 😊. One more question (and sorry if I’m being redundant)—so no other paperwork to fill out at the airport then and just get the stamp (since the shops have already given me those along with the original receipts)? Thanks again!!

Posted by
21863 posts

The refund area is behind immigration and security so there is no way for you to access that area the day before. What is the amount of refund expected? We have never been success with small amount. The only time we have "collected" big is when we have had the vendor ship the items directly home for us. Then the VAT refund generally pays for the shipping.

Posted by
2929 posts

Unlike some others, I have had the best of luck with VAT refunds. Do you have a direct flight from Milan out of the EU? If you do not, you have a decent chance that the customs officer will refuse to process your refund and make you do the refund at the last place that you will be in the EU. Usually, that does not happen but of the three times it happened to me two were on trips home from Italy. I mention this just in case it happens to you so you are not surprised. Make your items are new (unused) and in your carryon bag in case you get one of those sticklers who wants you to do the process at your last stop in the EU. For a 7 AM flight, the regular customs area may not be open and in that case you will have to ask about the early morning service. I know there is one at CDG but not so sure about Malpensa.

Posted by
8851 posts

I discovered in one of OP's posts the info the flight from Milan is to Zurich. ( edited to fix a flub)

I have never done that much shopping, so have not had to investigate VAT refunds. I am sure others here are knowledgeable about what this means for OP and her VAT refund processing

Posted by
8889 posts

As stated above, to reclaim VAT, the goods must leave the EU intact and unused, and the forms must be stamped when the goods leave the EU to certify this.
If you are flying from Milan to another EU country, you must get the forms stamped when you leave that country (when you finally leave the EU).

joe32F wrote "I discovered in one of OP's posts the info the flight from MXP is to ZUR.".
Airport code ZUR does not exist. I found the other post (click here)
bebzphernz wrote: "Our return flight is from Milan to Zurich to U.S.". Zürich airport is ZRH.
Switzerland is not in the EU so Milan would be the exit point from the EU.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks so much everybody for all the information. And especially Chris F — thank you for the clarification. Since our hotel is only a couple of minutes walk to Terminal 2 we decided to take the shuttle there to Terminal 1 to check out the VAT refund places at the airport and ask questions. They open at 5 am so we’ll be there an hour early to get in line right away. They seemed nice and helpful so 🤞🏻 everything works out well 😊.