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VAT refunds

We will be traveling in Scandinavia and Finland this summer. Value added taxes can be as high as 25%.
In past trips to Europe we have just ignored these without trying to get a refund. We leave for the states from Frankfurt. Can anyone tell me how to get a refund? Can it be done after we get home? Thanks.

Posted by
9363 posts

You cannot get the VAT refunded for anything you "consumed" - meals, hotels, rental cars, admissions, etc. You can only get the VAT refunded if it is for goods that you take out of the country unused - not the jacket you purchased and wore or the umbrella you used. In addition, the merchant has to participate in the refund program. You keep the forms you collect from merchants and turn them in at the airport. It cannot be done once you return to the US. The goods have to be available for inspection if they ask you (so they can't go in checked luggage unless you check it after doing your VAT paperwork).

Posted by
77 posts

Read all about how to claim your VAT tax refund at

You can receive a refund one of two ways:
1. For the tourist, reclaiming a VAT is a fairly straightforward process. The typical scenario is to get some form of documentation when you make a purchase, stipulating the amount of refund due. You then show these documents to customs officials upon leaving the country to claim your refund. Most countries specify a minimum amount you must spend in a particular shop to claim a refund. (See chart below.)
2. Some shops in Europe participate in the “Tax-Free Shopping Program.” At these stores when you make a purchase and show your passport you will automatically be issued a refund check showing the amount of refund owed to you. Then, when you leave the country you will show your proof of purchase (receipt) to customs and they will stamp your check(s), which you can then cash at the appropriate desk before you catch your plane, or if you choose you can have your refund mailed to you.

Keep in mind these important facts as well:
 Most European countries (Ireland has no minimum) have a minimum purchase requirement (per purchase in most cases) that needs to be met in order to receive a refund.

 If you fail to get your VAT forms and/or checks stamped by customs before you leave Europe you will probably not be able to get your refund.

 If you get your VAT forms and/or checks stamped before you leave but are unable to submit the paperwork, then and there, you can submit them through the appropriate country consulate in the U.S. once you get home. But, this involves even more paperwork so make sure to allow you enough time before leaving the country to claim your VAT refund.

Posted by
22983 posts

We generally find it is too much of a hassle to get a refund. Second, we rarely buy enough goods to qualify. We have recently found that if the merchants ships the item home they take the tax off at the purchase point and the tax will often cover the cost of shipping. You don't save any money but the convenience is good and worth something.

Posted by
5828 posts

We've obtained the VAT rebate on our first couple of trips to Norway when we bought Norwegian wool sweaters for ourselves and family members. Now that we are doing more doing and less shopping we either don't qualify for the VAT rebate or it's not convenient.

First there is usually a minimum value for an item to qualify - 315NOK in Norway, 200SEK in Sweden - for non food items leaving the country. In theory, the item needs to be exported unused meaning you shouldn't wear your new Norwegian sweater.

Second is having to validate the rebate process at a refund point, at the airport for those of us departing by air. Having 7:00 AM departing flights, we're rushing to make our flight and don't need the extra thing to do before departure.