Do the listed hotel prices in the Rick Steves London and Paris guidebooks inclute the VAT and other taxes and fees? Is the VAT at hotels refundable?
Yes, the hotels listed in Rick's book include VAT. VAT is not refundable on hotels. Not all stores take part in the VAT refunds, you should ask when you make a purchase. If they do you will need to get a form from them (they will need to fill it out). If you do not have this form then you will not be able to get a refund for that purchase.
VAT is always included in the price of anything in Europe. Our sales tax must drive European tourists crazy! VAT spent on anything consumed in-country is not refundable. If the item is taken out of the country, and you have met that country's minimum purchase requirements, and the store participate in the VAT refund program, you can get a refund. The VAT refund office at the airport MUST be able to see the item. Since this office is after your check-in, make sure that you've packed the item in your carry-on. FYI, at Harrod's in London, we were able to have an item shipped home by Harrod's. As such, they were able to deduct the VAT from the purchase price. The shipping costs were almost the same as the VAT, but it was one less thing to schlep.