Did you know that you can now claim back up to 20% VAT on purchases in the EU?

That’s right! As a British tourist, travelling to Europe post-Brexit, you can claim a VAT refund on purchases made in the EU. So, if you’re planning a trip to places like France, Italy or Spain, make sure you keep your receipts because you can finally benefit from tax-free shopping!

What is tax-free shopping?

Goods in European countries, like in the UK, contain VAT (value-added tax). This tax gets automatically added to your shopping bill and can be as much as 20% of the net price! However, if you’re shopping abroad in the EU and take your purchases home with you to enjoy, you can get a refund on the tax that you’ve paid. Think of it as duty-free shopping at airports, except now you can do it in the city, town or village that you’re visiting.


How much can I expect to save?

VAT is added to the net price to arrive at the final price of the item and the amount you get back is dependent on the VAT rate in the country you are visiting.


Take France, for example, where VAT is 20%, here’s how the breakdown of VAT would look:

Original price of product: €833.33 + VAT: €166.67 = purchase price you pay = €1000


When shopping ‘tax-free’ you’ll always have to go through a VAT operator. How much your refund comes to is based on the service charged by your VAT-refund provider, calculated as a percentage of the VAT. Unfortunately, it’s not something you are able to do yourself. Typically, once all of the fees have been deducted, you can expect to get somewhere between 6% – 15% of the ticket price back.


Am I eligible to take advantage of ‘tax-free’ shopping?

If you are a resident of England, Scotland or Wales and you visit Europe for less than 6 months, then – yes! However, there are some rules on what you can and can’t claim.

Goods that are not consumed on your trip will qualify. So, things like clothing, shoes and accessories, cosmetics, jewellery, technology, even the wine you don’t drink! So if you wanted to visit a rustic French wine merchant and bring back a case, you’ll be able to claim back the VAT!


You cannot claim for restaurant bills, metro tickets or bus tickets, or alcohol you’ve already drunk.


If you’re planning on staying in the EU for a bit longer, make sure to keep an eye on your purchase time because the right to claim a VAT refund expires at the end of three months after the date of your purchase.


How do I claim back the VAT on purchases I made in the EU?

There are three easy steps shoppers need to take in order to claim a EU VAT refund:

1 – Ask for a form when you shop

Make sure to ask for a Tax Free Form when paying in-store. Provide proof of address as well as your passport.

2 – Get your form validated at customs

At your EU departure point, get your Tax Free Form validated by customs. Be ready to show your receipts and unused purchases if asked.

3 – Claim before you leave

Take your validated form to a refund office (usually located at your departure point) to receive your refund.


There are also a few sites and apps out there in which you can do the above digitally.


Whilst there are many drawbacks to post-Brexit Britain, at least we have got one perk in the form of tax-free shopping for tourists.

It’s a win-win, because British tourists can take advantage of more affordable shopping opportunities, whilst the economy of those EU countries can enjoy the untapped potential of this increased tourist spending.


Happy shopping and happy saving!

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