Visiting France offers not just an enriching cultural experience but also the thrill of shopping for luxury goods, wine, and much more. If you’re a non-EU resident, you’re in for an added bonus: you can claim a Value Added Tax (VAT) refund on your purchases. However, the process of getting this tax refund can be confusing and a little daunting.
This blog post aims to provide you with a straightforward guide on how to successfully claim your VAT refund in France. From the minimum spend required to the paperwork involved, we’ll cover all the essential steps to ensure you get your money back without any hassle.
What is VAT?
The Value-Added Tax (VAT) in Europe is a consumption tax levied on goods and services. VAT rates differ from one European Union (EU) country to another. Standard VAT rates within the EU vary between approximately 17% and 27%. Some countries also have reduced VAT rates for essential items like food, medicine, and public transport.
France, for example, has a standard VAT rate of 20%. It’s important to check the specific VAT rates for each country you visit, as they can change. Keep in mind that some non-EU countries in Europe, like Norway and Switzerland, also have their own VAT systems with different rates and rules.
How to get a VAT Refund as a Foreign Resident When Shopping in France
If you’re an American foreign resident shopping in France, you can claim a Value-Added Tax (VAT) refund on your purchases. To be eligible, you must be a resident of a non-EU country and you must leave the EU within 90 days of your purchase. Here are the key steps to claim your VAT refund:
Ensure the store offers VAT refunds and that you meet the criteria. The minimum purchase amount to qualify for a VAT refund in France is generally €100 in a single store on the same day.
Request Tax-Free Form
At the time of purchase, ask for a tax-free form from the retailer. You’ll need to show your passport to confirm your non-EU residency.
Fill out the tax-free form with your details. Make sure the form is fully completed and signed, both by you and the retailer. Refunds can be given in various forms like cash, credit to your card, or a check. You’ll need to select the one you prefer. I typically ask for a refund directly to the card I paid with which is the most hassle-free solution.
Along with the tax-free form, keep all original receipts for the purchased items.
Show Purchases at Customs
Before leaving the EU, present your completed tax-free form, original receipts, and purchased items at the customs office for validation. At Charles de Gaulle airport, this typically involves scanning the barcode at one of the machines inside the Customs section before checking into your flight.
If you have packed your purchased items, don’t check your bags before completing this step! You may be required to show the goods, so keep them accessible.
Most times, the machine will tell you the forms have been validated, and you can go on your way to check into your flight.
If your form isn’t validated by the machine, you’ll need to show the goods you bought to one of the customs officers.
The customs officer will validate your form, confirming that you are exporting the goods. You may be asked to show the credit card used for the purchase for further verification.
Once the tax-free form is stamped by customs, you can claim your VAT refund. Depending on how you opt to receive the refund, you’ll either get reimbursed directly to your credit card or receive a cash payment. This can be done immediately at refund counters in airports, or you can mail the stamped form to the refund agency.
Keep in mind – the tax refund is sadly never 100% of the VAT you paid. You’ll typically only receive about half back.
Some agencies charge a processing fee, which may be deducted from your refund amount. That’s why I recommend avoiding using any VAT refund processing companies. Stick with the official customs employees and you’ll get a full refund!
By following these steps, you can reclaim the VAT you’ve paid on your purchases in France. It’s crucial to adhere to the requirements and deadlines to ensure a successful refund!