Reclaiming VAT on Goods
A refund of VAT on goods bought within the UK and which you intend to take with you when you leave the UK is possible by :-
1a. Non-European Community (EC) residents, who,
- have not been in the EC for more than 365 days in the 2 years before the date of purchase, and who,
- intend to leave the EC with the goods within 3 months of the date of purchase.
1b. provided the goods are bought from shops which are part of the Retail Export Scheme. Not all shops are part of the Scheme, therefore check with the sales assistant first. Most shops require a minimum sale of anywhere between £30 - £100 in order to qualify for a refund. In addition, always check with the retailer which method of refund he operates when you buy the goods (see 2c below).
1c. If your final destination is one of the Countries listed below you will not be entitled to claim a VAT refund :-
If your final destination is the Canary Islands or one of the Channel Islands you can still claim a VAT refund.
How to claim the VAT refund.
2a. Ask the retailer to complete a VAT refund form for the items you have bought. Some shops use a form which resembles a cheque.
Note; if the items are heavy or large and you anticipate that they will be too large or heavy to carry in your hand luggage when you leave the EC, ask for a separate VAT refund form to cover such items (see paragraph on Large or Heavy Goods below).
2b. When you finally leave the EC, get your VAT refund form stamped by the Customs authorities. You must have the goods available for inspection together with the completed VAT refund form.
2c. Obtain your VAT refund by either:-
- exchanging the stamped VAT refund form for cash at any VAT Cash Refund counter which are usually situated in the departure lounge of most European ports and airports (provided the retailer had previously advised you that they offered this service), or
- posting the stamped VAT refund form back to the retailer, who will then post to you your refund, or
- posting the stamped VAT refund form back to a VAT refunding company who will then post to you your refund, or add the amount to your credit card.
Large or heavy goods.
If the goods are small enough to carry in your hand luggage, then that is how you should carry them, because they must be available for inspection by Customs, especially items of high value, jewellery, furs, cameras, silverware and small antiques. However, if they are too large or heavy to pack in your hand luggage, then you may pack them in your hold luggage, but you must produce the goods and the VAT refund form for inspection and stamping before you check in. The airline or shipping line will help you contact the Customs authorities in order to do this.
In addition, large or heavy goods may be exported as freight. You will need a separate VAT refund form listing these items which must be produced to the Customs fright officer before export.
Leaving the EC on a through (transit) flight via another EC member country.
Goods carried in your hand luggage:-
The goods and VAT refund form must be produced to Customs in the Member state of final transfer before leaving the EC.
Goods in your hold luggage:-
Ask the retailer for a separate VAT refund form covering just such items, and produce these items and the VAT refund form covering them to UK Customs before you leave the UK as described in the above paragraph on 'Large or heavy goods'.
For advice on any issue relating to reclaiming VAT, contact:-
HM Customs and Excise,
VAT Advice Centre,
London, SE1 9PY.
TEL: 0207-202 4227