VAT refunds for travellers leaving the UK and European Union
If you are a visitor to the UK, you will pay VAT (Value Added Tax) on virtually everything you buy. Some visitors will know this as purchase tax. This can be refunded to you when you leave the UK, or any EU (European Union) country.
Governments, as we all know, do not like repaying money so in order to obtain your refund there are some basic rules you will need to follow.
- The retailer you buy from must operate the VAT Retail Export Scheme. The scheme is voluntary so ask before you buy.
- You must qualify • So you must be an overseas visitor (a non-European Union resident)
- You must leave, with you goods, by the last day of the third month after the goods were purchased.
- You must produce the goods, and the purchase receipt, and the VAT refund document to Customs at your departure airport or port.
At the time you purchase your goods the retailer will ask you to provide proof that you are eligible to use the Scheme. Most common is to show your passport.
You will then need to complete and sign some details on a refund form. The retailer will provide this and it will be either:
- An official Customs Form VAT 407
- The retailers own version of the VAT 407 form.
- A VAT Retail Export Scheme sales invoice.
These forms are important, and must be completed by you, the purchaser, at the time of purchase. This is also the time to agree how your refund will be repaid to you.
Getting Your Refund
All items being claimed for must be shown to Customs BEFORE you check in your baggage. If all the conditions have been met Customs will then certify and return your refund form to you.
After your VAT refund form has been certified by Customs you can either:
- Mail the form back to the retailer to arrange payment of your refund.
- Send the form to a commercial refund company to arrange payment to you.
- Go to a refund booth to arrange immediate payment.
Whichever method you decide should have been agreed with the retailer when you purchased the goods.
Rules for Transit Passengers
If you are leaving the European Union (EU) on a through flight via another EU Member State there are further rules that apply.
Goods carried as hand baggage must be produced to Customs in the last EU Country with the refund form before leaving to return home.
Goods carried as hold baggage must be produced to Customs in the UK with the refund form before you check in your baggage.
There is no facility to have your form certified in your country of destination.
Finally – Customs rules and regulations do change.
Please do check with their website www.hmce.gov.uk.