How to get a refund for the Value Added Tax (VAT) you paid on your purchases ?
In France, the normal Value Added Tax (VAT) rate is set at 20%. This means that on everything that you buy, you pay 20% in taxes (some products benefit from lower rates, such as food and restaurants, for example). In some cases, you can receive a refund of this tax. In this article, we'll see who can benefit from this refund, what the conditions are, and what the process is.
What products are eligible for a VAT refund ?
- The items have to be carried in personal luggage outside of the European Union. Therefore, a product bought in France to be consumed in France is not eligible.
- A maximum of 15 identical items is allowed, even for personal purchases.
- The amount of purchases must be at least 175 euros including tax. To reach this amount, you can add several items but they must have been bought at the same shop (or shopping mall), on the same day.
- Some items are not eligible for the refund: Tobacco, weapons, ammunition, cultural goods and stamps. Also, it is important to remember that you have to carry them in your luggage, so cars and other vehicles are excluded as well.(but bicycles are OK)
- Professional purchases are not eligible.
The goods have to be carried out of the Eurozone a maximum of 3 months after the purchase.
Who can benefit from VAT refund ?
The following conditions apply:
- You must be over 16 years of age.
- You must not be a European Union resident.
- Your stay in France must have been shorter than 6 months.
- Firms do not benefit from this refund.
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How to receive the refund ?
There are several steps in order to apply for the VAT refund.
1) First of all, when purchasing your items, you have to ask for a Tax Free form. The seller has to fill out and sign the form. The seller may ask you to prove that you are not a European Union resident. Carry your ID!
2) When leaving the country, look for a Pablo checkpoint. At the Pablo checkpoint, flash the barcode on all of your tax free forms. It is mandatory to do so or you won't get the money. A message will appear ("OK bordereau confirmé", which means "OK form approved"). This electronic approval is exactly the same as a customs stamp. An electronic confirmation will be sent to the store owner as soon as you stamp the form. He or she will then immediately fulfill the reimbursement process.
There are 35 Pablo checkpoints in France:
Airport of Genève-Cointrin (1 checkpoint)
Airport of Lyon-Saint-Exupéry (5)
Airport of Marseille-Provence (2)
Port of Marseille (2)
Airport of Nice-Côte d’Azur (4)
Pontarlier (frontière suisse) (1)
Orly Airport (2)
Airport of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (16)
Saint-Julien-en-Genevois (Swiss border) (1)
Vallard (Swiss border) (1)
It may take some time before you find the checkpoint and flash your forms, so arrive at the airport early! You may also ask customs for this operation. You may be asked to show the products that you are asking a refund of if you ask customs. Carry them with you just in case.
3) And that's it! The seller will start the process of refunding you back to your credit card. It is not the simplest process you'll ever encounter, but if you have spent several thousand euros on shopping, receiving 20% of it back is significant.
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