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How much you'll save
VAT rates vary from country to country and, in some cases,
according to the nature of the merchandise. (Luxury items may be taxed at a
higher rate than food or books, for example.) Also, you're required to spend a
minimum amount in a store to apply for a refund, and this minimum is different
for each country.
The table below shows the most common VAT rates in selected
European countries when we last checked. Rates can and do change, so this table
should be used only as a general guide:
||19% (13% in Madeira and
Notes and tips:
Refund percentages are slightly less than VAT
percentages. (For example, 17.5% VAT added to the
wholesale price translates into a 14.9% refund of the total retail price.)
Global Blue and other refund services take a modest commission on refunded VAT. For
most purchases, the convenience makes the commission worth it, but you may
want to obtain the refund directly from the store for extremely large
purchases. (Department stores often have special refund arrangements for
VAT refunds do not apply to services, or to food,
film, and other goods that are used inside the country of purchase.
(Business expenses may be eligible for VAT refunds in some cases, but such
refunds are beyond the scope of this article.)
You cannot claim VAT refunds on items that you're shipping home.
Refunds apply only to goods that you take with you.
When leaving the country or the European Union, have your purchases available for
inspection when you present your Tax-Free Shopping Cheques or refund forms
to be stamped.
If you're buying items that are too large to pack in your hand luggage,
you can pack them in checked baggage, but you'll need to get your forms
stamped by customs before check-in.
Merchant participation in VAT refund schemes is voluntary,
and smaller shops in non-tourist areas may feel that refunds aren't worth
Eligibility for VAT refunds:
If you live outside the European Union, you're
eligible for VAT refunds in all European countries that offer such
If you live within the European Union, you're
normally eligible for VAT refunds only in non-EU countries that offer such
refunds (such as Mexico and South Korea). However:
Residents of the Channel Islands, Andorra, San Marino, the Aland Islands,
the Canary Islands, Gibraltar, Mount Athos, and Vatican City are allowed to
claim VAT refunds on EU purchases beyond their own borders.
Important: For more information on tax-free shopping, visit the Web sites
of the two major VAT refund companies, and
direct any questions to them. (We're writers, not tax experts, and the refund
companies have control over when, whether, and how you get your VAT refund.)
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Need a car in Europe?
If you live outside the EU,
a tax-free Renault or Peugeot tourist car lease can be cheaper than renting
for visits of 21+ days. Minimum driver age is 18, there' s no upper age
limit, and rates include insurance.
For car rentals under 21 days:
Traveling by train?
Get free schedules, maps,
and guides for 50+ European railroads. (Residents of North and Central
America can buy tickets and rail passes online.)
From Durant and Cheryl Imboden:
About Europe for Visitors