While visiting Europe or Canada, many tourists will notice a sizeable markup (up to 25 per cent) on merchandise or goods that they purchase. This additional charge is similar to a sales tax, except the charge is included in the cost of the item and not rang up separately at the register. However, as a visitor you can be reimbursed of these monies by claiming a VAT refund. Some countries require that you purchase a minimum amount at a particular retailer in order to be due a refund.
Rules for a VAT Refund
Before you even purchase an item, make sure a store has a "Tax Free Shopping" or "Premier Tax Free" sticker in its window. If not, be sure to ask, because you will need a tax-free shopping cheque, or refund document, from the retailer in order to process your refund.
When purchasing your items, use a credit card and ask the cashier for two charge slips. You will need one that indicates the price of the cost of the item after the VAT amount is taken out and one that lists just the VAT.
When leaving Europe, present all of your tax-free shopping cheques to customs at the airport. Make sure all information is clearly documented, including filing out your address, signature and all receipts.
Customs will then stamp your paperwork, and you will have to mail the information back to the merchant. When the merchant receives the tax-free shopping cheque with your correct information, they will not authorise the VAT charge slip to the credit card. However, not all merchants do this, so you may have the VAT charge on your card, which should later be adjusted after your paperwork is submitted.
Tips for a VAT Refund
Since the VAT refund process involves the return of your money, you don’t want to wait too long to process your VAT refunds.
Refunds can be directly credited to a Visa, American Express, MasterCard or other credit card. The amount returned will be directly converted into the refund of your currency.
The company Global Refund is the largest VAT refund service. However, many merchants may use other services, so you will need to ask them complete a "tax-free shopping cheque" for each company, which can mean numerous forms to complete for getting your refund. Some VAT refund services have offices at the airports, which means that for a small fee you can submit your paperwork and have your refund processed even before you leave the country.
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