Want to get money back when you make a purchase in France? Yes, you can and it’s easy. It’s the European Union VAT (Value-Added Tax or TVA in French) that you’ll get as long as you know the rules and follow the procedures.
Here’s the best news: in August 2021, the minimum amount of your purchase decreased from 175 € to 100 €. While the typical tax is 20%, the average refund is 12%. It could be higher or lower, depending on the purchase.
Qualifying To Get The Euro VAT Tax Refund
In order to qualify for the VAT refund:
- You must purchase merchandise in the European Union and export it (ie. you’re traveling home, outside the EU) within 3 months after the date of purchase.
- The purchase must be over 100 € in the same store on the same day.
- You must not be a resident of the European Union (EU).
- You must be 16 years of age or older.
- At the time of purchase, you must provide proof that you live in a non-EU country (ie. passport—the actual one, not a copy)
- Only retail purchases are eligible (ie. items tourists would buy).
- Only certain stores have tax-free shopping. Usually, they have a sign indicating that they do, so be sure to ask first before buying. Supermarkets, convenience stores, and restaurants, for example, would not qualify.
- When you are at the retail store, you need to tell the cashier that you will be applying for the VAT refund.
- The retailer will complete a Détaxe form and request that you provide information from your passport. It is signed by the retailer and you.
- Some stores, like Galeries Lafayette require you to go to a different floor where they have a booth that deals just with refunds.
How To Get Your Refund
Some stores (usually high-end ones) will actually give you the refund immediately, but often it’s at a lower rate than you would get if you took option #2.
Option #2: Apply For The Refund At The Airport
Do this when you are to leave the European Union and BEFORE you go through customs. Give yourself extra time in case there’s a lineup. At the airport (or train station), you must have the form, receipt, AND your purchase in hand. Do NOT pack it in your luggage. You might need to show your purchase if there is an inspection by customs. Head to the Tax Refund area (Détaxe)
(a) Mailing In Your Form
- there will have a Pablo machine that scans the bar code on your form. The barcode scanning is the equivalent to having your form physically stamped by customs.
- the machine will tell you if everything is OK and if it is, you just have to put the receipt and form in the envelope and deposit it in the Détaxe mailbox located in the Tax Refund area. This mailbox is only for tax refunds.
- Wait up to three months for the refund on your credit card (or depending on how you paid, it might also be a cheque).
(b) Getting Your Refund Immediately
There may be an opportunity to get reimbursed immediately at a Détaxe counter. You show all your paperwork to the customs officer—your passport, the form, and boarding pass and get the form stamped. You might need to show your purchases as well. Then head to a company on-site, such as Global Blue, that gives cash refunds. However, you will get less money back than if you mailed it in as they take a cut of your refund.
If you’re looking for more money-saving tips, check out the list on this page: Advice And Money Saving Tips
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