Seven VAT refund friendly cities to remember

20 Oct 2010

Claiming tax refunds is regarded as a tedious task by many people. But remember, that’s still good money coming back into your wallet. Here are guidelines in some major business hubs that should streamline the process for you.

The rate: The Value Added Tax (VAT) rate stands at 14 per cent.

How to apply: VAT applies to purchases exceeding 250 rand (US$36). Visitors to the city need to ask for a tax invoice, which will then need to be presented to the Customs Office staff before security check, who will inspect the goods, your passport, ticket and the receipts.
For purchases that exceed 3,000 rand (US$434), make sure the volume or quantity of the goods is printed clearly on the invoice as well as your name and address otherwise the invoice may not be processed. Once the customs have stamped the receipts after checking the purchases, you can collect a cheque at the VAT refunds office after security. Travellers also have the option of getting the rebate directly on their credit card, which will take two working days.

The rate: London currently has a VAT rate of 17.5 per cent, which is due to increase to 20 per cent by January next year due to the economic crisis that burnt a big hole in the government’s budget.

How to apply: Keep in mind that not all stores offer tax rebates and each store will have a different minimum threshold, so ask first.
Tax refunds must be claimed within three months of purchase and a VAT refund form must be filled in at the store after paying, which will then be attached to your receipts and stamped. Submit these forms along with the receipts and your passport at a Travelex Counter before checking in or, in case you forget, you can still do this after security checks as long as you hand carry your goods. Your rebate will be paid in cash in pounds or in your own currency.

The rate: Italy’s VAT rate – known as locally as IVA – is 20 per cent.

How to apply: Shoppers in this fashion capital have the choice of claiming direct reimbursement at the store where the purchase is made or getting it at the airport.
Rebates only apply to purchases exceeding 155 euros (US$215) and must be collected within three months of purchase and at least two hours before boarding time. Shoppers need to fill in the fattura (reclaim form), which will need to be presented at the airport with your passport and the goods in question at the customs office located on level one in terminal one and at Gates D in terminal two. 

The rate: VAT – or TVA – rate in Paris stands at 19.6 per cent but only 12 per cent can be reclaimed.

How to apply: The minimum spending threshold is higher in Paris.
VAT can only be claimed on purchases that exceed 175 euros (US$24). Upon purchase, ask for the bordereau de détaxe, or the Retail Export Form, to claim rebates within three months of purchase at the airport. You should present the Retail Export Form, your ticket, passport and original receipts before going through customs and at least three hours before your boarding time. Once the forms have been stamped, make a copy for yourself and slide the original into the postage paid envelope provided. Drop the envelope into a post box at the airport and your tax refund should be sent to you at home by post.

When travelling around Europe, remember that you can only claim tax rebates of all your purchases from your final destination before leaving the Union. This applies to all European cities, including London and Milan.

The rate: The Goods and Services Tax is 7 per cent in this island nation.

How to apply: The tax refund applies to a minimum of SG$100 (US$76) within the same day, so it is possible to accumulate SG$100 by collecting several receipts from different stores and the corresponding refund forms.
Refunds must be claimed within two months of purchase from Customs at Changi Airport, along with your boarding pass, ticket, passport and the goods in question. Once your forms have been stamped by customs, you can collect the rebate either from Global Refund and Premier Tax Free counters located in the departure area after immigration where you can receive cash or direct transfer to your credit card, or you can post the stamped forms from the post box at the Customs GST Refund counter back to the retailer for them to send you the rebate instead.

The rate: VAT rate is currently at 5 per cent

How to apply: As in other countries, travellers must fill in a VAT Refund form, signed by the retailer and attached with receipts for purchases exceeding NT$3000 (US$99). Rebates must be made within 30 days of purchase – the shortest validity period when compared to other cities.
At Taoyuan International airport customs, you must produce the refund form, receipts, passport and purchased goods for inspection. The forms will then be stamped and you will be given a VAT Refund Assessment Certificate, which is to be reimbursed at the relevant counters located on the first floor of the Departure hall in terminal one and on the third floor of the Departure hall in terminal two.

The rate: In Japan, instead of a VAT, customers are charged a consumption tax of 5 per cent, which visitors will be reimbursed for.

How to apply: Unlike most countries, tourists in Japan don’t need to claim tax rebates at the airport but instead can claim it immediately at the retailer and apply to purchases that exceed 10,000 yen (US$122).
Tax refund counters are set up in stores and, upon purchase, travellers can produce their receipts and passports for immediate reimbursements. The refund officers will then stamp the visa page of your passport to indicate that the transaction is complete. At customs, you may be asked to produce the goods for inspection.

Alisha Haridasani

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