Helpful VAT Refund Tips!

Ever heard of a VAT Refund? If you’re heading to Europe and your goal is to do a lot of shopping, you’ll want to read and follow the steps to save a bunch of money. 

What is VAT?

So… for international markets, there is a VAT charge between 5%-25% that is ALREADY included in the price of the good. So if you’re visiting as a tourist, you are entitled to a VAT refund (value added tax refund) IF the purchase is over  175 when you leave the European Union. Items must leave the EU within 3 months of the date of purchase and the refund amount will vary depending on the location and customs laws. Sounds like a dream huh?

Where do I claim this refund?

In the airport; at the LAST stop in the European Union (EU) is where you will get your documents approved and receive your refund.

What kind of refund will I receive?

Depending on the EU country, the VAT standard rate will vary. You can easily google and find out what the percentage is. I’ve linked a website below where it does the calculation for you.

You will have 2 options at the airport: immediate cash back or credit card (will take 5-10 days to process) 

How do I find out the price of a merchandise?

You can estimate it based on the website listed price (luxury brands: YSL, Celine, etc) It’s hard to find the true price of the product until you go in person. The price tag you see on the product will typically be lower than the website listed price and on top of that you will get approximately 10-12% VAT refund on the price listed.


Organize your paperwork

Listen, travel days can get pretty stressful. To eliminate stress of feeling frazzled, bring a folder where you leave all the receipts, tax forms, etc. Have it all located in one place to make it a speedy, efficient process.

Have the UNOPENED merchandise with you at all times

Most people make the mistake of  checking in at the gate first and packing it away in your checked luggage. It is mandatory to have the merchandise with you while you process the refund. Sometimes they will do random checks and ask you to take out the product. Luckily, the 2 times I have done it they have not asked me to show them the purse. Also, most purchases that qualify for VAT are usually really fucking expensive, so I wouldn’t trust leaving it in your checked bag anyway… 

Go to the airport EARLY

I cannot stress this enough. You will NEED that extra time. The lines do get long especially if your flight coincides with Asian airlines. Just being honest, the lines are typically Asian tourists that buy out every single luxury store…  So assume the worst and show up 4 hours before departure. You don’t want to run out of time and either miss your flight or not receive hundreds-thousands of dollars on the refund. Before you head over to check in your luggage at the gate, go straight to the VAT Refund desk to proceed with your process. 

 For example, in London Heathrow, I only had to stand in 1 line to get my stamps/ process documents/ receive refund all through the same person. However, in Amsterdam, there was a two step process: first wait in one line for stamping, then to a different line for processing to finalize it all. 

Do Your Research (merchandize + airport)

First, find out what merchandise you want to purchase and see if there is a price difference. Not every merchandize is guaranteed to be cheaper. Usually, you get the best deals when you purchase brands produced in their own country. For Ex: YSL/ Chanel/Celine- Made in Paris vs. Gucci, Fendi- Made in Italy

Second, every airport varies in the VAT Refund process, so before you go, do you research on where the VAT area is and how to navigate the process.

Calculate Your Price

Below is a convenient & reliable website to calculate how much refund you’ll receive depending on the price of the merchandise. Enter the amount and country you’re purchasing it and it’ll do the work for you!

VAT REFUND Calculation Example

YSL Lou Lou in Burgundy Large

YSL Website Listed Price:  1990 Euros //  $2204.92

YSL Paris Flagship Store Price:  1790 //  $1983.32

VAT Refund:  214.80 //  $238 (will receive at airport after processing)

Total Price for YSL LouLou: $1745.32. 

Saved $459.60

I hope you found this VAT Refund guide helpful for your next trip to Europe! Let me know down below what are some of the goodies you purchased and received VAT refunds for!

Good luck and happy shopping!

Xoxo, Soph


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