Tax free shopping is a tourist incentive that operates throughout the EU and is known as the ‘VAT Retail Export Scheme’ in the UK. It is available to visitors who are not EU residents. Residents of the following nations do not qualify for VAT refunds in the UK:
(inc. Isle of Man)
The VAT rate in the UK is 20%. This amounts to 16.67% of the total purchase price from which a small handling fee is deducted. Tourists can claim a refund on most goods except childrenswear, books and those that you consume whilst in the UK. VAT on services is also non-refundable. The goods must be exported out of the EU within three months after the month of purchase.
The tourist should make sure that the store offers the Tax Free Worldwide service. The Tax Free Worldwide sign can be found on the windows or in side the store. They then complete their purchase as normal. The minimum amount at which a refund is offered is £30. At the point of sale they should request a tax free form. In some stores the till system will automatically detect a qualifying credit card and issue the form. They will also offer the tourist an international pre-paid envelope for mailing the form back to Tax Free Worldwide and an information leaflet.
The cashier will inform the tourist that they need to complete all details on the form before the tourist arrives at the airport. This includes:
• Name • Home address • Passport / I.D. number • Credit card number (for credit card refunds) • The arrival date to the EU and departure date from the EU.
It’s important that the tourist signs the form. The form should then be returned to Tax Free Worldwide once the tourist has received a Customs stamp at the airport that they are leaving the EU from. Returning the form can be done in a number of ways, depending on what is more convenient for the tourist. If they are leaving the EU from the UK, the form can be submitted in Heathrow or Gatwick to our refund partner - Travelex. Their offices are clearly marked with their logo:
If the Travelex offices are closed or not available, the tourist can precede airside with their goods and receive a Customs stamp from the Customs VAT office in the Departures lounge. The tourist can then post the form back to Tax Free Worldwide using the post box airside.
For all other airports in the UK such as Aberdeen, Glasgow, Inverness and Manchester, completed forms must be posted unsealed in the HMR&C collection box airside. The box will carry instructions and there will be a Customs courtesy phone from which the tourist can contact Customs should they have any queries.
The collection box is then emptied by Customs, stamped, sealed and posted back to Tax Free Worldwide. This applies to all airports in the UK EXCEPT Gatwick and Heathrow.
For high value forms, £1,000 or over (in Glasgow International Airport the amount is set at £200) the tourist should use the Customs courtesy phone and have Customs validate the form. They can then post the form back to us in the international pre-paid envelope.
Do the forms have to be stamped by Customs? If the tourist is leaving the EU through the UK they must show the goods and original receipts to Customs for validation. If however, the UK is not their last stop in the EU and they intend to travel to other EU countries after their visit, they have two options:
1. If they carry their goods as carry-on luggage they don’t need to show it to Customs in the UK. They only need to show it to Customs in the country they leave the EU from. 2. If they carry their goods in their checked-in luggage they must show the goods to Customs in the UK, even if they are continuing their travel outside the UK.
Once we receive the completed form, we process it and refund their chosen credit card. Cash refunds are available at all Travelex desks in Gatwick and Heathrow airports, or any of our City Refund point’s in central London as well as at many locations in Scotland. Please note that for City Refunds a credit card is always used as a guarantee. In order to avail of a cash refund at a City Refund point, the form must have a total sales value of at least £50 and no more than £1,000.
If the tourist has availed of a cash refund, the form must be returned to Tax Free Worldwide within 25 days from receipt of the refund, or the full VAT amount will be debited to the credit card.
Is there a time limit for returning the form? Once the form has been stamped by Customs there is no time limit unless the tourist has claimed a City Refund. These forms should be returned within 25 days from receipt of the refund or the tourist’s credit card will be debited the full VAT amount. However, the goods for which the VAT refund is being claimed must be exported from the EU within three months after the month of purchase.
For more information please visit www.taxfreeworldwide.com