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Old May 24th 2010, 5:28 am   #1
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Default Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Hi,

Only been here a couple of months, but going home next week for a short visit. As far as I can tell, I can shop tax free while I'm there as I'm not resident in the EU. I gather I have to show my passport at the shop, though I'm not sure how that helps them as it's a UK passport.

Does anyone know which stores take part in the tax free for tourists scheme (think it's officially called the VAT Retail Export scheme)? I'm only planning to go to some of the big stores, such as M&S, Debenhams, John Lewis and Next.

Thanks in advance!
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Old May 24th 2010, 6:23 am   #2
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Most of the big stores will do it, not sure where you can find a list though, the easy way when out and about is to just look for the "Tax Free Shopping" window sticker near the opening hours.

Unless you are buying lots of expensive items, it may not be worth it though.
Firstly most shops have a minimum spend limit (IIRC around £30), probably because you have to fill in a pain in the backside form. If you go somewhere like Regent street, they are probably used to this form, if you go to a small town the staff often have no clue.

Once you have made all your purchases and are heading home, you have to show the tax free shopping forms and passport to customs. The customs officer may want to have a look at any items you have bought, to make sure you are not doing any VAT fraud, so you must have them on you at this point.

Once this is done, you will either have to go to a room where they refund you in cash, or fill in a form so that you can be sent a cheque or refund to you credit card.
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Old May 24th 2010, 7:06 am   #3
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Biggest problem I've had is that the VAT refund place is inside after security, so you have to have whatever your purchased with you in your carry on bags. If you go through the receipt process at the store it is a total pain. Takes a few minutes to fill out while the line behind you wonders wtf is going on.
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Old May 24th 2010, 2:37 pm   #4
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Thanks people, that's good info. I'll be in Glasgow, so hopefully the shops there will know what to do.

Am quite excited about my trip home!
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Old May 24th 2010, 2:37 pm   #5
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

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Originally Posted by penguinsix View Post
Biggest problem I've had is that the VAT refund place is inside after security, so you have to have whatever your purchased with you in your carry on bags.
You used to be able to do it before security for bulky, check-in only items at LHR too. It was hell, twice over.
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Old May 24th 2010, 5:08 pm   #6
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MadRad View Post
Thanks people, that's good info. I'll be in Glasgow, so hopefully the shops there will know what to do.

Am quite excited about my trip home!

Wait until the end of your holiday then go to the store with your receipts and passport. Some stores only their customer services dept will fill out the form. Every time I do this is takes forever...most of the staff have no idea and I have finished up showing them.

The stores have to be participating members of the scheme...so it's only some of the large chains that offer VAT refunds. You cannot return to the UK for 12 months if you claim VAT back.

IMO unless you are spending a couple of hundred pounds at each store it's not worth the hassle. I haven't bothered claiming VAT back for several years because it's a real pain in the arse and I go back within the 12 month period.

Like someone else said the VAT refund office is after you pass through security. I fly from Manchester and it's right by the security area. My flights are early morning and the office is always locked so I leave the envelope containing the forms in the box provided.
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Old May 24th 2010, 5:51 pm   #7
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Hi,

I'm a bit confused - does this scheme only apply if you're not returning to the UK for 12 months? I can't see that on the HMRC website.

The only reference to being outside the UK for 12 months seems to be for people living in the EU or studying:

If you live in the EU
If you live in the EU, you may be able to obtain a VAT refund if you are planning to leave the EU for at least 12 months.
You must:
leave the UK for a destination outside the EU - with the goods you have bought - by the end of the third month after the month when you bought them (for example, goods purchased on 3 February would have to be exported by 31 May)
stay outside the EU for at least 12 months
show customs officials the goods, your receipts for them and a completed VAT refund document when you leave the EU.



If you live outside the EU
If you are an overseas visitor, to qualify for a VAT refund you must:
live outside the EU
leave the UK for a destination outside the EU with the goods you have bought by the end of the third month after the month when you bought them
show customs officials the goods, your receipts for them and a completed VAT refund document when you leave the EU

Can anyone clarify?
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Old May 24th 2010, 6:06 pm   #8
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MadRad View Post
Hi,

I'm a bit confused - does this scheme only apply if you're not returning to the UK for 12 months? I can't see that on the HMRC website.

The only reference to being outside the UK for 12 months seems to be for people living in the EU or studying:

If you live in the EU
If you live in the EU, you may be able to obtain a VAT refund if you are planning to leave the EU for at least 12 months.
You must:
leave the UK for a destination outside the EU - with the goods you have bought - by the end of the third month after the month when you bought them (for example, goods purchased on 3 February would have to be exported by 31 May)
stay outside the EU for at least 12 months
show customs officials the goods, your receipts for them and a completed VAT refund document when you leave the EU.



If you live outside the EU
If you are an overseas visitor, to qualify for a VAT refund you must:
live outside the EU
leave the UK for a destination outside the EU with the goods you have bought by the end of the third month after the month when you bought them
show customs officials the goods, your receipts for them and a completed VAT refund document when you leave the EU

Can anyone clarify?
Maybe it's for people only living in the EU. I think I saw it on the forum or the envelope.

I'll try to see if I can find anything about it.
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Old May 24th 2010, 8:49 pm   #9
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerseygirl View Post
Maybe it's for people only living in the EU. I think I saw it on the forum or the envelope.

I'll try to see if I can find anything about it.
It is only for people living in the EU, remember the UK is still in the EU, unless the tories have managed to sneak us out without anyone noticing!
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Old May 28th 2010, 5:10 pm   #10
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Make a list of things you want to buy; cross-check to see if they may be available in the stores past the security. Avoid VAT /Duty buy showing you BP for the US.

Ties,booze,cigars, jams are all available after security in the concourse of terminal 4, LHR
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Old May 28th 2010, 8:14 pm   #11
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Quote:
Originally Posted by anuny View Post
Make a list of things you want to buy; cross-check to see if they may be available in the stores past the security. Avoid VAT /Duty buy showing you BP for the US.

Ties,booze,cigars, jams are all available after security in the concourse of terminal 4, LHR
Avoiding the duty this way and then paying the terrible mark up of the airside stores kind of defeats the purpose.

I am pretty sure as has been discussed the OP meant high street tax free shopping, which is a different beast.
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Old May 30th 2010, 8:29 pm   #12
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Quote:
Originally Posted by anuny View Post
Make a list of things you want to buy; cross-check to see if they may be available in the stores past the security. Avoid VAT /Duty buy showing you BP for the US.

Ties,booze,cigars, jams are all available after security in the concourse of terminal 4, LHR


What is BP? Am I right in thinking boarding pass?

Definitely meaning high street shopping. I don't smoke, or drink much, and happily don't need to suffer LHR on my return journey (it was bad enough on the way in!)
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Old May 31st 2010, 2:12 am   #13
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

This may be worth knowing - when I order gifts for my mum (living back in the UK) from M&S online, the VAT is always deducted at the online checkout because I live in Canada (my credit card is registered to my home address here in Nova Scotia)
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Old Jun 1st 2010, 8:46 pm   #14
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Most important, its certainly "not Tax Free", more like 50%.

The scheme is operated by a company.

As others have said, only bigger stores & some have a £100 minimum.
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Old Jun 28th 2010, 3:53 pm   #15
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Default Re: Visiting the UK - tax free shopping?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerseygirl View Post
Wait until the end of your holiday then go to the store with your receipts and passport. Some stores only their customer services dept will fill out the form. Every time I do this is takes forever...most of the staff have no idea and I have finished up showing them.

The stores have to be participating members of the scheme...so it's only some of the large chains that offer VAT refunds. You cannot return to the UK for 12 months if you claim VAT back.

IMO unless you are spending a couple of hundred pounds at each store it's not worth the hassle. I haven't bothered claiming VAT back for several years because it's a real pain in the arse and I go back within the 12 month period.

Like someone else said the VAT refund office is after you pass through security. I fly from Manchester and it's right by the security area. My flights are early morning and the office is always locked so I leave the envelope containing the forms in the box provided.
Interesting, I had very different experience with tax refunds very recently! I was never bothered to go through all this, until my friend encouraged me when we went to London couple of months back last. I do not only shop in Solan Square), but I was surprised how much I could get on tax free shopping, http://www.global-blue.com/en/london/tax-free-shopping. You are right, a lot of it is upmarket, but I was surprised to find out how many places support tax refund. And...do not freak out when you see the queue to stamp your receipts in Heathrow - it looks longer then it actually takes)
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