VAT Refund UK

Old Aug 11th 2017, 8:44 am
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Default VAT Refund UK

Has anyone attempted to reclaim VAT paid in the UK at the airport? I have not been back for ages, and my wife will now doubt do a shed load of shopping, and often thought about it but never pursued it, and I was just wondering about your experiences of attempting/doing it?
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Old Aug 11th 2017, 8:51 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

Originally Posted by Dubaiexile View Post
Has anyone attempted to reclaim VAT paid in the UK at the airport? I have not been back for ages, and my wife will now doubt do a shed load of shopping, and often thought about it but never pursued it, and I was just wondering about your experiences of attempting/doing it?
Yes. It's easy but what I've noticed is only shops in London know and give you the right claim forms. The forms have to come from the shop.
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Old Aug 11th 2017, 9:35 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

Yes, it's easy. I actually did this the first time when I was in Berlin a few weeks back.

Bought an expensive pair of shoes from a fancy department store and upon presentation of an overseas credit card, they automatically asked if I wanted the tax refund form. How kind. I said yes, and the receipt included a long claims receipt with the required information. It looks just like a regular receipt but is longer.

At the airport, look for the tax refund counter. Fill out some paperwork, hand over the claims receipts, and get the refund. I'm sure the process varies from the UK/EU.

However, you must have the official claims receipt from the shop. Other receipts don't help you. I had receipts for other expensive shoes but as I'd never asked for the tax refund claims receipts for those purchases, it did me no good.

In short: everywhere you shop specifically ask for the VAT refund claims slip. The big department stores will easily be able to comply as their tills will issue it along with the regular sales receipt. Smaller shops might not know what to do, unless they're tres chic boutiques used to rich tourists.

Use overseas credit cards as it'll help remind you and prompt the shop to ask if you want the tax refund receipt.

Also - be aware of the timing of the tax refund counter at the airport when you leave the country. At Berlin the tax refund counter closed at 8 PM, about 15 minutes after I arrived at the airport. If you have one of those late night departures back to the GCC you may be out of luck, although my form did indicate I could apply via snail mail to some EU office in Slovakia.

Originally Posted by Millhouse View Post
Yes. It's easy but what I've noticed is only shops in London know and give you the right claim forms. The forms have to come from the shop.
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Old Aug 11th 2017, 10:07 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

Originally Posted by Millhouse View Post
Yes. It's easy but what I've noticed is only shops in London know and give you the right claim forms. The forms have to come from the shop.
This is a critical point. It's near impossible to get a VAT refund on purchases at regional cities or airports, for a whole raft of bureaucratic reasons. Handling fees are extortionate, unmanned customs desks at airports, necessary envelopes not available, cheque arriving in USD currency that costs more in bank fees than is worth, cheques going missing in the post etc. Some shops treat you like a money laundering crim, requiring all sorts of personal info, phoning head office to check, adding half an hour to your purchase. My experience anyway, and I no longer bother.
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Old Aug 11th 2017, 10:25 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

Did it last month at terminal 5. Doesn't take too long. It was on a bag bought in Paris. We were on a road trip through Europe so terminal 5 was our departing airport. Be careful about what currency you get your cash back in as airport ripoff rates apply, plus transaction fee.
Unlucky if you get stuck behind a load of Chinese though.
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Old Aug 11th 2017, 10:26 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

planned to do it one time but it looked like half the population of China was queuing up to get their refunds.
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Old Aug 11th 2017, 10:32 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

And double check the whereabouts of the Customs office in the airport, too. We were going to reclaim VAT when leaving Germany ex Munich airport. We asked two different airport staff when still landside where the Customs/VAT reclaim office was and were told that it was airside. Once we were through immigration and all that stuff and airside we asked again only to be told that it was landside. Couldn't face the hassle of getting back landside again so didn't bother.
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Old Aug 11th 2017, 10:33 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

True.

I got around 20 euros back, about 10% of the purchase. If I'd been able to use all my receipts I'd have gotten 60+ euros back, and that mildly irks me.

But if the refund is only worth 10-20 euros and there's a massive queue or the counter is closed and you need to post the receipts via snail mail, it's likely not worth the effort.

Originally Posted by Johnnyboy11 View Post
This is a critical point. It's near impossible to get a VAT refund on purchases at regional cities or airports, for a whole raft of bureaucratic reasons. Handling fees are extortionate, unmanned customs desks at airports, necessary envelopes not available, cheque arriving in USD currency that costs more in bank fees than is worth, cheques going missing in the post etc. Some shops treat you like a money laundering crim, requiring all sorts of personal info, phoning head office to check, adding half an hour to your purchase. My experience anyway, and I no longer bother.
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Old Aug 11th 2017, 4:07 pm
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

At Heathrow if you can use the airside HMRC desks they are always far less busy (empty in my experience) but you have to be refunding items in your carry on. I got refunds on stuff i'd bought from Apple a few weeks ago in T4 and it took me 10 mins from beginning to receiving the refund. Once HMRC do their bit they give you forms to take to travelex who issued an immediate refund to the card I had paid with. Not sure how it works if you want another method. Landside desks are another matter, mostly huge queues, I flew out of T5 last night and the HMRC refund area was rammed.
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Old Aug 13th 2017, 5:34 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

The fees are pretty brutal unless you have bought something of significant value. I bought a nice CK shirt (80 odd GBP) when I was last back and paid with a UAE CC. The nice lady gave me the mahoosively long receipt and told me I could claim the VAT back. When I looked into it, once you have removed the fee I would have got about 3 GBP back. Obviously didn't bother.
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Old Aug 13th 2017, 5:42 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

20% back on a new fully loaded MacBook Pro would be a different thing I guess. That's when I would be serious about getting the VAT back
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Old Aug 13th 2017, 5:53 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

One of the big exchange houses (Al Rostamani I think?) was advertising a service on the radio where you could reclaim your UK (or maybe even EU) VAT after returning to the UAE. Anybody have any experience of that? Presumably fees would be higher but might be worth it for the reduction in hassle - if it works.

I've asked this on here before but nobody seemed familiar with it...
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Old Aug 13th 2017, 6:00 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

OK just found this having inspired myself to Google it (hey, it's Sunday morning...):

VAT Refund

Sounds like you have to get the customs stamp on departure so doesn't really save much hassle at all! In fact it requires a further transaction - or is there an easier way to get a customs stamp without also getting the refund at the departure airport?
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Old Aug 13th 2017, 6:03 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

Originally Posted by jam25mack View Post
The fees are pretty brutal unless you have bought something of significant value. I bought a nice CK shirt (80 odd GBP) when I was last back and paid with a UAE CC. The nice lady gave me the mahoosively long receipt and told me I could claim the VAT back. When I looked into it, once you have removed the fee I would have got about 3 GBP back. Obviously didn't bother.
I think the fees do vary a bit depending on who the retailer uses to process the transaction. I think I got 13% of the 20 back from Apple, they use Global Blue. As you say not worth it for small items and even though its worth claiming 13% back of a big spend 7% fee is a bit of a scam !
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Old Aug 13th 2017, 6:06 am
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Default Re: VAT Refund UK

Originally Posted by Miss Ann Thrope View Post
OK just found this having inspired myself to Google it (hey, it's Sunday morning...):

VAT Refund

Sounds like you have to get the customs stamp on departure so doesn't really save much hassle at all! In fact it requires a further transaction - or is there an easier way to get a customs stamp without also getting the refund at the departure airport?
When I've done it at Heathrow the Customs stamp and checking that the goods are leaving the UK is the bit you queue for, cant see any other way of doing that.
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