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All about Tax-free returns: how to apply for and get tax free

Shopping abroad is an integral part of many Russian tourists ‘ holidays. But not all of them know that you can save money on a Tax Free refund.

Tax Free or Tax-Free is an international system for the refund of value-added tax, known in our country as VAT. It is returned from purchases made by foreign citizens in 46 countries when leaving their territories. You can return up to 20 % of the total purchase amount (depending on the country).

Several operators act as intermediaries between States and foreign buyers: Global Blue, Premier Tax Free, Eurorefund, VP Tax Free, GB Taxfree, and Tax Refund, Yvesam Tax Refund Services and others.

All these operators help tourists get VAT refunds, so it is their badges that need to be searched for on the doors in stores – on the doors, ticket offices and showcases.

Companies-operators of Tax Free

In General, if you comply with simple requirements and perform the necessary formalities during shopping and when leaving the country, then shopping abroad will not only be a very pleasant thing, but also cost-effective.

tax free refund

Only foreign buyers who do not have a residence permit of the country in which they make purchases can count on VAT refunds.

Also, you will not be able to use Tax Free for foreigners who are in the country on a work visa, and those who are here for more than 90 days.

That is, a Russian citizen can count on Tax Free when buying in any European country, but, for example, a Frenchman will not be able to reimburse VAT when buying goods, for example, in Spain.

While shopping in the store, you must get a Tax Free Form receipt (another name is Global Refund Check). It must be filled in correctly in printed Latin letters: enter the data of the passport, the purchase amount, the amount of VAT and the refund amount.

Both the cash receipt and the Tax Free Form receipt are very important, so keep them until you return home.

In the store, your purchases will be Packed and sealed with a special tape, which can not be broken.

You must purchase goods for a minimum amount in one of the stores that operate on the Tax Free system. The amount of this minimum purchase varies in different countries – it is better to specify it in advance on the website of one of the operator companies or you will be told about it in the store.

For example, in Italy, a foreign buyer is required to buy goods in one tax Free Form receipt for at least 154.94 euros, and in Finland – for only 40 euros (this can be either one thing or several).

When leaving the country at customs, you must get a stamp on the Tax Free Form receipt (Global Refund Check), presenting your purchases, cash receipt and passport.

Also, do not forget that the Tax Free Form receipt has its own validity period. Basically, this is 3 months from the date of purchase. But there are exceptions, they need to be specified on the websites of operator companies. For example, in Austria, there are no validity limits at all, and in Switzerland, it is only 1 month.

It is important to note that different States have their own conditions for returning Tax Free purchases. Therefore, before traveling abroad, you should familiarize yourself with the VAT refund rules in the country where you plan to make purchases. This can be done on one of the websites of the operator companies.

Tax free refund

You can use VAT refund from purchases in Austria, Benelux, great Britain, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Israel, Indonesia, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Finland, France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, as well as in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, USA and Uruguay.

The tax can only be refunded on goods purchased at retail in partner stores of the Tax Free system. Look for the appropriate “Tax Free” icons or checkboxes on doors, Windows, and checkout counters.

VAT is not refunded on goods purchased over the Internet, as well as on alcohol, cigarettes, books, food and services (hotels, restaurants, etc.).

All goods purchased under the Tax Free system must be available in their original packaging for customs control when leaving the country where they were purchased. Otherwise, you may not be able to put a stamp on the receipt.

First, you can return the money directly at the airport, train station and seaport (when leaving the country) at the Tax Free Refund or VAT Refund point. But first, before checking in for a flight, you need to go to the customs Desk to put a stamp on the receipt. Here you may be asked to present your purchases in undisturbed packaging. Without this stamp, you will not get your money back in Tax Free cash Refund.

Second, you can seal the receipt with the customs seal and the cash receipt in a Tax Free envelope and drop it in a special Tax-Free box at the airport. In this case, the money will be returned to your credit card, the number of which you specify in the documents. Money is received on average from 3 to 8 weeks.

Third, you can get money from one of the Russian banks that works with Tax Free. To do this, while in Russia, contact such a Bank with documents: internal Russian passport, foreign passport, Tax Free Form and cash receipt.

Getting tax free at the Tax Free Refund point

It is worth remembering that the customs stamp is one of the most important conditions for making Tax Free purchases, as it confirms that your purchases were actually taken home. Some countries make exceptions and allow you to get a stamp in the foreigner’s home country – at the Embassy or Consulate of the country of purchase. However, this service is paid and will cost about 20 Euro.

Here everything is quite simple: the basic cost of goods is charged VAT, the amount of which differs in different countries. For example, if the total purchase amount is 100 euros and the tax rate is 20%, the VAT amount will be 16.5 euros (83.5 euros + 20% VAT = 100 euros). In this case, the refund will be 16.5 euros, minus the service fee for the operator company.

And in the case of non-cash refunds in a currency that differs from the Tax Free Form currency, the conversion fee will also be deducted from the amount of your refund (on average, 3-5 %).

In order to find out about the exact amount of compensation, it is better to use the calculator on the operator’s website.

Tax-Free can be refunded to any Bank card or only to the one with which the purchase was paid?

You can get a refund on any Bank card, even a card that you do not own.

VAT refund points for foreign purchases are located in banks in several major Russian cities. It is better to look at their addresses on the websites of operator companies. In Russia, the following companies work with Tax Free: Master Bank, Intesa Bank, SMP Bank.

In order not to strain yourself when returning Tax-Free payments with banks, waiting for transfers and commissions for currency conversion, it is easiest to get money for free when leaving the country.

To do this, we recommend that you arrive at the airport (port or train station) in advance: the fact that the check-in counters can be quite far from the customs and Tax Free cash Refund counters, plus there may be queues. Well, if the airport is huge, then an additional hour of spare time will not prevent you.

Before checking in for a flight, you need to go to the customs Desk with a Tax Free Form, cash receipt, passport, and your purchases in order for the customs officer to stamp the receipt. Don’t forget to make sure that all your purchases are Packed and have tags with price tags.

After the stamp from customs officers is delivered in Tax Free Form, go to the cash refund point Tax Free Refund or VAT Refund (or to the operator’s Desk, for example, Global Blue, if you were issued through it), show there a receipt with a seal, a cash receipt and a passport. These return points are usually located next to Duty Free.


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