Brexit has changed many things about travel between France and the UK, and with the UK now out of the EU, there are far stricter rules on customs allowances and sending parcels. However, one positive side of these changes is that UK residents may be eligible to claim the VAT back on items purchased in the EU.
Who Can Claim Tax Back On Items Bought in the EU?
Anyone who is over 16 and has travelled to France for less than six months is eligible to claim a VAT refund on goods purchased during their stay in France. These VAT refunds can are applicable to all residents of the UK (except for residents of Northern Ireland). However, there are some restrictions:
VAT can only be claimed back:
- on new goods purchased for personal use and brought back to the UK yourself (you can’t bring back tax-free goods for a friend or family member)
- if the items were purchased from a retailer that offers tax-free shopping
- for goods totalling more than €100 including TVA (VAT) – i.e. €100.01 or more
- if you are a permanent resident in a non-EU country (e.g. the UK)
How to Purchase VAT-Free Goods in France
Many goods qualify for VAT-free shopping in France, including clothes, jewellery, cosmetics, food and drink items, and technology, and French VAT can be up to 20% of the price you will pay on these items, so it’s well worth claiming back the tax if you can.
In order to benefit, you must provide proof that you are not resident in France (a UK passport, along with proof of address and/or a residency card). At the time of purchase, you must ask for a VAT refund form.
When shopping in France:
- Shop only at retailers who allow tax-free shopping
- Ask for a VAT refund form at the time of purchase – both you and the retailer will sign it
- Keep the original tags or packaging on the clothes – VAT refunds are only possible on new items
- Keep all sales receipts and VAT refund forms
Find out more about the process here.
To claim back the VAT:
- You must export the goods with you to the UK within three months of purchase.
- You must get your VAT refund forms stamped by customs before leaving France – this is typically done by customs officials at the airport, port, or train station.
- Alternatively, validate your VAT refund forms at an electronic PABLO kiosk (available at some airports and Eurotunnel stations) by scanning the barcode.
- Items may need to be shown to customs officials when returning to the UK, so it’s a good idea to pack them at the top of your luggage.
- When back in the UK, send the stamped form back to the retailer. Alternatively, use an app such as ZappTax to carry out the process on your behalf.
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