Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to questions asked about our service. First check this guide before contacting us so we can focus on delivering the best VAT refund service to you. 

About Receipts

Requirements for purchase receipts

To be eligible for a VAT refund you must have a purchase receipt that meets the tax administration requirements or a tax-free form*.

Be aware that not all shops will offer you a proper receipt. Therefore, be sure to check your receipt before leaving the shop.

Your purchase receipt must state the following information:

NAC1 details of the shop aka seller
NCP2 details of yourself as buyer
Date of purchase
Description of goods
Total amount of VAT

1 = Name, Address, Country of Seller
2 = Name, Country of non-EU residency & Passport number

A *tax-free form has two functions. It is the replacement of a purchase receipt as it consists out of a cash register receipt plus a form in which you can fill in your NAC details by hand. It is also a contract between you and the tax-free company that supplies the taxfree form. It will also show you the amount of refund you will receive from the company, usually around 50% of the total VAT as the remaining part of the VAT is charged as handling fee. You may always refuse a tax-free form (sometimes called cheque or voucher) and request a proper receipt from the shop.


What about the customs stamp?

A Customs validation stamp on your receipts proves you have exported the goods back to your home country. It is one of the four requirements to claim back VAT. The other three requirements are that you get this Customs validation stamp within three months after the month of purchase, that you live in a country outside the EU and that the receipt meets the tax requirements plus exceeds the minimum spent amount. Customs will check all of these requirements before putting a stamp on your receipts.

Be aware that Customs will only stamp your receipts the day of your departure, and in the last EU-country you visit before leaving the EU. In case you have a transfer flight in the EU, Customs will stamp in the beginning of your journey if your luggage is checked-in to your final destination and the tranfer time is two hours or less.

To get a taxfree validation stamp on your purchase receipts, show Customs your purchases, passport and airplane ticket before check-in. After a Customs officer has checked your documents (he/she may require to see the goods), the officer will stamp and validate your purchase receipts for a VAT refund. Most airports have two special tax-free validation offices, one before check-in and one after check-in. If you are planning to carry the goods in your hand luggage, than visit Customs after check-in for the validation stamps.

Please note!
EU-Customs does not save your personal information. They will only check your documents and goods right before putting a validation stamp on your receipts to ensure you are eligible for VAT refund. In case you have an EU-passport, you will need show proof that you live abroad like a visa, work permit or other legal document stating your non-EU residency. EU-Customs may check if you are registered in the EU through their own database.

If you leave the EU via car, train or cruis boat, please visit Custom officials at the border crossing.

If you were unable to get a Customs stamp when departing the EU, you may also get one upon entering your home country. You will have to officially declare your goods and, if you exceed the local threshold for free import, be subjected to import duties and consumption tax. Find local threshold amounts and fees per country here.


What do I do with my stamped receipts?

Register your receipt via our app or website and then send us the original stamped receipts. Local tax administrations require us to audit the original stamped receipts to prevent fraud and double entries. We will only be able to start the refund process once we have the original stamped receipts in physical form.

Please consider the fact that it might take some time before your receipts reach us via snail mail. Minimise the risk of documents getting lost by sending us your receipts by registered mail. Make sure to always register your receipts via our app or web first, as we will require you to take a photo of the stamped receipts before sending us the originals.

Our address for (registered) mail:

vatfree.com
att: Web
P.O. Box 37234
1030 AE Amsterdam
The Netherlands


What if my receipt is also my warranty?

To process the VAT refund, we will need the original stamped purchase receipts. Many shops will print a different warranty receipt so it is not part of the purchase receipt. If this is not the case, be sure to make a copy of your purchase receipt for warranty matters or have a copy of the receipt stamped at EU-Customs so you can keep the original (customs will only stamp a copy if you can show them the original at the same time). If needed, you can always ask us for a digital copy or find a copy in your online vatfree.com account. We will not send original receipts back.


Do my stamped receipts have an expiration date?

Get your stamp at Customs within 3 months after month of purchase. The stamped receipt can then be used to claim VAT and expires after 5 years in the Netherlands. This expiration period varies per country. Check the guidelines in the overview below.

AU Austria 3 years / 1095 days
BE Belgium* 3 years / 1095 days
BG Bulgaria 5 years / 1825 days
CR Croatia 5 years / 1825 days
CY Cyprus 5 years / 1825 days
CZ Czech Rpblk 5 years / 1825 days
DE Germany 4 years / 1825 days
DK Denmark 1 year / 365 days
ES Spain 5 years / 1825 days
ET Estonia 5 years / 1825 days
FI Finland 5 months / 150 days
FR France 6 months / 180 days
GR Greece 90 days
HU Hungary 5 years / 1825 days
IR Ireland 5 years / 1825 days
IT Italy 3 months / 90 days
LI Lithuania 5 years / 1825 days
LU Luxembourg 5 years / 1825 days
LV Latvia 5 years / 1825 days
MT Malta 5 years / 1825 days
NL Netherlands 5 years / 1825 days
PL Poland 7 months / 210 days
PT Portugal 5 years / 1825 days
RO Roemania 5 years / 1825 days
SE Sweden 1 year / 365 days
SK Slovakia 5 years / 1825 days
SV Slovenia 5 years / 1825 days
*UK United Kingdom
1 year / 365 days

*Stamped receipts for purchases made in Belgium are valid until December 31st of the third year after purchase date.


For whom

Am I eligible for a VAT refund?

You are eligible if you meet the NEMS-requirements:

N you are a non-EU resident and purchase goods in the EU for personal use.

E you export the goods to your home country within three months after month of purchase.

M you spend a minimum amount per shop, per day. Check minimum purchase amounts per EU-country here.

S you have collected a Customs Stamp either at EU-Customs or at Customs upon arrival in your home country, as proof that you have exported the goods.

Please note! Your purchase receipt must state the following information:
NAC1 details of the shop aka seller
NCP2 details of yourself as buyer
Date of purchase
Description of goods
Total amount of VAT

1 = Name, Address, Country of Seller
2 = Name, Country of non-EU residency & Passport number


Am I eligible when I am an international Student or Expat?

If you are an international student or Expat and staying in the EU for six months or less, you are also eligible for a VAT refund.

If you are staying in the EU for a period of six months or more, and you are planning to leave the European Union anytime soon, make sure to deregister from city hall. You will then receive a confirmation of your deregistration which you will need once you visit EU-Customs for a Customs stamp.

Please note You can only reclaim your VAT over purchases made in the last three months before leaving the EU.


What about military and/or Nato personnel?

If you are stationed at the Military bases Geilenkirchen or Brunssum, you might be eligible to shop tax-free (ask your supervisor if you are eligible and what the requirements are).

If you are stationed at Geilenkirchen:

  1. Request a VAT and Excise Duty exemption certificate from your station;
  2. Register your details and receipts on www.vatfree.com, after login, by chosing your profile as NATO, and upload the VAT and Excise Duty exemption certificate together with the purchase receipt.

If you are station at Brunssum:

  1. At moment of purchase, request for a Customs Tax Invoice. Please note only shops with a licence to sell to military staff are able to provide you with this type of invoice. Your station can provide you a list of shops licensed. Furthermore, only goods with a minimum purchase amount of €46 including VAT per item are eligible for reimbursement.
  2. Have the office at your Military Base stamp the Customs Tax Invoice for approval;
  3. Register your details and receipts on www.vatfree.com, after login, by chosing your profile as NATO, and upload the Customs Tax Invoice together with your purchase receipt and a copy of your military ID-card.

I want to claim VAT over goods, exported by a freight forwarder

You are planning to export goods to a (non-EU) country by using the services of a forwarding company. Rules and regulations are different from when you would export these goods yourself in your travel luggage.

Please follow the next procedure step-by-step for claiming a VAT refund when exporting goods to a non-EU country via a transport or shipping company:

1) Buy goods at one of the shops listed in our tax-free shopping guide to ensure cooperation in VAT refund. Make sure your purchase receipts are made out to your name and non-EU address.

2) Purchases should be exported in new condition, within three months. Make sure the forwarding company complies with the following:

  • The EX-A export document should refer to the new purchased goods, including the statistical value. To make sure this form can be linked to your purchase receipts, ask your freight forwarder to add the invoice numbers on the EX-A export document.
  • The export needs to be digitally validated by customs. Your freight forwarder receives this validation as a digital message and is called “Confirmation of Exit” / “Sagitta”. We need this document to prove the export of the goods and will share this with the shop.

3) Register your VAT refund request on our website https://traveller.vatfree.com/. Include the EX-A document and the Confirmation of Exit for each receipt registered. You do not have to send us any original paperwork per snail mail. All can be handled digitally.

Please note: A ‘Bill of Lading’ can not be used as ‘Confirmation of Exit’, as a bill of lading only confirms the goods were loaded into the container, but not that they have actually left the country.

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About our Service

What is tax-free shopping?

Shopping tax-free is, in essence, claiming a VAT refund afterwards.

VAT, value added tax, is a consumer tax and varies between 17% and 27% in the EU. You are eligible for a VAT refund if you live outside the EU and export goods. VAT refund is therefore only possible over goods, not services. The VAT is included in the purchase price. You therefore pay it in store and claim it back afterwards.

The store is legally the entity that processes the reimbursement as they initially receive the VAT upon purchase and are able to credit and return it afterwards. Not all stores participate in this legislation or process the reimbursement in a timely manner. Moreover, EU tax law does not obligate stores to cooperate. Better be safe than sorry and only shop at stores that guarantee VAT refund up front, as transparently listed in our tax-free shopping guide.

We are building the largest and most transparent network of participating tax-free stores. Use our Online Tax-Free Shopping Guide or download our iOS App or Android App to view the participating list of stores. More than 55.000 stores are listed so you can instantly see if your favorite stores participate or find alternatives.

Store not listed? Ask the store manager if they guarantee participation via our platform and if so, save his/her contact information in case you will need to refer to this promise later on.

Store listed as not-participating (grey icon)? Stores are not legally bound to participate in reimbursing VAT. Unfortunately, there is no other way to retrieve the VAT as you are not able to claim directly from the government. As there are a lot of stores listed as participants, see if you might be able to find an alternative in the neighborhood or online.

Airport cash refund companies: some stores, listed as grey and not-participating in our shopping guide, have an exclusive commercial arrangement with companies like Global Blue or Premier Tax-free. Although legislation states you are free to surpass these organizations to contact the store directly, or via our platform, it might become a cumbersome and long process to exercise this right as stores are invested in you using their chosen refund channel. Handling fees charged by cash refund companies vary between 33% and 50% of your VAT and an extra cash fee of €3.50 or more per receipt at the airport. Schedule extra time at the airport as queues are common.


What is the service fee?

We guarantee the highest refund in the market as our service fees are the lowest.*

Our service fee is a fixed percentage of 30% of the VAT, with a minimum fee of €2,50 and a maximum fee of €80,00 per receipt. Please note that this includes a free transfer of the refund to a SEPA bankaccount or an NGO as a donation.**

Please note: As per the beginning of October 2017, our new platform to submit your claims is live. Receipts are first registered via the vatfree.com app or website before sending them in via snail mail. The service fee changed from a scaled percantage over a maximum of 15 receipts to a fixed percentage per receipt with a minimum and a cap per receipt. In most cases this resulted in a higher refund for our frequent customers, therefore contributing to our mission to help travelers get the highest refund of VAT.

In case you send in receipts that have not first been registered via the vatfree.com app or website, an extra handling fee of €2,50 per receipt will be surcharged as of July 1st 2018.

*Handling fees charged by competitor refund companies vary between 35% and 55% of your VAT, an extra cash fee of €3.50 or more per cheque/voucher at the airport and in some cases an extra conversion rate as well.

**If you wish the refund to be transfered to a visa or mastercard credit card, a supplement handling fee of €2 is charged per transaction. One transaction includes all outstanding refunds to be made (of multiple receipts).


When can I expect my VAT refund?

On average, it will take 35 business days before a VAT refund is ready to be transferred to you.

The process in business days is as follows:

  • we receive and archive the original stamped receipts* +/- 2 days
  • we audit the receipts and verify your account +/- 3 days
  • we sent a consolidated invoice to the shop** +/- 7 days
  • the shop transfers the VAT to us* +/- 21 days
  • we process incoming payments and send you a notification +/- 1 day

*Most shops are happy to cooperate in refunding VAT as long as it does not become a cumbersome process. To prevent the process becoming an administrative burden, we consolidate and send invoices to shops every two weeks. This keeps shops happy which results in a higher conversion to becoming a partner shop which results in a speedier refund and better service to you.

**It depends on the shops' payment terms if the refund can be take place in a shorter time. Partner shops with direct debit to us will comply within 3 business days. Shops that are new to us can take longer for other reasons. We might even have to call the shop or send reminders which will delay the process. Login to your vatfree.com account to see the status per receipt.

*If you send us your receipts via snail mail without having registered them beforehand via the vatfree.com app or website, it will take an extra +/- 3 business days to register the receipts and details for you.


How can I receive my refund?

Currently we have three ways to transfer the refund to you:

  1. via a European SEPA bankaccount (free of charge);
  2. via a Mastercard or Visa Credit Card (€2,00 transaction fee);
  3. via a PayPal account (€2,00 transfer fee).

We are also able to transfer the funds free of charge as a donation to the Red Cross, Worldlife protection or to a crowdfunding project of your choice.

Once the shop has reimbursed the VAT, we will notify you by email and request you to make a choice and insert your payment details. We do not keep and store your payment details for safety reasons.


Can I get back VAT on purchases made online via webshops?

Yes, in case you buy goods online in an European webshop* and have them delivered to an address in the EU (e.g. at an hotel or at friends/families). You will then have to follow the same steps as if you bought the goods at a regular shop: request a proper receipt, visit Customs before leaving the EU and registering the stamped receipt via our app or website before sending them in.

Please note Most EU webshops will request you to fill in an address for the invoice and an address for the delivery. The address for the invoice should have your NCP-details (Name, Country of residence outside the EU and Passport number). If this can not be facilitated, please add the NCP-details in a remark field or add it by hand with a pen upon delivery. Your delivery address can be any local EU-address.

*Webshops from the UK are the only exception as local tax administration rules specifically mentions online purchases, even when exported in the travel luggage, are not eligible for VAT reimbursements. This is not in line with the EU regulation in regards to VAT and export.

If you have bought goods online in an European webshop* and have had them delivered to your home address outside the EU, then it is not necessary to get a Customs stamp. The delivery document is proof of export. You can register the receipt directly via our app or website for a refund. You DO NOT have to send in the receipt in original form via snail mail as it does not contain a stamp. The invoice from the webshop should clearly state the delivery address outside the EU.


What about import duties?

Each country has an import free threshold. This threshold varies per country. If your purchase amount exceeds this threshold, you will be required to declare your goods and pay import duties upon arrival in your country of destination. The thresholds of most countries can be found here.

Declaring goods is a responsibility each traveler has, wether the VAT is claimed back or not. Once you leave the EU, it is up to Customs in your home country to check if travelers declare their goods.

In the Netherlands you are allowed to import new goods with a total purchase amount of € 430,00 or less per person, duty free. This means that if the total value of goods exceed € 430,00, import duties will be charged by Customs upon arrival (and after you declare the goods). Import duties differ per country.


How do you handle my data?

Your personal data sent to vatfree.com is treated as confidential in accordance with the EU General Data Protection regulation. Under EU law, personal data can only be gathered legally under strict conditions, for a legitimate purpose. Furthermore, persons or organisations which collect and manage your personal information must protect it from misuse and must respect certain rights of the data owners which are guaranteed by EU law. Furthermore, vatfree.com will only communicate with you via SSL, to your registered email. More about how we manage your privacy and data can be read here: vatfree.com and GDPR


For merchants

Can I join vatfree.com if I am affiliated with Global Blue, Premier Tax Free, Planet or Innova taxfree etc.?

Yes. We offer an inclusive service which means every merchant or shop is welcome to join. Offering our tax-free shopping service next to others will give your customers choice as we are the fastest growing mobile option with the highest refund guaranteed to the most diverse traveler groups.

Why mobile? With airports requesting travelers to show up at least three hours before their flight, and safety procedures taking up a lot of time, most travelers have little time left to arrange getting a Customs validation stamp on their receipts. Standing in line at Customs may take up to half an hour or more. Being required to then stand in line at a desk for a cash refund, can increase the time of this entire process to an hour or more. Time is spare so we built the first ever tax-free shopping app in 2016, so travelers can finalize the refund claim once they find a spare moment, on the plane home or in the comfort of their own house.

Why diverse? We are the first and only tax-free shopping service founded by travelers, specifically for travelers, with a main focus on travelers' needs. Our service therefore ranges from helping a range of travelers from tourists, cruise passengers, military staff, expats and international students. We also are able to help travelers get back VAT over shopping made online, offline, cross border, over purchases charged with low as well as high VAT rates at shops that are either listed in our shopping guide as well as not listed and new to us.

Why the highest refund guaranteed? The most common feedback we get from travelers is that they feel uncomfortable being subjected to high fees for claiming back Value Added Tax they are entitled to. Especially after having to go through so much effort to arrange the refund. We get that. Regulation states that when exporting goods to a non-EU country, you do not have to pay VAT. For travelers to claim back the initial paid VAT, they have to stand in line at Customs, before flying back home, to get proof of the export. This can be quite stressfull, take up quite some time and in some occassions even lead to missing out if quees are long and you have to catch a plane. Once the stamp is collected, the only way to claim back VAT is to contact the shop. If the shop is unwilling to cooperate, charges high fees (with or without a tax-free partner) or just takes a long time to process it all, this leads to disappointment and a feeling of dispair. Traditional tax-free shopping companies charge fees varying from 35% to 50% of the VAT amount and are only an option if shops are affiliated. We decided to use today's technology to create an open platform for all shops to easily join, without necessary contracts, and to minimize costs in such a way that we can continue to offer the highest possible refund. Our service fee starts at €2,50 per receipt with a maximum of €80. With this we hope to have helped retailers and shops as well as we believe a happy customer is a customer for life.

Our mission is to help travelers easily shop tax-free at stores and brands that love them back.

We would love you to join us and list your shop(s) in our shopping guide free of charge: click here to join.

 

 

 

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