How to Re-claim Value-Added Tax on Souvenirs / Goods bought in Europe
For any of you who visit Europe, whether it be regularly or perhaps only once every year or two, it's certainly worth knowing where you can save on GST for any souvenirs bought. The process of saving money on these items is fast and free so “there is no excuse not to buy them now”; I hear your family saying.
The majority of Australian travellers generally leave this money unclaimed, meaning over the years you could have left hundreds if not thousands of dollars unclaimed. Stop the losses now and start saving money on European souvenirs by reclaiming your VAT/GST.
Now there is some paperwork involved in reclaiming GST as, unsurprisingly, officials don’t want to just give it back without making you jump through at least one or two hoops. However, it's not nearly as arduous as some might think.
To qualify for reclaiming your VAT, you must be aware that the price of your souvenir needs to cost over a certain amount. The price bracket for qualification starts at $30 and goes up to several items costing hundred of dollars.
The qualification bracket varies slightly between countries, with Ireland being the only country where there is no minimum amount that you can reclaim on. Once you know which country you will be travelling to, it’s time to begin looking for “Tax-Free” stores when you go shopping. Most participating stores will have a tax-free sign somewhere within their shop window or within the customers view.
The second part to reclaiming is understanding that in order to qualify you would need spend at least the minimum amount in each store. What I mean by this is if say the minimum spend threshold is $30, then if you've bought 5 items from 2 different stores, then each store receipt would need to be for a total greater than $30.
Additionally, when buying these items you will also have to bring your passport and ask that the shop attendant fill out one of those tax-free forms upon purchase. Any store that caters to tourists will generally know how this process works, unless you get the unfortunate jock on their first day. Once purchased, refrain from using your gift items, e.g. a leather jacket must not be worn, if you are to qualify for the refund, I will explain more below.
The next part is easy; when you land back in Oz and go through border control, make sure you have all of your paperwork and purchases easily available. Present customs with all of your souvenirs and the relevant tax-free forms and they will give you a stamp on the form authorising their approval. Then it’s simply a matter of submitting your documents at the airport or if you are in a rush, mail them in from home for your refund check.
Doing all of this at the airport when your family are waiting might not be ideal, but if you’re travelling alone and have some spare time, it might be nice to get it out of the way. This method for reclaiming tax back on souvenirs has proven invaluable to friends of mine who have purchased leather goods, artwork, wine or other expensive or luxury products in Europe.
Now the reason that you cannot use your items before you present them to customers is because you are technically getting a tax refund on items, which are being treated as exported goods. Besides that, the whole process it’s pretty straightforward in terms of claiming your money back. Just make sure you check the claim periods for whichever country you plan on travelling to. We would advise checking the European Commission website before your trip so you know exactly what to time scales you need to be aware of when buying abroad.