Is there any way to get the VAT tax back after having left Italy? We forgot about it when we were at the airport. Thanks.
–Zelda, Brookville, Md.
Unfortunately, there is no way to get your VAT tax back once you have left the country (or in the case of the EU, the last European Union country you visit).
If it makes you feel any better, getting your VAT tax back can be tricky—and possibly not even worth the effort. First, each country requires a minimum amount spent at each store BEFORE taxes, which ranges from $13 in Sweden to $370 in France. You can check GlobalRefund.com for the specific amounts for each country. Then, while making your purchase, you must ask for the VAT refund form.
Once you are leaving the country, you have to show all your receipts and forms to the visited country’s customs agents at the airport from which you are departing. You may need to bring the items you purchased to the agent, since he or she can request to inspect the items you purchased. The customs agent will stamp your receipts, and then you must head off to the VAT refund desk after check-in and security to fill out more paperwork. Sometimes customs will give you a refund on the spot, but much of the time, they will send your forms to the store from which you purchased the items. The store will either credit your credit card or send you a check by mail—both of which take a long time.
To avoid all the airport paperwork, you can shop at stores that are part of the “Tax Free Shopping” network. These stores normally have a sticker in their window that denotes they are part of the organization. When you shop at network stores, they give you a check that you can cash at the Tax Free booth at the airport, but again, minimum purchase requirements apply.