2023 VAT Tax Refund Process in Paris, France

One question that I get asked frequently is how do I process the VAT tax refund in Paris? Many people assume the tax refund process in Paris is complicated, but rest assured it’s not. As long as you follow these simple steps, you will be receiving your VAT tax refund in no time.

VAT tax refund process in Paris
Diane Shopping © Petite in Paris

What is VAT Tax?

shopping in paris

VAT Tax stands for value added tax, meaning that any goods or services that are bought or sold for consumption in the European Union is subject to VAT tax.

This tax only applies for European Union members. Therefore, consumers from abroad who are shopping and traveling to Europe are not subject to the VAT tax, and are entitled to receive the VAT tax refund.

How much is the VAT tax Refund?

On average, you will receive a 12% refund. There are some exceptions, for example, pharmacy goods offers a 10% refund, and if you purchase food and books you will receive 5.5% refund.

Who Qualifies for the VAT Tax Refund?

  1. You can not be a member of the European Union (EU). Meaning you aren’t living in an EU (European Union) country, living in Europe on a visa, nor have an EU passport or an EU Resident. 
  2. You must be 16 years of age or order
  3. You cannot be in a Europe Union country for more than 6 months
  4. At the time of your purchase, you must have your passport with you

What is the VAT tax refund process? 

Simple Steps for Receiving VAT Tax Refund

  1. Go Shopping!
    • Spend over €100.01 in a Single Store or Department Store
  2. Request an Invoice
    • Request a VAT Tax Refund Document
    • Make sure you bring your passport
  3. Scan your Paperwork Before Leaving France/ EU
    • Submit your tax refund paperwork at the airport or train station
    • Make sure you have your purchases in your carry on for the customs officer to check (This doesn't always happen, but it can)
  4. Drop Form in the “Mailbox”
    • Drop your tax refund form in the mailbox at the refund station
  5. Receive your Refund!
    • Within the Next 30 – 90 days, you will receive your refund on the same credit card you purchased the item on

Which European Countries Qualifies for the VAT tax refund? 

These are the following European countries that qualify for the Vat Tax refund / Tax Free Shopping: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

Countries that don’t qualify for the VAT tax refund: Switzerland, Norway, and the United Kingdom. 

How long does it take to receive my refund after I submit my paperwork?

tax refund passport
Passports for the tax refund process

There are 2 different ways you can receive your VAT tax Refund in Paris, the first way is immediately at the store. Typically, only department stores offer this option. (Printemps, Bon Marche, Galeries Lafayette, BHV, etc). If you decide that you want to take the refund immediately, you will receive it at a discounted rate of 10.8% instead of the traditional 12% amount. You still however have to follow the paperwork process and submit your receipts and paperwork at the airport. 

The second way is to submit the paperwork at the airport. The refund process will take 3–6 months. The best rule of thumb to follow is, if you come to Paris and go shopping during the busy season expect to wait 6 months, if you come to Paris and go shopping during the off season expect to wait less than 6 months.

Do I need to bring my passport when I go shopping, or can I have a copy of it?

One of the most popular questions I get asked regarding the tax refund process in Paris, is “do you have to carry your passport or will a copy of it work?” Yes, for the tax refund process in Europe, you have to have your actual passport. What I highly recommend is get all your shopping in one day. That way, you aren’t carrying around your passport for multiple days.

Do I need to pack my boxes for Customs if I purchase Luxury Items

After you purchase your luxury items in Paris, it's important that you keep these items in your carry on or readily available to show custom officers. Many times, the customs officer will ask to see your purchase(s). With that being said, you may be wondering if you buy a bag, shoes, or accessories if you have to keep the box that the item came in to show at customs? The answer is No, you do not need the box to show the Customs officer, only the object that you purchased.

Layovers, – Where to get your VAT TAX Stamp?

Many times, when you are traveling you won't have a direct flight, you will experience a layover, and sometimes this layover can occur in another European country. You will process the VAT refund paperwork in the country you leave from, not where the layover is.

Where do I drop off the VAT tax form at the airport? 

detaxe tax refund at CDG airport
detaxe tax refund at Paris Airport (CDG)

Every airport has a different VAT tax area to drop off the paperwork. I recommend doing research to find out where it is in the airport and arriving early to process the paperwork. Sometimes you'll get lucky and there won't be a line at the Detaxe station in Paris, but other times the line is extremely long. I definitely recommend giving yourself plenty of time to get the paperwork processed. Depending on when you are traveling there could be a long line.  In Paris here are the different locations: 

At Paris-Orly
South Terminal: Departures level, gate G
West Terminal: Arrivals level, gate E

At Paris-Charles de Gaulle
Terminal 1: CDGVAL level, hall 6
Terminal 2A: Departures level, gate 5
Terminal 2C: Departures level, gate 12
Terminal 2D: Departures level, gate 6
Terminal 2E: Departures level, gate 4
Terminal 2F: Arrivals level
Terminal 3: Departures level, airside

Where do I drop off the VAT tax form at the Gare du Nore train station? 

When you arrive at the EuroStar train station (if you are traveling to the UK), you can claim the VAT tax refund on the second floor after you go through security. Look for the sign. It is a self-automated machine. If you cannot find the machine, then I highly recommend you ask.

Make sure you do this before you leave the EU in order to receive your tax refund at the Gare du Nore train station.

What if I'm traveling to Switzerland, leaving from Gare De Lyon?

It is very important to know that if you are leaving from Gare De Lyon, there is NO “detaxe” refund machine available at the station. Instead of submitting the paperwork prior to boarding the train, you will process all your forms and paperwork while on board the train.

  • The Tax Refund Paperwork happens when you are on board
  • When You arrive to your destination (Geneva, Vallorbe, Lausanne or Neuchâtel) there will be a customs mailbox in the train station you drop off your VAT Tax documents you processed while on board.

What if I forgot to submit the VAT tax refund form or did the steps wrong? 

We all know that traveling and flying can be stressful, especially when you are flying internationally. You’re focused on making sure your bag isn’t over weight, ensuring you didn’t leave anything beyond, having your passport, etc. Many times submitting the VAT tax form is the last thing on your mind. If you forget to submit your tax form, don’t worry there are ways you can submit it when you’re not at the airport. Follow these simple steps below:

Within 6 months after the date of purchase of your goods, you must address a tax refund request to: 

Direction Générale des Douanes et Droits Indirects
Fiscalité, transports et politiques fiscales communautaires (bureau F1)
11, rue des Deux Communes
93558 Montreuil
France

This request MUST be supported by the following documents: 

A copy of your passport;
A copy of your travel ticket or your boarding pass;
An “attestation de présentation des marchandises” issued by a French Consulate. In order to get this document you must go to the Consulate with the goods you bought, your passport and your plane ticket – OR –
The U.S. Customs or Canadian Customs declaration you made for those goods when entering your country;
A letter with exhaustive explanations of the reasons why you were not able to get your form stamped when leaving France; AND
The Retail Export Form.

Recap of the European VAT Tax Refund Process

It’s no wonder people travel from all over the world to shop in Europe, especially Paris. Paris is home to some of the most iconic brands in the world, including, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Hermes, Chloe, YSL, Christian Louboutin, Celine, and many more. One of the benefits Europe offers for Non-European Union citizens is the tax refund (VAT) on purchases.

In short, the tax refund process is quite simple: Spend more than €100.01 at any given store or department store, provide your passport at the cashier to fill out the tax refund paperwork, arrive at the airport early to identify the custom area for tax refund, scan the paperwork at the machines, and drop it in the box. Within 3- 6 months, the refund will arrive on your credit card statement! There you have it, the VAT tax refund process in Paris! Happy to answer any questions in the comments!

Sincerely Petite in Paris,

Diane 

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28 Comments

  1. Hi Diane,

    I have a morning flight out of Paris CDG airport. Are the refund counters open 24×7. How early should one get to the airport ?

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Anisha,

      Thank you for your message! Great question, the refund counters are open around the clock. There won’t be as many workers working the early shift so I definitely recommend you get there early to give yourself plenty of time to process the refund (budget for about 1 hour to process the refund paperwork, and time in case you need to wait in line).

      Then also make sure you get to the airport early for customs, security etc.

      Hope that helps

      Best,
      Diane

  2. Hi Diane,

    I will be travelling to Paris and then will take train to Belgium and then Netherlands and finally will reach to Frankfurt and will leave Europe from Frankfurt. What I understand that there is no Kiosk at Paris Nord train station. Could you please guide me how I can submit my tax refund paper?

    Thanks in advance!!

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Amrita,

      Great question! If your last stop is in Frankfurt you would submit your tax refund paperwork in Frankfort and not in Paris even though you made the purchase in Paris.

      Hope that helps!

      Best,
      Diane

  3. We visited Germany and France last summer. We completed all the refund info at Galleries Lafayette and got home and mailed the form in. I received my refund from Germany but nothing from our France VAT tax. How/who do I follow up with to get my refund from France.

  4. Hi Diane!

    My cousin recently purchased a Dior item for me from La Fayette Paris. She was told that tax refund for any purchase above EUR 400 have to be done at the airport and not the boutique. When she went to the airport, the staff told her the tax refund should have been done at La Fayette. Pls advise how should I proceed with this?

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Aisyah,

      Thank you for your message! She would need to process the refund at the airport. Then it takes 3-6 months to receive back on her credit card. After the purchase, she had to go to a special area to get the VAT TAX refund paperwork in order to process the refund. Do you know if she got this paperwork?

      Best,
      Diane

  5. Is VAT tax refund available for luxury items purchased at Consignment shops?

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Mary,

      Great question, yes it is available for vintage luxury consignment shops in Paris. Make sure you ask them for the paperwork if they don’t automatically give it to you.

      Hope that helps and you have a great time shopping in Paris!

      Best,
      Diane

  6. One important thing to note here that this author Diane doesn’t point out. If you do make the purchase WITHOUT your valid passport, for an example in Paris France. You can return in TWO days with the passport and perhaps get the VAT paperwork processed. At least according to a Le Bon Marche De Taxe 3rd flr. desk. Just bring your original passport to preclude the huge hassles making new purchases. Some merchants have allowed purchases with passport’s photo copy. Especially around Christmas.

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Harlan,

      Thank you for your comment! I appreciate you sharing this information about Le Bon Marche! It’s important to note, that it’s not a guarantee that every shop will process the refund 2 days later without a passport and/or a copy of a passport.

      Kind Regards,
      Diane

  7. Hello,
    Thank you for the information. I purchased the jewelry at the Galleries Lafayette store in Paris, on the same day I scanned the papers/receipts in the Galleries Lafayette tax machine, I have chosen to refund my card, and got a green check mark.
    Did I still need to stamp the paperwork at the airport and drop them in the Pablo box? Or, as soon as you get the green check mark at the Galleries Lafayette self-service machine you do not need to do anything more? Please, let me know.

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Mary,

      Thank you for your message! From my understanding, once you get the green check mark, you are good to go. When you get to the airport, you will still have to declare the items to the customs officer. Make sure you keep all your paperwork, and the items you purchase in your carry on. I would also double-check to make sure you don’t have to drop the paperwork into the mailbox at the airport.

      Hope that helps!

      Best,
      Diane

  8. Hi,
    Do you know if you receive the entire refund amount at the same time? I purchased three items from three different stores, got refund for one currently, but still waiting on the other two. I did it through the kiosk and asked for the the money to be refunded onto the credit card.

    Thanks!
    Tian

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hi Tian,

      Thank you for your message! That’s a great question, since each store has to process the refund it varies from store to store. Some are processed quicker than others, which is why you see one refund but are still waiting on the other 2. Depending on when you went to Paris, sometimes there is a delay if they have to process several refunds (typically during the busy season). I know they say 30-60 days, but I’ve seen refunds take up to 6 months.

      Hope that helps!

      Kind Regards,
      Diane

  9. Hi Diane, I’ll be leaving Paris from Gare du Nore train station to UK. May I know if I can get cash VAT refund at Gare du Nore train station? Thanks

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Ling,

      Thank you for your message – you will be able to process the VAT refund at Gare Du Nore, but not receive the Cash refund.

      Hope that helps and you have a great time in Paris

      Best,
      Diane

  10. I followed the process at a PABLO kiosk at CDG airport prior to my departure but didn’t put the paperwork in a drop box at the airport. I still have hardcopies of the paperwork and wonder if it needs to be submitted in order to receive my VAT refund? Is there anything else that I need to do? I would hate not to receive the refund because I didn’t understand the process or didn’t complete the process. Any help or suggestions would be much appreciated.

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Nancy,

      Thank you for your message! Do you remember if when you scanned the document that you got an approved message or a message saying to see customs officer? From my understanding, since Covid – the CDG Pablo Kiosk make it so you don’t have to drop it in the “mailbox” section as long as you didn’t receive the error message.

      If you want to mail the documents, just to be sure you receive your refund, look at the tax document and towards the top there will have an address on there on where to mail it. But make sure you make a copy of it before you mail it.

      Hope that helps.

      Kind Regards,
      Diane

  11. Hi, I will be travelling from Paris to Switzerland. I read online that the French officer might not be on the train all the time. Do you know if this is true?

    And if he is not on the train, we are supposed to get it stamped at the custom office. Do you know where are these offices at?

    If I don’t get any stamp, can I still drop my refund letters into the tax refund box?

    Thank you!

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Sharon,

      Thank you for your message – I’ve not heard of anyone having issue with the customs officer not being on the train from Paris to Switzerland.

      If there is not someone on board, from my understanding, you would process it at the Geneva Airport’s French side.

      I do not recommend you drop your refund into the tax refund box if it hasn’t been scanned nor stamped.

      Hope that helps!

      Kind Regards,
      Diane

  12. I will be making my purchases in Paris but leaving EU from Switzerland. Understand I cannot drop my detax form at Switzerland airport. I will be taking train from Gare de Lyon to Zurich Bachmattstrasse Station, do you know if Zurich Bachmattstrasse has the refund box? How do I identify the Customs Officer when he is on board?

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Dorothy,

      Thank you for your message! The officers will be dressed in uniform and they will announce who they are on board. From what I remember there are mailboxes at the Zurich station, however, I’m 100% sure there are mailboxes at the Zurich airport which is about 10 minutes away from the station.

      Hope that helps!

      Best,
      Diane

  13. Jaydeep Buzruk says:

    I think this is so complicated process at airport since no clear information is provided. Apparently you need to scan documents before Check in but no US person has to go through customs check before you go to immigration by default. Amercian airline staff told me to Scan docs after immigration which was not true. Before I go to gate, there was detax counter where he told me right process which was too late. I think it is made complicated so minimum refund is given to people. Also if you have liquids volume which can not be taken through security how can you carry those items in carry on. Also for such refund so many trees are cut by providing papers. Horrible

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree the process is complicated, which is why I try to provide you with the most relevant information, as I have helped many people do the VAT TAX refund process in Paris.

      Kind Regards,
      Diane

  14. Hi, thank you for such an informative post!
    I’ll be flying to Europe and visit France, but i’ll be leaving EU from Switzerland. Means, i can’t drop the detax form in Swiss’ airport right?
    I’ll take train from France to Montreux from Gare de Lyon, do you know if Montreux station has the refund box? My transit in Lausanne will be 7 mins only and I don’t think it will be enough to get things done. Any advice for me?

    1. Diane Marz says:

      Hello Susan,

      Thank you for your message!

      Since Switzerland is not part of the EU you will have to process the VAT Tax refund before you get to Switzerland. So yes, you are correct, you cannot drop the form off at the Swiss Airport.

      If you are leaving from Gare De Lyon there is actually no VAT Tax refund machine at the train station. There will be a customs officer who goes around on board to process your VAT Tax. Make sure you have your purchase readily available to show the officer. Once you arrive at your destination, there will be a VAT Tax mailbox you will drop it off at. I’m not 100% sure if there is a tax refund drop box in Montreux, but I know there is one in Lausanne. I would recommend asking the officer when you are on board.

      Hope that helps!

      Kind Regards,
      Diane