2022 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? Or how does the tax refund process work in France?  I can’t even begin to tell you how many messages I’ve received in my email and Instagram simply surrounding this topic. Many people think 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

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 purchased goods. Today, I’m excited to breakdown for you everything you need to know about the VAT tax refund process in Paris, France.

Breaking news!! In 2021 France has changed their tax refund policy!! Previously, you had to spend 175.01 Euros in order to qualify for the tax refund. As of August 2021 you only have to spend 100.01 Euros in order to qualify for the tax refund!! Hooray, another reason to go shopping!!

More breaking news in Dec 2021!! There is a NEW Digital Vat Refund process in France! More details below!! **Update as of Sept 2022, there are some delays in the payment for the digital vat refund process

What is VAT Tax?

shopping in paris

When you visit Europe you’ll always hear things like this product includes VAT tax. What exactly is VAT tax? 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. However, it 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?

You’re probably wondering well if I buy this item how much tax refund do I receive back. I wish I could tell you it was a blanket answer of X%, but unfortunately it’s not so simple. I will try to break it down for you in layman terms to understand the VAT tax refund amount in Paris. Generally the following rates apply: Standard VAT rate: 20%, Pharmacy goods 10%, Food and books: 5.5 % Reduced rate for certain products and services: 2.1%, and luxury goods will offer a 12% refund! If you are requesting immediate VAT refund back, it will be a reduced rate of 10.8%, if you want the entire amount you have to wait up to 3 months and it will go back on your credit card. It is important to note that some luxury brands have a lower tax refund amount. 

Who Qualifies for the VAT Tax Refund?

  1. You must spend more than 175.01 Euros in the same store on the same day  
    1. Many people ask me if they shop at a big store like Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marche does the tax refund qualify for the entire department store or only one individual store inside like Louis Vuitton. The answer is you must spend over 175.01 Euros total.
  2. As of August 2021 in order to qualify for a tax refund in Paris you must spend over 100 Euros in the same store on the same day. Meaning you could spend 100 Euros at Louis Vuitton, 100 Euros at Celine and 100 Euros at Chanel and as long as they are all in the same department store (Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marche, etc) you would qualify for the total amount which is 300 Euro VAT tax refund.
  3. 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. 
  4. You must be 16 years of age or order
  5. You cannot be in a Europe Union country for more than 6 months
  6. At the time of your purchase you must have your passport with you

What is the VAT tax refund process? 

The VAT refund tax process in Paris, France is more simple than people initially think. The first step is to spend over 100.01 Euros in a single store or department store. The second step is to ask for the cashier for the VAT refund paperwork. Sometimes, the cashiers don’t offer you the tax refund because it’s extra paperwork for them, so make sure to ask!

You must take your tax refund paperwork with you when you leave the EU. At the airport, you will need to go over to the detaxe section at the airport and scan your paperwork. It's important to note that the Detaxe Section at the airport is before you check in. Then finally you must drop it in the box to have it mailed off. Within 3 months, you will receive your tax refund on your credit card statement.

Simple Steps for Receiving VAT Tax Refund – Traditional Method

  1. Go Shopping!
    • Spend over 100.01 Euros 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 PaperworkBefore Leaving France/ EU
    • Submit your tax refund paperwork at the airport or train station
    • Make sure you have your purchases on 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, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Popular countries that don’t qualify for the VAT tax refund: Switzerland and Norway 

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. Keep in mind that not all stores offer the refund immediately, typically only department stores do. (Printemps, Bon Marche, Galeries Lafayette, BHV, etc). If you decide that you want to take the refund immediately, it’s at a discounted rate of 10.8% instead of the normal amount. This is because you are requesting the cash immediately. 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. Many people think the tax refund will go back on their credit card immediately. This is not the case, the refund process will take up to 3 months. The best rule of thumb to follow is, if you come to Paris and go shopping during the busy season expect to wait 3 months, if you come to Paris and go shopping during the off season expect to wait less than 3 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?” I completely understand why you wouldn’t want to carry your passport around if it’s not needed.

Unfortunately, for the tax refund process in Europe, you have to have your actual passport. What I highly recommend is if you plan on going shopping, 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 may be wondering, I'm leaving Paris, France but I have a layover in Italy, where do I scan the VAT TAX refund paperwork? That's a great question, you would scan the VAT TAX paperwork in Paris, France before you leave and not in Italy when you land for your layover.

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

Please keep in mind if you are taking the train please ask an employee where exactly it’s located. It is important to note that if you are traveling to multiple different countries, then you submit the VAT paperwork at the country you leave the European Union. For example, you buy a Louis Vuitton in Italy, then a coat in Germany, and finally fly out of France to go home. You would submit your VAT tax refund in France as it’s the last country you’re at in the EU.

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

A question, I received recently was, I'm not flying out of Paris or the EU, I'm taking the train, and how do I process the VAT tax form at the 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 and the process is a little different, than Gare Du Nore. 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.

The New Way to Process the Refund Digitally!

UPDATE! As of Sept 2022, there are major delays in the digital VAT TAX refund process, using the Wevat app. I've been informed that the payments will be delayed, keep that in mind before you use the application. The Wevat team is working hard to fix this issue. I will update you when it has a resolution.

You may be wondering, is there a way to process the Vat Tax refund digitally? The short answer is yes, there is a NEW process that allows you to receive your VAT Tax Refund Digitally called Wevat.  Launched in 2019, the New digital VAT refund process is backed by the French government and is so simple and easy to use.

For years, I’ve waited for the moment of the VAT Tax refund process to go digital. In fact, I was so excited about the new process, I’ve written an entire article about it, that gives a detailed explanation on the Digital Vat tax refund process called Wevat you can check out here!

Recap of the European VAT Tax Refund Process

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 months, the refund will arrive on your statement! There you have it, the VAT tax refund process in Paris! 

Sincerely Petite in Paris,

Diane 

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10 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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