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.
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 called Wevat! More details below!!
Table of Contents
What is VAT Tax?
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%. 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.
On average most luxury goods will offer a 12% VAT tax refund!
Who Qualifies for the VAT Tax Refund?
You must spend more than 175.01 Euros in the same store on the same day
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.
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.
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.
You must be 16 years of age or order
You cannot be in a Europe Union country for more than 6 months
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.
Breaking news! As of Dec 2021, there is a new VAT Tax refund process that is digital!! See section below.
The New Way to Process the VAT Tax Refund process Digitally!
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 WeVat Digital VAT refund process gives you a higher percentage refund…cha-ching!! This new digital process is backed by the French government and is so simple and easy to use.
With Wevat you will receive 13.4% VAT Tax refund, instead of the traditional 12%.
For example, if you spend 10,000 Euros at Hermes you will receive 1,340 Euros compared to 1,200 Euros.
In addition to the higher VAT Tax Refund amount, there are more benefits I’m excited about! There is no 100 Euro minimum spending in each purchase like a traditional in-store one. Hence, the reason you get more refund back on your purchase.
There aren’t so many forms to fill out and no repeated scanning…this will be so much more convenient.
Probably one of my favorite features is the online customer support. Yes, you read that correctly, an online customer support!! If you ever run into a question or need help using the digital VAT Tax refund Wevat application, there is a team that will respond and help you. I love shopping with the peace of mind that if I run into a situation with regard to the VAT tax refund, there is someone there to help me.
It is important to note that the qualifications to receive the VAT Tax refund digitally are the same!
Below is a short table explaining exactly how to use the new application!
Sign up and Check Eligibility · Download the Wevat application · Follow the prompts to get the application set up (Email, name, address travel dates, departure location)
Go Shopping & Request an Invoice · Request a Facture (invoice) address to Wevat · Do NOT ask for a tax refund form
Upload your Invoice · Digitally upload the invoice with a single snap within the app
Generate digital refund form · Verify your identify · Generate a digital refund form
Scan your form & receive your Refund! · Bring your goods to the departure points · Scan the barcode at tax refund kiosk before leaving France · Receive your refund within a Week!
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!
Make sure you download the Wevat Application before going shopping in Paris, France! This will allow your purchases to be verified and allows you to go through the set-up process.
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?
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 (unless you are doing the digital VAT Tax refund process). 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.
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?
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
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 De Lyon. Instead of submitting the paperwork prior to boarding the train, you will receive 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 forms you received 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
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,
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