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.
What 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.
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?
- 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?
Simple Steps for Receiving VAT Tax Refund
- Go Shopping!
- Spend over €100.01 in a Single Store or Department Store
- Request an Invoice
- Request a VAT Tax Refund Document
- Make sure you bring your passport
- 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)
- Drop Form in the “Mailbox”
- Drop your tax refund form in the mailbox at the refund station
- Receive your Refund!
- Within the Next 30 – 90 days, you will receive your refund on the same credit card you purchased the item on
Using VAT TAX refund apps
Alternatively you can complete the VAT refund process digitally from your mobile phone. This allows to consolidate all your purchases from different shops into a single claim and avoid the min €100 restriction per transaction.
The French Tax and Customs Authority have recently licensed a number of VAT refund apps, such as Airvat tax refund, in order to improve the tourist VAT refund experience and also enable tax-free shopping for online purchases.
If you choose to use a VAT refund app, you don't need to show your passport at check-out but instead make sure to request an invoice addressed to your chosen refund app provider.
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?
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.
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:
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
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.
Traveling to Multiple Countries
If you plan on visiting multiple countries while you would process the VAT TAX refund in the last EU country you are in. For example, if you are traveling to France, then Italy, then Netherlands, you will process all the VAT TAX paperwork from your shopping in France and Italy at the Netherlands airport. Make sure you get the paperwork from your shopping in France, Italy and Netherlands.
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.
- If there is not a customs officer on board your train, you can get the Tax Refund paperwork stamped and processed at the Geneva train station.
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
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 show 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,