Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a tax included in the price of your ticket. APD fees are divided into four bands: short-haul destinations under 2,000 mi, £12 per person in Economy (£24 all other classes); medium-haul destinations under 4,000 mi (including the United States), £60 Economy (£120 all others); long-haul destinations under 6,000 mi, £75 Economy (£150 all others); ultra-long-haul destinations over 6,000 mi, £85 Economy (£170 all others).
The British sales tax (Value Added Tax, or V.A.T.) is 20%. The tax is almost always included in quoted prices in shops, hotels, and restaurants. The most common exception is at high-end hotels, where prices often exclude V.A.T. Outside of hotels and rental-car agencies, which have specific additional taxes, there is no other sales tax in England.
Most travelers from outside the EU can get a V.A.T. refund by either the Retail Export or the more cumbersome Direct Export method. Refunds apply for V.A.T. only on goods being taken out of Britain, and purchases must exceed a minimum limit, generally £50 to £100. Many large stores provide a V.A.T.-refund service, but only if you request it.
For the Retail Export method, you must ask the store to complete Form V.A.T. 407, to be given to customs at departure along with a V.A.T. Retail Export scheme invoice. Have the form stamped like any customs form when you leave the country or, if you're visiting several European Union countries, when you leave the EU. Be ready to show customs officials what you've bought. After you're through passport control, take the form to a refund-service counter for an on-the-spot refund, or mail it back after you arrive home.
With the Direct Export method, the goods are mailed directly to your home; you must have a Form V.A.T. 407 certified by customs, police, or a notary public when you get home and then sent back to the store, which will refund your money. Remember, V.A.T. refunds can't be processed after you arrive back home.
Another option is a refund service, which processes refunds for most shops. Global Blue is a Europe-wide service with 270,000 affiliated stores and more than 700 refund counters at major airports and border crossings. Its refund form, called a Tax Free Check, is the most common across the European continent. The service issues refunds in the form of cash, check, or credit-card adjustment. The latter is useful for small purchases as the cost of cashing a foreign-currency check may exceed the amount of the refund.
Global Blue (866/706-6069. www.global-blue.com.)
HM Revenue and Customs (0845/010-9000. www.hmrc.gov.uk.)
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