A 10% V.A.T. (value-added tax) is included in the rate at all hotels except those at the upper end of the range.
No tax is added to the bill in restaurants. A service charge of approximately 10%-15% is often added to your check; in some cases a service charge is included in the prices.
The V.A.T. is 20% on clothing, wine, and luxury goods. On consumer goods it's already included in the amount shown on the price tag (look for the phrase "IVA inclusa"), whereas on services it may not be; feel free to confirm. Because you're not a European citizen, if your purchases in a single transaction total more than €155, you may be entitled to a refund of the V.A.T.
When making a purchase, ask whether the merchant gives refunds—not all stores do, nor are they required to. If they do, they'll help you fill out the V.A.T. refund form, which you'll submit to a company that will issue you the refund in the form of cash, check, or credit-card adjustment.
As you leave the country (or, if you're visiting several European Union countries, on leaving the EU), present your merchandise and the form to customs officials, who will stamp it. After you're through passport control, take the stamped form to a refund-service counter for an on-the-spot refund (the quickest and easiest option). You may also mail it to the address on the form (or on the envelope with it) after you arrive home, but processing time can be long, especially if you request a credit-card adjustment. Note that in larger cities the cash refund can be obtained at in-town offices prior to departure; just ask the merchant or check the envelope for local office addresses.
Global Refund is the largest V.A.T.-refund service with 225,000 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. Premier Tax Free is another company that represents more than 70,000 merchants worldwide. In some cities you may obtain the refund immediately from local offices. Look for their logos in store windows.
Global Blue (866/706-6090 in North America; 421 232/111111 from abroad. www.global-blue.com.)
Premier Tax Free (905/542-1710 from U.S.; 06/699-23383 from Italy. www.premiertaxfree.com.)
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