Hotels in Holland always include the service charge, and the 6% V.A.T. (B.T.W. in Dutch), in the room rate. Tourist tax is never included and is a few euros extra. If in doubt, inquire when booking. In restaurants you pay a 5% service charge, 6% V.A.T. on food items, and 19% V.A.T. on all beverages, all of which are included in the quoted menu prices. V.A.T. is 19% on clothes and luxury goods, 6% on basic goods. On consumer goods, it is always included in the amount on the price tag, so you can't actually see what percentage you're paying.
When making a purchase, ask for a V.A.T. refund form and find out whether the merchant gives refunds—not all stores do, nor are they required to. Have the form stamped like any customs form by customs officials when you leave the country or, if you're visiting several EU countries, when you leave the EU. After you're through passport control, take the form to a refund-service counter for an on-the-spot refund (which is usually the quickest and easiest option), or mail it to the address on the form (or the envelope with it) after you arrive home. You receive the total refund stated on the form, but the processing time can be long, especially if you request a credit-card adjustment.
Global Refund is a Europe-wide 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. The service issues refunds in the form of cash, check, or credit-card adjustment.
Global Refund (866/706–6090. www.globalrefund.com.)