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VAT refund after returning -- a lost cause?

VAT refund after returning -- a lost cause?

Old Aug 28th, 2012, 02:55 AM
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VAT refund after returning -- a lost cause?

Hi! I am trying to figure out if there is a way to get a VAT refund after you have already left the EU.

My mom visited Italy a couple months ago and bought expensive items for herself and relatives. A 20% VAT refund would amount to around 800 euros, so as you can imagine she would very much like to get this amount back as that is not a small sum of money!

Unfortunately she was not an experienced VAT refunder and believed someone in Italy who insisted to her that she could get it done in Geneva.

I am visiting France now and tried to get the forms stamped on her behalf (I have all her paperwork, ticket stubs and her passport) at the CDG airport. As expected, they insisted on seeing the merchandise (which I didn't bring) and insisted that she needs to do it in person. I had to endure and incredible amount of eye-rolling for simply asking if they could make an exception, since this was clearly a legitimate VAT refund application. One of them started yelling at me in French.

Anyways, one of the VAT people told me that my mother can get the forms stamped herself at the French embassy. Does anyone have any experience with this? I suspect he was just trying to get rid of me. My mother bought the gifts in Italy, doesn't seem like the French embassy would authorize that.

Anyways, my mother is very upset about this whole thing as the reason she made her purchases was because of the advertised VAT refund. Frankly this seems like a genius way for the EU to generate extra revenue -- by making the refund process as complicated and cumbersome as possible.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 03:02 AM
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Can't help you with a solution - but can only agree with you on the last point.

We recently came through Vienna airport and the VAT refund process is a sham - there are zero instructions anywhere, the counter at Amex (which is authorized to issue the cash) was manned by 1 person with 80 people in queue and people would reach the end to realize that they either had to get some incremental paper or something stamped.

The counter to stamp the forms outside the passport control wont stamp for carry-on items and one has to queue for stamping outside, inside and then at the cash counter. All in all, lesson learned - we will compare prices including VAT for shopping in the EU going forward.....
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 03:29 AM
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What they told you is correct. She takes everything to the embassy or consulate. Gets it certified and sends it to the processing agency'.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 03:30 AM
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I would go to the Italian embassy however
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 03:40 AM
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She should try the Italian Embassy or Consulate as suggested above.

The actual net VAT refund will be more like 12-14%, if that's any small consolation.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 06:15 AM
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Just by way of explanation, I don't think the staff at CDG could have determined from your evidence that it was clearly a legitimate refund. The pertinent thing is that the goods are leaving the EU, not the purchaser, which they couldn't determine from the evidence you had. Anyway, I hope you sort it out.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 08:18 AM
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Hardly a fair final comment imho. At least the EU offers the chance to get VAT refunded - more than the US does with it's assorted sales taxes.

I hope she gets it sorted out, but otherwise you may have to put it down as an expensive learning experience.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 02:39 PM
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thanks everyone for your replies! i guess our best bet is the embassy. the process is definitely not as user-friendly as it could be. when i was in the VAT line at the airport, i saw so many people walking away in frustration either because they had checked in their purchases or because lining up in two long lines before their flight just was not a option. hopefully other travelers who read this post will be able to learn from our terrible experience.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 02:59 PM
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Is you mom a resident of the U.S.? Did she declare the amount of her purchases going through customs??

Keep in mind that above a certain amount, bringing back purchased things, above the $800 personal exemption, your mom would have to declare the items and pay duty on them. Further, to the extent you get a refund of VAT, you can get hit with a state "user" tax.

A few years back there was an article on how states were using the "refund" of VAT form to find residents and bill them with the user tax.

In short, it seems to me that those VAT refund toots are more of a marketing ploy, since you think you're getting a deal, when if you run the numbers, not to mention the time spent filling out the forms and going through the headaches you've clearly gone through, you are not usually coming out ahead.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 03:02 PM
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More than once I hve dutifully filed VAT papers at airports in Italy. I have never seen a refund. I give up. Good thing I really don’t buy a lot of expensive stuff.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 03:29 PM
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I didn't find the process difficult at AMS. There was no one else at the customs desk and it took less than 5 minutes for the agent to look at my purchase and stamp my form. I could've gone to another desk and gotten cash right there but didn't have enough time due to a delay in my inbound connecting flight so I mailed the form from the US and a few weeks later a refund posted to my credit card.

Many years ago I'd also taken my purchases to the German embassy (due to another flight delay so I didn't even have time to stop at the customs desk) to get my form stamped, mailed it in and received a check sometime later (this was before they had the credit card option).
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 03:51 PM
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the process is definitely not as user-friendly as it could be.

What system could you possibly implement that could accurately verify refunded goods are actually taken out of the country and not purchased for local use (which is the point for receiving the refund)?

It´s a simple process actually. You make a qualifying purchase, shows the goods are unused and in your possession as you depart the country, return the approved paperwork for a refund.
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Old Aug 28th, 2012, 03:54 PM
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This is interesting, since I just returned from Italy and I'm awaiting refund of over 600 Euro from the VAT. I've been burned repeatedly in the past in both France and Italy, missing the necessary stamps, unable to find the refund office, or simply running out of time in the airport. Even when I did everything correctly, still the refund would not appear.

This time, I think I may have outsmarted them! I used the CamScan app on my iPhone to scan copies of my receipts with the Customs Stamp on them before I handed them into Global Blue. Instead of cash, I chose the "5 day guarantee" credit card refund option, and I saved my receipt hard copy and scanned it as well. The only possible glitch is that the Global Blue clerk at the airport kept my documentation and said that she would take care of mailing it in. I didn't really have a choice but to trust her.

Today is Day 5. My Global Blue receipt says "Approved transactions are paid within 5 working days." If I don't get the refund in another day, I'll contact Capital One, send my scanned copies of all documents and get them involved.

Since all documentation is correct, I don't see how Global Blue can refuse to approve the refund to my credit card...I'll let you know how it works out. Either way, though, I agree that it's a pain, and mostly seems like a marketing ploy.
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Old Aug 30th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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Update!

The credit is showing as "Pending" on my Capital One account online. What a relief!
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Old Aug 31st, 2012, 08:10 AM
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It is now shown as a completed credit. I thought people would want to know that this did happen in a reasonable time.
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Old Sep 1st, 2012, 09:49 PM
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Nice job!
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Old Jun 4th, 2013, 03:07 AM
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What is Global Blue ? Was that the store ? Or a company you used to get the rebate ?

If the latter, please put their URL here. I also have the same issue of missing the stamp.

Otherwise I will have to go to the Italian consulate in San Francisco.
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Old Jun 4th, 2013, 07:01 AM
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Global Blue is a company that processes VAT refunds, they take some commission or fee for doing it. I think they have some agreement with the govt or something to allow that. I believe they are not really giving you a refund but kind of like those pay-day loans, they give you the money and turn in the paperwork, but I think they can charge you if it doesn't go through or something, not sure how it works. THis is their website http://www.globalblue.com/

They do have a refund tracker but if you don't have the stamp, I don't know what you can do. https://secure.globalblue.com/travel...refundtracker/

Article on their services http://www.smartertravel.com/travel-...tml?id=7361833
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Old Jun 4th, 2013, 08:43 AM
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>

Well yes, it's a government with use of your money and no incentive to return it.

That said, a good way to avoid VAT in the future is to have the items posted to the US (provided they're not heavy or physically large). The fee should be far less than the VAT savings.
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Old Jun 4th, 2013, 09:02 AM
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It is expensive to mail things to the US, but I don't understand how that would work as you pay the VAT when you buy something and then have to get a refund. So how could you avoid paying VAT by buying something and mailing it home? Or do you mean you get the VAT taken off the top in the store if you have the store mail it for you?
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