Taxes

Taxes must be included in affixed prices in France. Prices in restaurants and hotels must by law include taxes and service charges. If these appear as additional items on your bill, you should complain. There is, however, one exception: don't be shocked to find the taxe de séjour (tourist tax) on your hotel tab when you check out. Ranging from €0.22 (for campers) to €4.40 per person per day, it is applied to all types of lodging. Even if you prepaid your accommodation online through a third-party travel website, you'll still have to cough up the coins.

The standard rate of the V.A.T. (value-added tax, known in France as T.V.A.) is now 20%. A lower rate applies to restaurant food (10%), pharmacy goods, and books, but it can be as high as 33% for certain luxury items. The V.A.T. for services (restaurants, theaters, etc.) is not refundable, but foreigners are often entitled to a V.A.T. refund on goods they buy. To qualify for one, you must have bought more than €175 worth on the same day in the same participating store (look for the "Tax-Free" sticker on the door) and have stayed three months or less in the EU at the time of purchase. The system is now simpler to obtain under the revised PABLO system: Participating retailers will provide you with a computer-generated PABLO Value-Added Tax (V.A.T.) refund form containing a barcode and the PABLO logo. You then scan the code before checking in at the airport for your outbound flight. The PABLO machines at CDG and Orly provide service in English and can credit the refunded amount directly to your bank account or credit card.

At the airport, be sure to have your passport, your ticket, and your PABLO form for items purchased. Go to the La Détaxe/tax refund machine, scan the form’s barcode and you’ll receive a message "OK bordereau validé" ("OK, form valid") with a green screen (a red screen will give further instructions). An electronic confirmation will be sent directly to the retailer for your reimbursement to be processed. Remember, this must be done BEFORE checking-in your luggage.

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