Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Tax Refunds for Europe Travellers

During a recent Europe trip, I visited Dresden, Germany. While shopping at the famous, down-town Altmarkt Galerie, I saw quite a few signs about tax-free shopping and immediate tax returns. It took me a while to find their somewhat hidden tax-free counter on the first floor of this mall. (Open from 10 am to 8 pm, Monday to Saturday). Malls are closed in Germany on Sundays, as other stores are.

I asked for more details and found out that the minimum purchase of (non-food/beverage) an item must be at least 50.01 Euros before the (VAT) tax.  These tax-free minimum purchase amounts vary in Europe.  For example, in Austria, the minimum is 75 Euros.

I had seen a pair of nice, inexpensive ballerina-style shoes and when I went to the store, they had already a tax-free form available and filled it out for me. With this form in hand, I walked back to the tax-free counter.  They checked my passport and handed me a kind of credit card for the small amount - 10% of my net purchase.  I had to stick it into a bank computer device and was assured the money would be immediately on my credit card.
However, I had to show the purchased shoes and my tax-free form to a customs office at the airport when leaving the country.
Two days later at the airport in Frankfurt, I asked for the customs bureau and showed the officer these two items.  They stamped it and I went to the tax-free office which was only steps from the customs bureau.  The mailbox I had to drop the envelope with the stamped tax form was also just around the corner.

Years ago I had purchased a computer, worth 3,000 Euros. Would I have known about the tax-free procedure at that time, I would have saved significant more.
But in the future… 

More Traveller Tips and Different Procedures:

  • Check-in for your flight and tell the airline staff that you would like to have your luggage back to get Customs export certification.
  • If you have only hand baggage, proceed directly to any of the custom places. Just ask the staff where the next customs office location is.
  • With your boarding pass and tagged luggage proceed to the Customs Desk and have your documents stamped.
  • If you haven’t received already a tax refund at shopping mall desks, then there are several companies at the Frankfurt Airport you might use:

Other VAT Refund Companies
Being the main VAT refund company, the Global Blue desk is just next to Customs.  However, you’ll find the other VAT refund companies like Premier Tax-Free, Tax-Free Germany, and Tax-Free Worldwide opposite from the Customs desk.  Other companies like Premier Tax-Free, Tax-Free Worldwide, and Tax Refund for Germany are also represented at the Frankfurt Airport.

Tax Refund for Travelers in the USA
When shopping as a traveler in the US, it is depending on the State you purchase in. The highest tax refunds are available in WA, TX, CA, AZ, TN, LA, AL, and NY State.

Tax refund policies can vary by state and there is no standard sales tax percentage set as well. In Texas with 8.25%  sales tax, you need to purchase for at least for $150 USD in a single store or brand outlet to be eligible for the refund.

You need to show your Visa/ Passport, and an I-94 form with an entry stamp on it if holding a foreign passport.

Processing Fees:
Instant Cash: If you want instant cash it is a 50% processing fee for a tax refund.

Check / PayPal: If you want a check or can get a refund to PayPal, then it is 35% of the tax refund.  Also, you will be charged $4 USD for every single store or brand purchases.

Refund Locations:
Both US Citizens and non-US citizens can claim a tax refund at all major international airport terminals at the tax refund desk.  Check at the airport for the details on the terminal.  If you are a non-US citizen, then you can even claim tax refunds at certain mall locations.  Check the State website for the exact locations.

Duplicate Receipt / re-prints: 
When you buy your item, request a duplicate receipt or re-print of receipt.  This can be used by you for a warranty in your home country.

Take a Photo of the Original Receipt: 
Also, take a picture of the original receipt and if requested by the warranty location outside of the US, then you can use the photo and the duplicate receipt.

Register for Warranty:
If you are buying an electronic item and if there is an option to register online, do it right away, as long as you have the original receipt.

Research your tax-free options before your trip. Compare any fees that are charged by them. Once there, make sure you have the latest info, get the locations of the tax-free bureaus, the customs offices, and their opening hours. Before you head to the airport, download a map, so that you easily find your way to the places you need to get the refund. 



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