Guide to VAT (Value Added Tax)

What is VAT? Value Added Tax is another term for consumption tax. In Europe, VAT ranges from 15-25% and covers merchandise from clothes to souvenirs.

Travelers have the option to issue a refund for VAT where applicable. As this can take time and effort on your part, it is often only worth a claim if your purchase has considerable value.

You must purchase a minimum amount in merchandise to qualify for a refund, and this amount differs by country. The refund must also be collected within three months of purchase—so long-term travelers, try to hold off buying that diamond necklace until the end of your trip.

Your passport is required at time of purchase. The store will provide you with a cheque and the paperwork to get your claim started. Make sure that you receive the necessary documents from the retailer. Don’t leave the store without your purchase, your receipt, and the VAT paperwork. You will have to present these to the VAT officials at the country border or airport. Double check if a VAT office is available at your port of departure.

Arrive at your port of departure and get the documents stamped at customs—this might require some waiting, so arrive early! The export officer will stamp your documents and return your goods. Pick up your refund at a duty free shop if they are any in the airport. If they aren’t, you can mail the documents from the border or from home—this may take a few weeks or months.

If the store is shipping your product, you can still collect a refund. However, the shipping cost might null any refund you may receive. When in doubt, do the math!

For more tips and tricks on traveling, call your travel agent today. 503-224-0180 or email

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