If you leave the UK, you can normally claim VAT refund if the shop participate in the tax free shopping scheme and if you are travelling outsdie the EU.

My question is this: if you bought an item in a shop while travelling to the UK, post the item home, can you still claim a VAT refund?

Is there a way of doing so in the airport?

  • If you look at gov.uk/tax-on-shopping/taxfree-shopping Point 2 states: Show the goods, the completed form and your receipts to customs at the point when you leave the EU (this might not be in the UK). Also, there is a section for which you can't get refunds that state clearly mail order goods, including internet sales, delivered outside of the UK are not eligible for the refund. Sep 30, 2017 at 17:50
  • internet sales delivered outside of UK, I believe are not subject to VAT?
    – Lost1
    Sep 30, 2017 at 19:55
  • @Lost1 internet sales delivered outside the EU might not be subject to VAT (though they may well be subject to various duties at the destination country), but internet sales inside the EU most certainly do attract VAT.
    – MadHatter
    Oct 1, 2017 at 9:02
  • @MadHatter Yes, you are right. I am always talking about outside EU here.
    – Lost1
    Oct 2, 2017 at 8:53
  • However, purchasing goods and posting them home are not really internet sales. Hence, the law is ambiguous here.
    – Lost1
    Oct 2, 2017 at 8:54

1 Answer 1


Promoting some of my comments to a full answer.

Firstly, the EU wide requirement for reclaiming VAT by visitors involves a physical examination of the goods being in the visitors possession at time of reclaimation of the VAT - this is noted in the U.K. Government page on Tax Free shopping (as linked to by Rodney Hawkins):

Show the goods, the completed form and your receipts to customs at the point when you leave the EU (this might not be in the UK).


This serves as a preventative measure against VAT fraud, where someone buys something in the EU for an EU citizen, but reclaims the VAT anyway.

Secondly, claiming VAT on goods exported as freight is also not allowed according to the above page, which is specifically what you are asking about:

You can’t get a VAT refund for:

  • goods to be exported as freight
  • Your answer is sufficient to confirm what I wanted to ask. However, just out of curiosity (not related to travel), are goods for exports subjects to VAT? if you are a clothes factory, selling to a non-EU country, do you need to pay VAT on your goods?
    – Lost1
    Oct 2, 2017 at 16:22
  • @Lost1 in general, no. VAT is a consumption goods and services tax, it is collected by VAT registered businesses when selling to the general public. Goods sold directly overseas to a non-EU country do not have VAT collected on them. Goods sold to an EU country then have VAT collected in that country.
    – user29788
    Oct 2, 2017 at 17:25
  • @Lost1 Business to business sales can also be VAT free if the buying business is VAT registered. But sales to the public in an EU country always attract VAT on VAT-able items.
    – user29788
    Oct 2, 2017 at 17:28

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