An acquaintance of mine looks into purchasing a laptop while on a tourist trip to the EU. Naturally, they would like to benefit from VAT tax refund (the shop they want to buy the laptop from works with Global Blue). According to what I have seen, tax refunds only apply to unused goods:
Can I use the purchased goods before export?
No. Purchased goods must be available for Customs Authorities in original package. Otherwise they can refuse to provide you with customs stamp.
What does it mean in case of a laptop? Does the person have to keep the box sealed until they go trough customs, or do they simply have to keep the original box and put the laptop in it before presenting it?
I suspect it's the former (don't open the box), but this raises several concerns:
- the person will only discover that their purchase is defective / incomplete / fake once they are several thousand miles from the shop (technically, not the customs' problem).
- some laptops are sold in boxes which simply won't fit in the hand luggage, and transporting a laptop checked-in is forbidden (again, not the customs' problem).
- more importantly, this contradicts the basic safety rules ("pack your own luggage yourself"). Legally this seems to be no different than accepting a bag from a fellow passenger: if the box is found to be filled with heroin, telling that you got it from a computer shop will be quite a weak defence.
Practically, what could be done to reduce the risks stated above, yet in a way that the laptop is considered unused by the customs?