My Macbook was stolen last week. I need a new one for work, but I am currently stuck in France until May 8th for my flight back to the US.

It seems to me that I have two options, both with major negative consequences:

  1. Buy a new or used Macbook in France
    • pretty sure I'll have to pay customs taxes when I enter the US because it was purchased in France
    • if new, have to pay French tax of 20% (TVA) on the original product, AND US customs tax
  2. Buy new, ship to my parents in the US, have them ship to me in France
    • when receiving the package, will have to pay French customs tax (20% or higher?)

In either case, I see no way to get a new laptop without paying taxes twice. And I simply can't afford that. Is there any way to get a new or used Macbook without paying absurd taxes in both countries?

Edit: I am an American citizen working in France on a "travailleur temporaire/assistant de langue" (temporary worker/language assistant) - Type D multiple-entry visa. I have been in France since September 10th (7 months). In 2018 I spent a total of 8 months in France (January-May and September-December). In 2019, itms 3 months so far.

I work as a language assistant in a high school and do pay taxes and what-not. I'm not sure how this affects my ability to reclaim VAT if I purchase in France...

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 16:06

3 Answers 3


For a VAT refund you the product should be exported without being used. If you use it in France you would be expected to pay VAT on it. But once used it is no longer a new laptop, but a used one, part of your personal luggage I would not expect you having to pay import duty on it when flying back to the US.

Your biggest issue may be finding one with a US keyboard...


The simplest route would be for your parents to buy a new or used MacBook in the US, and ship it to you as a gift. This'll have the correct keyboard.

Yes, you may have to pay French customs duty on the import of the machine. If it's used, however, its value (and the resultant duty) will be less than if it were new. There are reasonable, buyer-friendly web business from which they might purchase it. I've used Swappa several times and been very satisfied.

After you have it in your hands, the used machine's further travel back to the US will be ignored, just like the laptops carried by a large proportion of other travelers.

  • Be careful with this. My father mailed me a 10 year old, very used camera lens to borrow. I still had to pay 250 euros to claim it from customs. Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 7:23

The solution is to purchase in France, then reclaim the VAT after you leave. You will still be eligible to pay appropriate taxes when entering the US, but I'm not sure how significant they are.

See http://www.douane.gouv.fr/articles/a14710-eligibility-for-vat-refunds for the offical information. Note that you will have to buy from a retailer that participates in the scheme, and make sure to properly register that you have exported the macbook.

  • 5
    VAT refunds aren't allowed for products you've used in the country.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 22:18
  • @Sneftel see that's important. I will be using it for work for a month before I go back to the US. That kind of ridiculous rule would screw me financially big time. Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 22:24
  • @Sneftel that's the theory, but in practice (and I believe in law, though I haven't checked the details) that's not the case: I don't believe this kind of restriction is even mentioned on the linked page, for instance. You must have stayed less than 6 months in the country, though.
    – jcaron
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 23:08
  • @Sneftel I know this used to be the case, but I don't see it in the current brochure. I do suggest that the OP considering repacking the new laptop into the original packaging. (I also wonder if it's possible to find a computer with a UK QWERTY keyboard. The standard French keyboard will be something of an annoyance.) Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 23:50
  • 4
    So, a quick check of the regulations seems to show no restrictions on use. The only conditions per article 262 of the Code Général des Impôts are that the exporter have their residence outside the EU, the goods are not tobacco products or commercial quantities, goods are exported before the end of the 3rd month following delivery, the amount is over the threshold (which is currently 175 euros I believe), and are not some specific exceptions.
    – jcaron
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 0:35

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