And what types of statuses are exempt from it?

I had a consultation with an immigration lawyer and asked about VAT in their rates and they said that since I'd never been in the UK on anything other than a visitor status, I would not have to pay VAT.

How can I replicate and invoke this with other transactions?

  • Do you mean what visa statuses allow you to not pay (or to reclaim) VAT on purchases? – DJClayworth Aug 29 '20 at 20:58
  • Note that whatever happens, VAT must be paid first, and will only be reimbursed (less handling fees etc.) once the buyer has left the EU customs territory. Also, it only applies to goods, any services rendered, as well as any food or beverage consumed, will be liable to VAT which cannot be reimbursed. – jcaron Aug 30 '20 at 8:26

There is no exemption from VAT based on visa type. There is a VAT refund scheme based on where you live or where you plan to live for the next 12 months. I am a British Citizen, so no visa, but can use the scheme because I live in California and can prove it.

I recommend reading the whole of Claim VAT back on tax-free shopping in the UK.

3. Who can use the scheme has the conditions. You either need to live outside the UK or EU, or plan to do so for the next 12 months. You must export the goods "by the last day of the third month after the the month you bought them in".

  • I think this maybe wrong. (see DJClayworth's answer below.) – Joseph P. Aug 30 '20 at 10:17
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    @JosephP. Could you be specific about what you think is incorrect? I based this answer on a combination of my practical experience of tax-free shopping in the UK and a gov.uk web page to which I link. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 30 '20 at 12:43
  • @JosephP. I don't see anything in DJClayworth's answer that contradicts this answer. – phoog Aug 31 '20 at 12:46
  • Well, in my view "being a visitor" constitutes a certain type of immigration status, as it precludes some others... – Joseph P. Aug 31 '20 at 13:08
  • @JosephP. As noted above, I am a British Citizen. There is no immigration status information that would say I am not a UK resident. You have to look past visas etc. to the question "Where do you live?". In my case, I spend over 90% of my time in the US. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 31 '20 at 16:19

In order to purchase goods in the UK without paying VAT there are two main criteria:

  1. You must be visitor to the UK
  2. The goods must be exported unused.

No mention is explicitly made of visa categories. Obviously residential visas are not included. If you were leaving the UK with no plans to return after a short stay you might reasonably be counted as a visitor. I would expect that the second criterion would be much more restrictive.

Note that VAT refunds can be claimed even by residents if they are leaving the EU for at least 12 months.

  • Are you sure about the "unused" rule? I bought some warm clothing on a trip to London, and had no problem claiming the VAT back on clothes I had worn. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 29 '20 at 21:18
  • I saw the comment about "goods you’ve already used in the UK or EU, such as perfume", but I think that is just reiterating that you must export the complete item. No claiming a full bottle of perfume and only showing half a bottle. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 29 '20 at 21:48
  • You may be right. I'm going to defer to your better-referenced answer. – DJClayworth Aug 29 '20 at 22:14
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    Were you in the UK for the consultation? – Patricia Shanahan Aug 30 '20 at 13:25
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    The reason for my question about your location is that it may have been a case of exported services, if you were outside the UK. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 31 '20 at 12:49

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