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I will be buying an expensive item in Germany, then after a few weeks I will visit Switzerland. A few days later I will take a direct flight home. How should I apply for my tax refund? Are there border agents on the border (of Basel) who can give me the refund? Does it have to be on the last leg of my trip (ie. flight home from Switzerland)?

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  • Please note that the paperwork has to be done "properly". Check with the seller and ask if they familiar with this. For example we had a tax refund refused since the address on the Invoice was a German one (we had our son buy the item to avoid international shipping charges).
    – Hilmar
    Jun 26 at 11:58
  • How are you travelling from Germany to Switzerland? By road, many of the border offices will have limited opening hours.
    – jcaron
    Jun 26 at 12:19
  • @jcaron by train, but I will be staying in Basel for a few days. I will make sure to check the times
    – HanMah
    Jun 26 at 13:27
  • Also note that Switzerland has an import tax, on top of VAT, which you also have to do paperwork for. Jun 26 at 15:35
  • As @MatthieuM. notes, you will need to pay import duties in Switzerland, which will be refunded on exit. More information here. Jun 26 at 16:28

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The tax refund is available after the item is exported from the European Union, which happens when you take it to Switzerland. You do not get the tax from border agents but from the seller of the item. The agents merely stamp the export documentation to certify that the item was exported from the EU and that the VAT is therefore refundable.

Once you have that stamp, you have to return the documents to the seller, who can then refund the tax. Since many tourists are not in a position to do this, there are companies that take care of it for you in exchange for a significant commission.

The German customs service has a page detailing the process.

There are customs inspection posts on the Swiss/German border. You can find EU customs posts at https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/dds2/rd/rd_consultation_location.jsp

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    Note that the ones you want to stamp your form are the German agents, not the Swiss ones. Note also that the Swiss ones will often notice you stopped at the German offices and will ask why. At which point they can charge you local taxes (VAT and import duties). The fact that you are exiting the country shortly after further complicates things, not quite sure how you could claim back those local taxes (or if there’s a way to avoid paying those in the first place).
    – jcaron
    Jun 26 at 12:14
  • @jcaron . I see, I will make sure to take into account that the price may or may not include VAT
    – HanMah
    Jun 26 at 13:29
  • Anecdotal side note: A friend once told me that his father had some furniture shipped from Germany to his holiday home in Italy. While the father would always drive through Switzerland to get there, the shipping company decided to take a longer route through Austria, only to avoid having to deal with taxes...
    – Sabine
    Jun 27 at 17:39

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