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I traveling to France and Germany from the US and my outbound flight is Berlin to New York with a very tight layover in Amsterdam. I plan on doing some shopping in Paris but I'm concerned that I won't have the time to do the proper tax refund stamp in Amsterdam.

I have a few questions. Can I get a tax refund stamp...

  • in France even if I'm not leaving that day (since tax refund customs stamp is typically before security)?
  • at the airport when flying out of France to go to Germany?
  • in Berlin on my way out to Amsterdam?

Any suggestions for ways around the concern that I won't have time at my Amsterdam layover to try and get a tax refund stamp?

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  • your third one. you can (indeed, should) get the tax stamp at the first airport on your ticket out of the EU, even if you have a layover elsewhere in the EU.
    – mlc
    Aug 25, 2023 at 3:53
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    @mic The European Commission site states, many times, exactly the opposite. You have to get your documents stamped by a customs officer at the point of exit of the EU Aug 25, 2023 at 4:04
  • Are the two flights Berlin-Amsterdam and Amsterdam-US on the same ticket?
    – jcaron
    Aug 25, 2023 at 7:10
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    If the items are in checked luggage and the luggage is checked through from Berlin to New York, it is of course possible to get an export confirmation already in Berlin. This is also explained on German Custom's information page: zoll.de/DE/Privatpersonen/Reisen/… Aug 25, 2023 at 7:14
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Assuming they are open, which in my case at the old airport for the early flights to Amsterdam, they never were. They were also at a different part of the airport, far away from where domestic flights took off. All of this must be taken into consideration. Aug 25, 2023 at 7:58

2 Answers 2

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You have to get your form stamped at the airport before check-in, so you can show any of the goods exported on request, even if you are going to place them in checked luggage.

For this reason, even if you have a layover in the EU on your way out, you must get the stamp at the airport where you will check in.

The official rules from France are here, section 3.II.D, articles 47 and 48. They state that you can/must get the stamp at the first airport of your itinerary out of the EU, even if there are layovers inside the EU, if:

  • the layover is less than 3 hours ("can")
  • or your luggage is checked-through to its final destination ("must")

So, in your case (provided the two flights are on a single ticket), you should get the stamp in Berlin, before checking in. Remember to arrive early, in many airports there are often long queues at the tax refund desk, and you still need to check in after that and before the check-in deadline.

Also as noted by Mark Johnson, take into account the location of the tax refund desk which may be in a different area, and its opening hours.

The Berlin airport website says something which I find unusual:

Please follow this procedure if you want to have the VAT refunded:

Private individual with goods in checked baggage

  • Go to your check-in counter and receive your baggage labels.
  • Then take your labelled baggage to the customs counter at check-in island 7. The export certificate for the goods in your checked baggage is issued at the customs counter. Baggage is taken away at these counters.

Private individual with goods in hand luggage

  • If you are transporting the goods concerned exclusively in your hand luggage, your checked baggage can be taken away directly at the check-in counter.
  • After passing through the security checkpoint, please go directly to the customs hand luggage clearance in the security area.

That procedure is definitely less prone to fraud than others but it seems unusual to me, so take that into account.

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  • Thank you, being able to do the customs stamp in Berlin would be most ideal. I will have just double check the customs counter hours.
    – Brian
    Aug 25, 2023 at 14:26
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    Just got back from my trip and wanted to update for anyone else stumbling on this post. We bought a some goods in Paris, took them to Berlin, and on our flight back to the US (with a layover in Amsterdam on the same ticket), we were able to get the tax refund processed at Berlin airport (there is a before-security counter to process and then the envelope was dropped off in the Global Blue mailbox after security).
    – Brian
    Oct 15, 2023 at 15:46
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Any suggestions for ways around the concern that I won't have time at my Amsterdam layover to try and get a tax refund stamp?

Have the goods sent (exported) directly to your place of residence abroad.

Can I get a tax refund stamp ... ?

  • in France even if I'm not leaving that day
  • when flying out of France to go to Germany
  • in Berlin on my way out to Amsterdam

The tax refund stamp will only be given as proof of export.

In none of the above cases are you leaving the customs area of the EU, so the goods are not being exported.

Note:
VAT is a consumer tax and applies to all goods consumed (used) within the EU.

To guarantee that the customs officer will stamp the form, the goods should remain in their original packaging.


Guide to VAT refund for visitors to the EU

... You must show the invoice, the refund form, the goods and any other necessary documents to the customs officers of the last EU country you leave. The customs officers must stamp the form as proof of export. Without the stamp, you will not obtain the refund.
...
... You have to get your documents stamped by a customs officer at the point of exit of the EU – not necessary in the same EU country where you bought it.
...
The goods must accompany you when you leave the EU.


Sources:

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  • Thanks, I hadn't considered the option of having any merchandise directly shipped to myself. I suppose some higher-end stores may even offer that and would be worth it.
    – Brian
    Aug 25, 2023 at 14:27

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