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A friend of mine recently returned from Germany and I was asking him about VAT refund and he said that the Apple store refused to give him a refund receipt because according to the store clerk, they are only authorized to sell to local residents.

Then a friend mentioned the same when they came back from France; again from an Apple store.

They had both bought things that are quite expensive (so its not like they are asking for refunds on a charger, etc.)

Are VAT refunds optional? In this scenario can you still submit the refund request?

  • Are you asking if there is an international agreement that all such taxes in all countries must have mandatory refunds? Or are you asking about the EU? – hippietrail Oct 7 '14 at 11:02
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    Sorry I mean specifically for the EU. – Burhan Khalid Oct 7 '14 at 11:03
  • OK thanks. But please add such info into the question and tags. Not everybody will put the extra effort into reading all the comments looking for missing hints. – hippietrail Oct 7 '14 at 11:04
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    Thanks for the edit - I should have put it in the title. – Burhan Khalid Oct 7 '14 at 11:08
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    No problem, just trying to help you learn how to make effective questions. Sorry if I came across as nitpicking. (-: – hippietrail Oct 7 '14 at 11:11
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No it is not mandatory in the UK.

How do I shop tax free?

....

Find a shop that offers Tax Free Shopping. You have to be in the shop yourself when you buy the goods (although somebody else can pay for them).

taken from HMRC guide to tax free shopping

The visit London site is a little more explicit on the subject:

The VAT refund scheme is called the Retail Export Scheme or Tax-Free Shopping. Not all shops participate in the scheme, and different shops will have different minimum purchase conditions (normally around £75 in any one shop).

Shops offering tax free shopping will display the following sticker somewhere in the store:

enter image description here


According to the Apple web site though though they do offer tax free shopping but only through the Global Blue scheme not the Retail Export Scheme.

Tax-Free Shopping

Apple Retail UK Limited offers tax-free shopping through Global Blue for customers taking their purchases out of the European Union. Restrictions apply. Please see a Specialist for details.

4

It's certainly not mandatory across the EU. The rules for France, where your friend was unable to obtain a refund, are described on service-public.fr:

La vente en détaxe est une exonération de la taxe sur la valeur ajoutée (TVA) sur le prix de biens achetés par des personnes de passage en France, soumise à conditions. Le commerçant est libre d'appliquer la détaxe, qui est facultative. L'acheteur ne peut pas l'exiger du vendeur.

Rough translation:

Tax-free sale is an exemption from VAT for goods bought by temporary visitors to France, subject to conditions. The seller is free to apply this exemption, which is optional. The buyer cannot demand it from the seller.

So Apple or any other company is perfectly entitled not to partake in the system if they don't want to. On the other hand, the bit about “only selling to residents” is presumably Apple policy, I don't see what could prevent them from doing it if they so wished.

Liam, Nigel and Tor-Einar have mentioned similar systems in Germany and the UK (+1) and I would speculate that it's the same everywhere in the EU as refund systems are somewhat complex and making them mandatory would place a big burden on small retail operations.

  • Is this specific to France or a general rule across the EU? – Burhan Khalid Oct 7 '14 at 11:36
  • @BurhanKhalid It implies that the EU does not make it mandatory and does not forbid refunds under some conditions. I don't think it does more than that but making it mandatory would place a big burden on merchants, who need to use a specific system to edit the refund receipt. – Relaxed Oct 7 '14 at 11:37
  • As far as I know, you can get a standard receipt in any store in Germany or France or any other EU country - and then apply for the VAT refund at the airport at the time of departure. You'll need some other conditions (i.e. minimal spend amount, country of residence, etc.) and I'm not too sure about the timeframes - it's not immediate. – Aleks G Oct 7 '14 at 11:55
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    @AleksG I'm pretty sure that's not true EU wide. AFAIK the UK only offers VAT refunds for goods bought from retailers who are members of a specific, optional, scheme. If you don't buy from such a retailer and get specific paperwork from them, no refund for you. – Nigel Harper Oct 7 '14 at 12:32
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    @Aleks: That's mostly incorrect. For VAT refund in Germany, the merchant must fill out the first part of the VAT refund formular and is not obligated to provide such service. I would be really surprised if any country require from all merchants to participate in any VAT refund scheme. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Oct 7 '14 at 12:35

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