If I am correctly reading https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Tax/dttl-tax-european-vat-refund-guide-2015.pdf (page 189-191), VAT (BTW in Dutch) on purchases in Netherlands can only be refunded for business supplies and not things that tourists buy. But that seems hard to believe, given how many other countries like to help out tourists.

The document says you have to go through an electronic portal in the "country you are registered in." Does that mean I have to register on their website for a password and claim a refund in the same place, or wait till I get "home" to claim it? I was thinking of picking it up at their shop to avoid shipping (plus there's too much risk of not getting it before I leave USA in twelve days).

In Spain and Perú, you have to have the shop prepare a special form at time of purchase. Not sure what Netherlands requires, nor did the shop owner know. I'm surprised this is not a duplicate, but all the suggestions are U.K.

What do I have to do to get a refund of Netherlands BTW?

Can I also get the refund if I order from USA and have it shipped here?

If I do get the refund, for a €700 bicycle accessory (trailer that doubles as a travel case for the bike), what, if any, is USA going to charge me on my return? Is that the same whether bought there and carried back, or bought online and shipped in?

If I DON'T get the refund, will USA CBP waive the US tariff (if any)?

I know, this is more than one question, but it seems they really need to go together for the complete picture.

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    Where do you reside? I recall you were trying to move to Spain…
    – Relaxed
    Jul 20, 2017 at 15:04
  • If the article is shipped outside the EU, I think the seller is supposed to sell it without charging VAT in the first place.
    – phoog
    Jul 20, 2017 at 15:31
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    I don't "reside" anywhere, but I am about to return to Spain, via this guy's shop in Netherlands. If VAT or BTW is not supposed to be charged, I'm sure he and I both would like to know the official source.
    – WGroleau
    Jul 20, 2017 at 16:37
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    @WGroleau You don't necessarily get to claim that you do not reside anywhere. If you have a long-stay visa from Spain, spent significant time there and intend to return, you might not qualify for the VAT-refund scheme. I would therefore advise caution.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:15
  • Whether I can claim it or not, it is true. My only mailing address is in Oklahoma, but I do not live there. All my personal property (other than bank accounts) is near there in storage and there isn't much of it. I don't have a long-stay visa anywhere. I was hoping to get one for Spain, but the process is so onerous that I think I'll just settle for the ninety days here, ninety days out approach. If they only demanded what is actually required by law, it would be easy.
    – WGroleau
    Jul 20, 2017 at 19:03

2 Answers 2


You can find many details on the official website of Schiphol airport. Provided you live outside the European Union, it is indeed possible to recover some taxes when shopping in the Netherlands but only if the shop participates in one of the tax-refund schemes.

Additionally, one of them, vatfree.com, will apparently try to get a refund for goods that weren't purchased in one of the associated shop but there are no guarantees. You cannot just buy stuff at a random shop and get the VAT back without their cooperation.

  • In Spain and Perú, "participation" just means they give you a different kind of receipt. In Netherlands, the shop has to enroll in advance in some program? My vendor said he knew of shops near AMS that did it, but he (WAY up north) had never (until now) had reason to ask them how they do it. vatfree's fee is almost forty percent of the tax, and their competitor takes even more. In Canada, Spain, and Perú (I think) you actually do get the tax back, though small purchases aren't allowed in Spain and Perú.
    – WGroleau
    Jul 20, 2017 at 16:34
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    Ths Shiphol document suggests I have to go to the airport to get the refund. That's not a big problem but it's inconvenient. Perú allows it to be done by mail to a government office. (And even if I do it there, they mail a check later instead of just giving it to me.)
    – WGroleau
    Jul 20, 2017 at 16:40

Relaxed got it right, but not the whole truth. I kept on hunting, and finally found the best option (if everyone is honest). According to the Tax and Customs Administration, I can get a receipt signed¹, send it to the shop, and the shop can issue a refund. The downside is that if the shop doesn't give a refund, I'm no longer in EU so it's hard to do anything about it. But (hard to believe the theory matches the reality), any EU country can sign it (stamp it) as I leave. And the leaving has to be less than ninety days after the purchase.

I could go to vatfree or one of the other companies in the links in Relaxed's Shiphol link. Three disadvantages there: (1) I have to go to Shiphol for vatfree.com²; (2) I do all the work except for the actual contacting the shop; and (3) they keep almost a third of the tax.

¹I think it's a stamp rather than a signature, and it is a certification that I actually took the thing out of the EU.

²Travelex is everywhere, but their fee is higher and I don't know if all their sites will handle Netherlands purchases.

  • 2
    Note that "any EU country" really means EU country like it says on the tin. I once got laughed out of the Swiss customs office at Zurich with some receipts from the Netherlands. Jul 20, 2017 at 17:49
  • On the tin? I'm just a hair skeptical about Romania certifying a document from the opposite corner of the continent.
    – WGroleau
    Jul 21, 2017 at 4:22
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    as in "strictly the EU, not the EFTA or Schengen Area or anything European that is not actually the EU." I've never tried it in Romania and don't know how well it would work there, but they are an EU country at least. Jul 21, 2017 at 6:22
  • I know the difference. I'm just a little skeptical of European unity being as smooth as some want it to be,
    – WGroleau
    Jul 21, 2017 at 12:23

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