If I buy goods from Europe, can I get a tax rebate?


If you are a citizen living or working outside the EU then it is possible to reclaim the Value Added Tax (VAT) that you have paid on some goods purchased within the EU.

The Scheme is operated EU wide by the Governments of the individual member states according to EU wide rules.

Purpose of VAT

VAT is charged on many different goods across the EU. These may include luxury items such as perfumes and jewellery, electronics and clothes. The rate of VAT charged varies across the EU, from 15% charged in Luxembourg and Cyprus, to 25% in Denmark, Hungary and Sweden.

The current rate of VAT in the UK is 20% (increased from 17.5% on 4th January 2011).

The main aim of VAT is to provide additional revenue to the Governments of individual member states. It is not intended as an export tax, and as a result, refunds are made available to citizens from outside the EU.


Although voluntary in application, in practice many if not all EU states operate the scheme. If you are uncertain, check with your local authorities or in the store in which you intend to make the purchase.

From January 2010 it has been possible to reclaim VAT paid on good in one EU country via the system operated in a different EU state.

The only conditions are that the claim and your exit from the EU with the goods must take place within three months of the purchase of the goods. In order to qualify you must be able to produce a non-EU passport when making the purchase.

In some countries there are exceptions to the goods which can qualify for the scheme. In the UK, the following are examples of exempt goods:

  • Motor vehicles
  • Boats
  • Goods over the value of £600 used for business purposes
  • Goods requiring an export licence
  • Goods requiring freight
  • Bullion or gemstones
  • Mail order items or items purchased over the internet

Taxation law can be complicated and covers a wide range of fields. Visit our tax page to learn more.

If you have a specific legal issue regarding tax, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above to speak to one of our advisors.

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