Shop ’till you Drop: Guide to Getting your VAT back in France
Leah Walker April 25, 2018

One of the best things about visiting France is the shopping. AND, if you happen to be a non-European Union resident, you can shop ‘till you drop for less by claiming back your sales tax. Since this concept doesn’t exist in the United States, Americans can find the process quite confusing. Thus, I’ve put together this guide to getting your VAT back in France.

What is VAT?

Value Added Tax {VAT} is known as Taxe Sur La Valeur Ajoutée {TVA} in French, and is added to everything purchased. The standard rate on purchased goods is 20% in France. Therefore, taking the time to claim your VAT is a worthwhile endeavor.

VAT Refund Eligibility in France

Sadly, since I live in Paris, I’m not eligible for this tax refund {detaxe}. However, if you’re a visitor to France who is either going home or to a non-EU country then you’re eligible for a VAT refund. You’ve also got to be over the age of 15, be staying in France less than six months, and have the goods outside of the EU within three months.

Purchases Eligible for VAT Refund in France

Personal retail purchases of €175.01 or more are eligible for a VAT refund. Purchases must be made on the same day in the same store. You can buy several items or just one thing, as long as the receipt amounts to more than €175.01. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the receipts must from the same day, so shop wisely. Not every shop offers VAT refunds, so make sure to ask before breaking out your credit card. Also, don’t think you’ll just come to France and buy a yacht or car. A good rule of thumb is that purchases should fit into your suitcase.

Louis Vuitton Vintage Trunks

Though, at some stores like Galeries Lafayette, purchases from certain brands can’t be combined with purchases made from the rest of the store. For instance, imagine that you buy a €1000 bag from Louis Vuitton and a €150 pair of New Balance shoes from another part of Galeries Lafayette. You are eligible to receive VAT back on the bag, but not the shoes, since the shoes don’t reach the €175.01 threshold, and the price can’t be combined with the purchase from Louis Vuitton {they prepare their own tax forms}. You may, however, add €25.01 worth of socks to your haul and be able to claim the VAT back for the shoes and socks.

How much VAT is Refunded in France?

Of the 20% VAT, you’ll receive approximately 12% of that tax back. Why isn’t it the full percentage? There’s an administrative charge for getting your VAT back in France. Hey, something is better than nothing!

Claim your VAT at the Airport

Always ask for the Detaxe form before leaving the store and keep it with your original receipt. Given the hecticness of the airport, I’d suggest having the form completed prior to arriving, if not already done by the store. Make sure to give yourself extra time at the airport if you’re getting your VAT back in France. You’ll start this procedure before checking your bags and before security. Have the Detaxe form, receipts, and purchased goods handy.

For the quickest option, use the self-service PABLO machines to validate the tax return. This is only available if your form has a PABLO logo at the top. You should receive the refund back to your credit card in about four weeks. If you’d like an immediate refund in cash, that service is available at a Travelex counter. Keep in mind that they will charge a small fee, plus give you the refund at their exchange rate, if you choose something other than Euros.

Claim your VAT in-Store

Stores like Galeries Lafayette are making the process easier than ever for getting your VAT back in France. At the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann store, head to the tax refund desk on the ground floor, near the Rolex shop. Make sure to have your original receipts, as well as your passport, then choose your method of repayment. You may choose cash, even if you paid with a credit card. However, you’ll need to insert your credit card into the kiosk in case there is an issue with your claim later. The cash option refunds 10.8% of your purchases, and you must leave the EU within 21 days. Should you choose a credit card refund, you’ll receive 12% of your purchase price. You’ll receive the credit in about four weeks, but you have 90 days to leave the EU.

Galeries Lafayette Tax Refund

The Galeries Lafayette staff will prepare your tax refund form. You’ll then receive a copy of the form, which will need to be validated at any PABLO kiosk upon departure of France. There is no need to send anything back to Galeries Lafayette, as the computer systems are connected. If you’re not departing the EU from France, then you’ll need to take the forms, receipt, passport, and purchased goods to the customs desk of your EU departure city.

And when you thought Galeries Lafayette couldn’t make it any easier to get your VAT back, they did. Instead of waiting in line, let the Lineberty app do it for you. Utilize Galeries Lafayette’s free wi-fi and download Lineberty. Choose your queue; take a digital number; continue to shop, until Lineberty let’s you know it’s your turn. Finally, show your phone to the receptionist and you’re ready to start getting your VAT back. There is a team of people that speak a multitude of languages there to prepare your VAT forms and help you decide if you should request cash or credit reimbursement. Then, you’ll head to one of the kiosks and scan your form. If you choose cash, the money will come directly from the kiosk like an ATM. At that point, you’ll follow the same airport departure procedure.

The department store concept originated in Paris, as did many of the most legendary designers in the world. Paris very well has the best shopping in the world. The city is always on the forefront of the next big thing when it comes to design and style, so bringing an empty suitcase is as essential as a scarf and comfortable, stylish pair of shoes. With some planning and knowledge, you can fill that empty suitcase for less, by claiming back your sales tax.

Guide to getting your sales tax back in France by Leah Walker

This post is brought to you by Galeries Lafayette.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for three years, and was recently awarded another four with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

4 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this info!! What if you didn’t validate at Pablo in the airport and are now back in the states? Is there anyway to get that money back? We nearly missed our flight so I wasn’t able to do it at the airport. Oops.

    1. Ohhh…that’s a question I’m not 100% certain about. I’m sure it’s happened before and the Internet has an answer. I’d be curious to know as well. Sorry I don’t know!

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