Tax Free Shopping UK and VAT Refund

Those who are eligible can enjoy a spell of tax free shopping in the United Kingdom. This guide explains how to get a VAT refund and which goods are not eligible for refunds.

SHOP TAX FREE: As a rule, you can get a VAT refund on goods bought within the United Kingdom if:

  • You are temporarily visiting the United Kingdom but live outside the EU.
  • You are an EU resident but leaving the European Union zone for more than 12 months.
  • You work or study in the United Kingdom, but not an European Union resident, and are leaving the EU for more than 12 months.

Note: Not all retailers offer services for tax-free shopping. VAT refund requests are only valid for goods bought within the last 3 months.

Get a VAT Refund: 3 Steps

  1. If you go tax free shopping UK retailers will give you a VAT 407 form. As a rule, they will ask for proof that you are eligible for a refund. This may include showing them your passport.
  2. Complete the form and, with the receipt, give them to the customs refund office when you leave the EU. This may not be when you leave the UK but when you leave the EU zone.
  3. If all your paperwork is in order HM Revenue and Customs will approve the refund form. You can then request your VAT refund and get the payment.

Note: Sometimes the goods will not be part of your hand luggage and may need checking in. If you travel from the UK and change planes within the EU zone you will need to request the refund in the UK (step 2).

How to get Paid

You can get paid at your port of exit, such as an airport. If no customs officials are available you can leave the form in their post box. They will check your form and if approved will contact the retailer to arrange the refund.

You can send the approval form to the retailer. They will inform you on how you will get your refund.

If you send your form to the retailer make sure you send it to the right address. The reason is some companies use refund companies. Often, retailers charge a handling fee. This will get deducted from your refund of Value Added Tax.

Goods not Eligible for a VAT Refund

Tax Free Shopping and VAT Refunds in the United KingdomNot all goods qualify for VAT refunds. Typical examples include:

  • Any vessel you plan to sail to a destination outside the EU.
  • Goods that either got opened or used (e.g. perfume).
  • Gold over 125g, 2.75 troy ounces or 10 tolas.
  • Goods over £600 exported for business purposes.
  • Goods exported as freight.
  • Goods that have an export licence (excluding antiques).
  • Internet and mail order sales if delivered outside the United Kingdom.
  • New cars or used cars.
  • Service charges including hotel bills.
  • Unmounted gemstones.

Tax Free Shopping in the United Kingdom: How to get a VAT Refund