Value-added tax (VAT) is a 20% sales tax levied on most goods in the UK.
Visitors from outside the EU are eligible for tax-free shopping.
You can request an in-store tax refund form from participating shops or manage the process electronically on your mobile phone.
If you live outside the EU and you are travelling to the UK for leisure or business, you could be eligible for a VAT refund. The VAT-refund scheme is called the Retail Export Scheme or tax-free shopping.
Which purchases are eligible for refund?
To make sure you can claim a tax refund, purchased items should be for your own personal use and taken back home with you in your luggage.
You must take your goods out of the EU within three months of purchase.
Note that online shopping is not eligible – you need to be in the shop in person. Also, services such as hotel bills or restaurant meals don't qualify for a tax refund.
Not all shops participate in the scheme and there is usually a minimum-purchase condition of around £30 in any one shop. Alternatively, to avoid these restrictions, you can complete the refund process electronically via the AIRVAT mobile phone app.
How does it work?
On request from the participating shops, or via AIRVAT, you will receive a special tax-refund form, which must be presented with the purchased items to customs at the airport or port when you depart (VAT-free goods can't be posted or shipped home).
Goods that you’ve already used in the EU, such as perfume, are not eligible for refund. Be prepared to show your items in their original packaging to customs for inspection at your departure point.
Make sure to leave enough time before your departure to get your tax-free form stamped as there could be queues, especially at peak hours.
You may need to wait up to 10 weeks for your tax refund to come through. Typically, there will be an administration fee for this service so do not expect to receive the full VAT amount.
The fee is more expensive for the in-store service. However, you can receive more of your refund by completing the process electronically on your mobile phone.