International Tax Refund – How to Save Shopping Internationally

One thing that exist in most of the world is the concept of a Value Added Tax or VAT when buying good and services. A VAT is a national sales tax — something that we don’t have here in the United States. VAT are often very expensive – north of 10% in a lot of countries.

In additional to the typical 10% VAT, some municipalities (e.g., city or state) also charge a tax. That means you potentially could be paying close to 20% on top of the list price. So how do you save money shopping internationally? Many countries in the world will refund tourists the VAT. If you shop a lot during your trip, this can be a significant amount of money.

The process is usually for obtaining a refund is as follows:

  • Buy over a certain amount (varies by country) at a store, the store will give you a refund form
  • At the airport or port of departure, find refund counter and have them mail you a check or refund it to your credit card
  • The refund processor will usually take a percentage of the refund

Here’s a list of countries that will refund VAT and links to finding more information about the process:

A few countries have different processes:

  • Chile – foreigners are exempt from paying hotel taxes
  • Japan – department stores and large chain stores will refund the 5% consumption if you spend more than 10,000 Yen there. Show the clerk your passport and say “Men Zei” to initial the process.

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Comments (6)

  • Enjoy Fine Food 6 years ago Reply

    When flying from France, the paperwork the store gave you must be stamped at the airport by a customs/exit officer who may ask to see your purchases. So, if you’ve packed your purchases, visit him/her before checking luggage They have the right to refuse your VAT refund if you can’t show them purchases. It’s in the instructions on your paperwork. Get the stamp, check your bags and then go to the refund window, a private company operation. Your paperwork will tell you which one. Some refund in cash, some with a credit to your credit card. The whole process is simpler than it sounds. The process is new to you, but the people you’re dealing with do it all day long. They’ll lead you through it. It’s nice to get home, open your bills, and see some nice credits in the middle of all your travel charges.

  • JMM 3 years ago Reply

    The globalrefund.com site appears offline. The page returned is the default page from their hosting provider. Let’s hope that is temporary.

  • Brian 2 years ago Reply

    global refund links are not working

  • Kishore 2 years ago Reply

    Public Service. Here is the updated website – http://www.globalblue.com/

  • Shazia 9 months ago Reply

    Hi,I went to Toronto and bought some clogged from a store couple of months ago so do you know if i can still get the refund or for next time how can i get the refund and if i am driving back how can i get the refund. Thx

    The Flight Deal 9 months ago Reply

    @Shazia – no because the VAT refund program from Canada ended in 2017.

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