VAT rebate for travellers from non-EU countries

Every year, tourists visiting Europe leave behind millions of dollars of refundable sales taxes. For some, the headache of collecting the refund is not worth the few dollars at stake. But if you do any extensive shopping, consider that the refund is hard cash — free and fairly easy to claim. You just have to bring your passport along on your shopping trip, get the necessary documents from the retailer, and track down the right folks at the airport, port, or border when you leave. (This gives you something to do while you’re hanging around waiting for your flight.)

1. Get export papers from retailers

Before you purchase any goods in Germany, you should inform the retailer that you intend to export the goods to your home country (outside the EU). With your receipt, you will receive a so-called “Ausfuhrbescheinigung” (export papers) or a Tax Free Shopping Check.

2. Export papers need to be stamped at the airport

When leaving the European Union– through Germany only– the export papers or the Tax Free Shopping Check plus
- the original receipt from the store
- the purchased goods (unused/unworn in its original packaging and with the price tag)
- and your passport showing residence outside the EU
have to be presented to the Customs Service at the airport (you must leave Germany on a non-stop flight to a country outside the EU). The export papers will be stamped after the goods have been examined. As you do have to show the goods, please make sure that they are in your carryon (your suitcases will already have been checked in!).

3. Stamped invoice has to be sent back to store

After having returned to your home country, the stamped invoice should be sent back to the store in Germany where the merchandise was purchased. For the Tax Free Shopping Check you may be able to obtain a cash refund if they have an office at the airport. Otherwise, the check should be sent to the address on the back of the Tax Free Shopping Check where you will find detailed instructions for the refund.