I. Who is eligible?
You qualify for a tax refund if:
- you are a resident of a "third-country" (not belonging to the European Union) such as Australia, Canada or the United States. Others falling into this category include: Andorra, the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, the Channel Islands, the Faroe Islands, the French Overseas territories of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis & Futuna, the French territorial collectivities of Mayotte and Saint-Pierre & Miquelon, San Marino and the Vatican City.
- you were 15 years old or over when you purchased the goods.
- you are visiting France for a period of less than six months.
You do not qualify for a tax refund if:
- you are a resident of the European Union (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (including the French overseas departments of Guadeloupe, Guiana, Martinique and La Réunion); Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, including the Isle of Man).
- you live in France more than six months in a year (e.g. as a diplomatic agent or member of the administrative and technical staff of an Embassy, as a student, a trainee, an immigrant worker, etc.).
II. What are considered eligible goods?
Goods must meet these requirements to be eligible:
- the value of purchases from any single store, tax included, must exceed €175;
- all the goods must be taken back with you, in your carry-on luggage, when you leave France;
- all tax refunds must be claimed within six months of purchasing the goods.
There is no refund for tax you paid on:
- food products and beverages;
- tobacco products;
- firearms (except smooth-bore sporting and hunting guns and small hand-guns for target-shooting or for exhibition purposes);
- unset precious stones;
- cultural property;
- automobiles, motorcycles, boats, planes, as well as their parts and accessories (but the following items are eligible: car radios, cassette players, as well as sports items such as bicycles and windsurfing boards);
- purchases of a commercial nature (e.g. in such quantities that it is reasonable to believe they are not intended for your personal use).
III. How to get your tax refund?
At the store:
You should verify with the store, prior to your purchase, that it participates in the tax-free scheme (not all stores do).
If so, you will have to prove that you are not a resident of the European Union and that you are 15 years old or over. This may be done, if you are not a French citizen, by showing any kind of legal identification in use in your country or, if you are a French national, by showing a consular ID or any other official document attesting that you are not a resident of the European Union.
You will then be issued a Retail Export Form ("bordereau de détaxe") that you must sign and which must be endorsed by Customs within three months of the purchase, when you leave the European Union.
Note: Effective 1 January 2014, all VAT refund forms will be issued using the PABLO system. The form will bear a Pablo logo, indicating that it can be validated in an automated Pablo kiosk at certain French ports of entry.
• if you are leaving the European Union from a French port of entry:
You are likely to see an automated Pablo kiosk. Insert your détaxe form(s) one at a time into the slot, and wait for the screen to indicate that the form has been validated ("OK Bordereau validé"). The system will automatically notify the store where your goods were purchased, and your refund will then be processed. You do not need to mail anything to
the store when Pablo has validated your form.
In the event that a Pablo kiosk is not available (or not working), you should present the Retail Export Form as well as the goods purchased under the tax-free scheme to a Customs agent. They will retain a copy of the form and you will be handed back a copy, endorsed by Customs, which you are advised to retain in case of any possible dispute with the store.
• if you are leaving the European Union from a port of entry in another Member State (outside France):
You should make sure that the local Customs Service endorses the Retail Export Form and gives them back to you. Upon arrival in your country, you should mail a copy of the form to the French store and keep the "customer" copy in case of any possible dispute with the store.
WARNING! Do not forget to keep the goods with you at all times when you apply for Customs endorsement of the Retail Export Form at the point of departure from the European Union. Customs officers may want to check them.
You should allow ample time (for instance, at least two hours before the time required for checking-in at the airport) to apply for Customs endorsement of the Retail Export Form. At Paris (CDG and Orly) or at Nice-Côte d'Azur Airports, for example, there may be long lines of travelers waiting to get this endorsement, especially during the tourist season.
If you fail to get through this formality before you leave the European Union, it will be burdensome – and expensive – for you to claim the tax refund when you are back home (see further on).
You should receive, in a reasonable time frame, the amount of refunded tax directly from the store, paid according to your instructions, given on the Retail Export Form (check mailed to your address, bank transfer to your checking account or to your credit card account, etc.). If you don't receive your tax refund, you have to contact the store and not the French Customs.
Some stores may deduct the tax from the price of goods when you purchase them. They do so under their own responsibility and you are still required to apply for Customs endorsement of your Retail Export Form upon leaving the European Union, even if you did not pay tax on the goods.
Question: May I still claim the tax refund if the Retail Export Form has not been endorsed by Customs upon my leaving the European Union?
You may. The process is time-consuming; it may turn out to be more expensive than the amount of tax refund that you are claiming.
Within 6 months after the date of purchase of your goods, you must address a tax refund request to:
Direction Générale des Douanes et Droits Indirects
Fiscalité, transports et politiques fiscales communautaires (bureau F1)
11, rue des Deux Communes
This request MUST be supported by the following documents:
- A copy of your passport;
- A copy of your travel ticket or your boarding pass;
- An "attestation de présentation des marchandises" issued by a French Consulate. In order to get this document you must go to the Consulate with the goods you bought, your passport and your plane ticket – OR –
If your application is adjudicated as justified, you will be mailed an endorsed "customer" copy of the Retail Export Form. The Customs will mail the other copy to the store, which will, in turn, refund you the VAT.