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Claiming back VAT at the airport....

(8 Posts)
chinchin123 Tue 07-Jun-11 09:18:33

I understand that non-residents (so presumably British expats) can claim back the VAT they have paid on things bought in the UK. How easy is it to do that?

How do you prove you aren't resident in the UK if you have a British passport? Has anyone done this? Is it much hassle? And do you make the claim at the airport? What's the process - refund onto a credit card, cash...? How long does it take?


kreecherlivesupstairs Tue 07-Jun-11 10:33:22

We've done it a couple of times. IIRC, you get a form from the shop where you bought the goods, they complete it and stamp it and you either get the cash back at the airport (Heathrow) or you post it and it's paid into your acount. Smaller airports may not always have the option to get cash.
We collected a tidy sum one year when DH had got a macbook, a camera and a video camera.

QuintessentialOldMoo Tue 07-Jun-11 10:36:58

You also need to take with you the items you are claiming back on, in your handluggage to show them....

regina12 Tue 07-Jun-11 10:41:52

It is not difficult but is a bit laborious so you need to have spent a fair amount to be worth it as you don't get the full percentage of VAT back anyway - I seem to recall they keep some back for admin. You have to keep all forms from shops as kreecher says and go to a special counter at the airport. As far as proof of residence goes, we had a visa in our passports for our countries of residence. I think you have to have the goods with you for inspection so you have to do it before checking luggage in. I'd say don't do it for less than 500 pounds worth of goods purchased.

i expect you can find details on customs website.

chinchin123 Tue 07-Jun-11 12:55:44

Thank you - that's really what I was interested in, whether it is worth doing it for smaller items or not. Likely we'll buy quite a lot of clothes etc so I'd have to claim it all back before checking in, if possible (Heathrow). But perhaps it is only worthwhile for small, high value goods, like computer etc.

Do the goods have to be in their packing and unused in the Uk, too?

QuintessentialOldMoo Tue 07-Jun-11 14:05:37

No, you cant claim back before checking in. The office is conveniently located after you have gone through security. And you need your passport with you when shopping, so for everything you buy, the shop need to fill out the form for you, and see your passport in the process. Then you bring everything with you in handluggage, or on you, WITH the forms, the receipts, etc.

chinchin123 Wed 08-Jun-11 02:24:42

OK. Thanks - seems it won't be that practical for clothes etc. But maybe worthwhile for the high value small things that I wouldn't put in a suitcase anyway.

MrsDistinctlyMintyMonetarism Wed 08-Jun-11 02:50:27


I was hoping to buy my dc's presents in the uK and bring them back along with the vat thing, but they'll be much to bulky to put in hand luggage.


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