Value added tax or VAT for short, is added to most purchases within the European Union. Each country has its own VAT ranging from 12% to 23%. A tourist is entitled to a refund of this VAT as long as the purchase has not been used and is exported from the European Union. Each year, millions of dollars of refundable sales taxes are left behind by non-EU residents departing the European Union.
Personally, collecting the refund is not worth the time and few dollars at stake. However, if you do extensive shopping, it will be worth your while to collect the VAT refund. This must be done at your last point of departure from the European Union.
Here’s how it works in Ireland
There seems to be at least two VAT refund schemes and Ireland.
FEXCO Tax Free Shopping
This is relatively new and is by far the easiest. When making a purchase the merchant will offer a FEXCO tax-free shopping card. It looks kind of like a credit card. At shops participating in this scheme, the VAT may be deducted from your purchase at the cash register, but you must pay for your purchase with your own credit card. Other shops may not deduct the VAT straightaway, but you’ll get it later. In either case, present the FEXCO card wherever you see the FEXCO placard displayed in the stores. This is very important, the FEXCO card must be registered and activated before you leave Ireland. Otherwise, all the “saved” VAT will be re-added to your credit card.
Traditional Tax-Free Shopping Scheme
When you purchase items at a retailer, ask for a tax receipt. You’ll fill out your name, passport information, and other details about your purchase. This tax receipt will show the amount of VAT you are due to have refunded.
AT THE AIRPORT
It’s likely you’ll have at least two types of VAT refunds to turn in. Luckily, both can be handled in advance. VAT refunds that require a receipt should be filled out and placed into the envelope before you arrive at the airport. All you have to do with this is drop the envelope at the proper company. If you are using the FEXCO Card, be sure your account is set up online before you arrive at the airport. There are two kiosks available and you will need to finalize your purchases and refund before you leave. There are times the lines for this are long. And if you get stuck behind someone who hasn’t set up an account, the wait can seem like forever. During busy times you will, thankfully, find FEXCO agents offering assistance to help the lines move along.