Travelers to Greece may notice a VAT tax added to their receipts. It can be hefty—up to 25 percent of the total—but the good news is that some of the VAT taxes can be refunded at the airport if you're willing to take the time to prepare.
What Is a VAT Tax
VAT is the acronym for Value Added Tax, a surcharge on most goods and services in the European Union. In Greek, it is called the FPA and you may see it printed as ΦΠΑ on a receipt, usually with a percentage nearby.
Different types of purchases will incur different levels of VAT tax. In June 2016, Greece raised the VAT tax on many food purchases to 24 percent. If you have purchased a package tour, there is now a difference in the VAT tax for the lodging portion and the VAT tax for the food portion, so expect some numbers that don't seem to quite add up. Generally, one-third of the package tour cost will be placed in the "food" category charged at the higher VAT tax rate. Food is taxed at 13 percent and hotel accommodations and books are taxed at 6.5 percent.
How to Get a VAT Refund in Greece
While EU citizens are required to pay the tax, travelers who are not EU citizens can get some of the charges refunded when they leave Greece. In order to receive the refund, there are a few steps you'll need to take.
- Look for a "VAT Refund" or "Tax-Free Shopping Network" sign in a shop window. That indicates that the store is participating in the program, or at least claiming to. Since a purchase minimum is required (around $150 USD), you will usually only find these signs in more upscale shops—art galleries, designer clothing stores, jewelry shops—where the average purchase is likely to exceed the minimum. The VAT refund also applies to hotel bills, rental cars, and other providers of services to tourists outside the European Union.
- The merchant will ask to see your passport, so have it with you for major purchases. You can try using a full-color copy of your photo and information page in your passport, but it may not be accepted. This is the worst thing about the VAT program: having to risk carrying your passport around with you while shopping.
- Make your purchase, ask for your receipt, and request a VAT refund form. There's a lot of incentive for the merchant to "forget" the form, so be sure you receive it. Some merchants will insist that tourists have to get the refund form at the airport, but this is not the case. The merchant must issue the form along with the receipt.
- At the airport, bring the item you purchased (not always checked, but they can ask), the receipt, and the form to the VAT refund desk located at the Eurochange currency exchange offices on the departure level. If you can't find it, look for the "Global Refund" or "Premier Tax-Free" signs.
- Obviously, if you intend to put the item you purchased into your checked luggage to carry back home, you need to process the refund before checking your luggage. Otherwise, keep it in your carry-on bag.