VAT (value added tax) is the tax payable on all goods and services in the UK. The rate is currently 20% (since January 2010).
With shop-bought goods, the tax is factored into the total price so you don't need to add it to the price displayed when at the cash register. If a bottle of water is priced at 75p then 75p is what you will pay.
For larger, more expensive purchases you may see the breakdown of goods/service price, the VAT and the total payable.
Are you eligible for a VAT refund?
- You are eligible for a VAT refund if you live outside the EU
- You are eligible for a VAT refund if you live outside the EU but are studying in the UK. You must be able to prove that you'll be leaving the EU for more than 12 months after you finish
- You are eligible for a VAT refund if you are an EU citizen but you are leaving for a destination outside of the EU and do not return to the EU within 12 months
What can you claim a VAT refund on?
You can claim a VAT refund on anything purchased from participating retailers (which has VAT included in the price).
You cannot claim VAT on the following:
- Services (e.g. hotel stays)
- Items bought online or by mail order
- Unmounted gemstones
- Consumable goods that have been opened
- Items that need an export license
- Goods worth over £600 being exported for business purposes
How to Claim a Vat Refund at the Airport
- When making a purchase, ask the retailer for a VAT Refund Form
- Complete and sign the VAT Return Form
- To claim for a VAT refund on goods to be packed into checked luggage, go to Customs before Security at the airport where your VAT Refund Form will be checked and stamped.
- To collect your refund go to a VAT refund desk
- Depending on the VAT form you've been given, the refund will be issued to your credit card, will be sent as a check or will be given as cash
- If you're claiming for jewelry or electronics worth over £250 and want the items kept in your hand luggage, you'll need to visit Customs after Security
Find out more about the process here.