Claiming VAT Refund at London Heathrow is an Endurance Test

How to Claim VAT Refund at London Heathrow and How Long Does it Take:

Heathrow Terminal 3 Follow Me on Pinterest

Heathrow T3 VAT Refund

Claiming your VAT Refund at London Heathrow is an endurance test! From the time we joined the VAT Refund queue to when we actually wound our way to the counter for our claim to be processed and paid, it took us two hours. And according to the Travelex staff, this is the normal queueing timeframe. So if you’ve got VAT to claim at London Heathrow, be prepared to stand in queue and allow at least two hours of waiting time.

London Heathrow T3

We arrived at Terminal 3 at 4:00 pm and thought that we would have plenty of spare time as our flight to Singapore didn’t leave till 8:35 pm. Tony saw a large crowd outside the departure hall and thought that this was the crowd queueing for their departure procedures but on approach we saw the large VAT Refunds sign displayed. One of the Travelex staff confirmed that if we are claiming VAT, this is where we would have to queue up.

How to Claim your VAT Refund

London VAT Refund Follow Me on Pinterest

VAT Refund at London Heathrow

The VAT Refund procedure at London Heathrow is very different to that at the Rome, Amsterdam and Paris airports that we have experienced. Travelex handles the whole process and you do not have to check-in with your airline first or get a Customs stamp. Travelex is the one-stop shop for the Customs stamp and payment of your VAT claim.

If you have electronics, jewellery and watches over £250 you will need to have your VAT processed after Security.  The Travelex desk is just past the Security area – to the right.

If you have other items that you intend to hand carry, Travelex recommends that you process your VAT refund after clearing  Immigration and Security.

For all other VAT claims, you stand in queue at the Travelex office outside the Departure hall.

Vat Refund at London Heathrow Follow Me on Pinterest

Tax Free Forms

As you wait in queue, the Travelex staff will come around to check your VAT forms to make sure that you have valid VAT claims/receipts and that you have signed your form. Note: these days the larger shops have cash machines that generate the Tax Free Forms and they look like the strips of paper that this traveller (picture on the left) is checking. This form has on it the name of the tax-free handling agent, your passport number, address, purchase amount, refund amount, etc.
Remember: No Tax Free Form = No VAT Refund!

When you eventually get to the counter, your VAT claims will be processed and if you have substantial amounts of claims (as many of the Asian shoppers have),  you may be asked to show the goods that you purchased.

Once your documents have been checked, the Travelex staff can pay you cash or credit the VAT refund to your credit card account.

Whilst the Travelex procedure is very simple, please note that the process does take time. From the start of the queue to when you actually get to the Travelex counters, it takes about two hours. We asked if it is faster at Terminal 5 which is the base for British Airways flights, and the Travelex supervisor advised that the waiting time is about the same.

Note: If you want a cash refund, Travelex charges a fee for each invoice processed. For refunds to your credit card, no fees are charged.

London Heathrow VAT Refund Follow Me on Pinterest

VAT Refund Desk after Security

Double-Dipping by VAT Handling Agencies

We actually did all of our shopping in Paris, but as we were leaving the EU from London, we had to process our VAT refund at London Heathrow. When I was completing the Tax refund forms with the retailers in Paris, they asked if I intended to take my refund in cash or as a credit to my credit card. I asked one of the large stores what the significance of that question was and was told that for cash refund a fee of 10% is deducted.  In Paris, most of the shops use either the Global Blue or Premier Tax Free as the VAT processing agents.  I can understand that agencies like Global Blue and Premier Tax Free would want a fee for having to have cash reserves to pay to claimants like myself.

However, at London Heathrow, the VAT refund is not handled by Global Blue or Premier Tax Free, but by Travelex.  So, my VAT refund was charged a 10% fee for handling by Global Blue and Premier Tax Free and when I actually claimed the VAT refund in London, the Travelex people also took a cut for handling cash payments, i.e. I paid two lots of fees for cash refund.  To me, it seems like a bit of double-dipping here.

Still Better to have Cash in Hand

In spite of having been charged two lots of fees, I still prefer to receive a cash VAT refund as there is no possibility of the tax refund being reversed and a penalty applied, as many people have experienced when shopping in Rome. The Travelex staff are processing so many VAT claims each day and should any forms or information go astray, I should hate to receive a charge-back to my credit card, through no fault of mine.

Queueing for two hours to get your VAT refund processed is a negative experience and shoppers may look elsewhere to spend their money or avoid London Heathrow as the point of exit from the EU!  I for one will think twice about going through London again if I were planning a shopping trip.

Does this help or do you have a problem with this?


    • avatar says

      Hi Bimal,
      As you are consuming the food in the UK, you’ll not be able to claim VAT refund – in any case, most foods are tax-free.

      As for purchases of gifts items, as long as they meet the minimum threshold, the article is not a tax-exempt item and the shop you’re buying from is a member of a tax-refund scheme, you should be able to get a VAT refund. As the shopkeeper before you make your purchase.

      Helen Page

  1. avatarBryan says

    Hi Helen,

    Do I have to show my flight ticket to verify that I am flying out of EU? I have a 4k and 0.8k watches to claim tax refund. The total claimable amount is around 240 pounds. Do I claim it after security or before security as I want to have the watches put into my checked-in luggage.

    Please kindly advise. Thank you.


    • avatar says

      Hi Bryan,
      At the Travellex office you’ll see a VAT Refunds poster, like the one above, and it says “Electronics, jewellery and watches over GBP 250.00 need to be refunded after security.” The VAT desk after security is very prominent (see photo above).

      Another point I would make is that you should not check in expensive items like a 4k watch into your checked-bag as bags can go missing and luggage looting by dishonest airport staff is not an uncommon problem. Small items are particularly easy to steal.

      Finally, you do have to show your passport and as you are going through security you will already have had to produce your passport and boarding pass.

      All the best,
      Helen Page

  2. avatarHelen says

    Hi Helen, for European VAT refund is it correct this can only be done at T3? My departure is at T2, so do I go to T3 first, do the VAT refund and subsequently return to T2 for departure?
    Also if I want to go to Chanel at T3, does this mean I will not be able to do so? Thanks!

    • avatar says

      Hi Helen,

      In the UK, Travellex acts as agents for the following tax refund agents: Global Blue, Premier, Tax Free Worldwide, GB and Innova. At Heathrow, Travellex has stores at the following terminals:

      Terminals 1 & 4: Landside & Airside Departures open daily from 5:00am–10:00pm

      Terminal 3: Landside & Airside Departures open daily from 6:30am- 10:00pm

      Terminal 5: Landside & Airside Departures open daily from 6:00am-10:00pm

      Unlike other European cities, the London tax refund process is a little different in that Travellex is the one-stop shop for the Customs stamp and payment of your VAT claim. You do not have to check-in with your airline first or get a Customs stamp. So in your case, you can go to Chanel at T3, do your VAT claim and then proceed to T2 for your departure.

      Please make sure you allow plenty of time for your VAT claim. As you can see from my post above, it took us 2 hours from the start of the queue to the VAT desk.

      Helen, VAT processes can change over time so when you reach the Travellex area at T3, check with the staff first before you join the queue.

      Happy shopping and all the best,
      Helen Page

  3. avatarHelen says

    Helen, thanks for your swift reply.

    I realize I was a bit dense and was not very specific.

    I need to claim 2 taxes, – Global Blue (for European VAT) and UK VAT. Can both of this be done at the same Travellex agent at T3, or do I have to queue at 2 different counters?

    Secondly Chanel at T3 is after Immigration, as my departure is from T2 does this mean I will not be able to frequent their shop?

    Again thanks for your help!

    • avatar says

      Hi Helen,
      As mentioned above, Travellex acts as tax refund agents for Global Blue, Premier, Tax Free Worldwide, GB and Innova. If your UK VAT form is from one of the five that Travellex acts for, then you should be able to claim your European and UK VAT at the one counter.

      Re your query about shopping at Chanel – As Chanel at T3 is after Immigration you will not be able to enter the T3 secure area as your flight is departing from T2. However, Heathrow does have a Heathrow Boutique Shopping Service and if you have a particular Chanel product in mind, it would be worthwhile emailing them to make enquiries.

      The link below is their FAQ on what they can or cannot do for you. It seems that if the Chanel product you’re interested in is not available at the airport, they “may be” able to check with the high street to source it for you. Be sure to confirm prices before you place the order.

      I hope you’ll shoot them an email and see what they say. Even if they can’t help you in this instance, I think the FAQ is interesting reading for any future shopping at Heathrow.

      Let me know how you go.

      Kind regards,

  4. avatarHelen says

    Dear Helen, thanks so much, this has been a great help!

    As an observation, strangely email addresses are hard to obtain, most organizations will provide telephone nos instead, but the time difference to my country it is not practical to call. I have been fortunate to stumble onto your site, and gotten answers.

    Thanks again, Helen

  5. avatarAli says

    Hi Helen!

    Thanks for putting this out there.
    Is there any way to check how busy the VAT queue at Terminal 3 is on a particular day?



    • avatar says

      Hi Ali,
      Apologies for the late reply as we’ve been on the road, and with little access to the internet.
      Unfortunately, there’s no easy way of finding out how busy the VAT queue at T3 is on any particular day. When we asked a Travellex personnel if claiming VAT at the other terminals might be easier, her reply was that all the terminals are just as busy as T3 and that they are busy everyday.
      You might try calling Travellex at LHR and ask their views, but I wouldn’t be too hopeful on any meaningful response as they too can’t predict when visitors are likely to shop and claim VAT refund.

      Kind regards,
      Helen Page

  6. avatarLoulouah says

    Hi Helen,
    It’s been a month since we got our Tax Refund procedure done at the airport. We requested for the refund to be deposited in my debit card account which the official accepted. But there has been no transfer so far. Generally how long does it take and who should I inform if its long overdue?
    Thank you,

    • avatar says

      Hi Loulouah,
      Apologies for the delay in responding as we have been on the road ourselves.
      The VAT refund can take anything from 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the refund handling company, i.e. Global Blue or Premiere Tax Free, etc. Both these companies have online tracking systems where you can find out the status of your tax refund, but to do this you’ll need to have your Tax Free Form Number – see Global Blue’s tracker as an example.

      I always advise people to take a photo of their form before submitting it in case there are delays or paperwork goes missing. If you don’t have this information, then you could try emailing the refund company and see if they can help you.

      Good luck in tracing your refund.

      Kind regards,
      Helen Page

  7. avatarSanaa hajaij says

    My family was robbed of their vat refund at heathrow airport by the vat people although my mum and dad does not live in this country and showed their ids where they live .they have british overseas passport but was treated very bad at the vat refund.they will not comeback to London again.vat people are robbing tourist of their vat refund and keeping it to themself.very bad.

  8. avatarAlison says

    Hi I have a very important question. I bought a Chanel bag at the airport in Paris and they did not give me VAT tax back forms. I am flying from London back to the United States in April. Is there any way I can receive those forms even though I have already left Paris. Technically it was the sale associate’s fault since I did tell her I was an American citizen and asked her about tax forms, but she negligently forgot to provide me with the forms.

    • avatar says

      Hi Alison,
      Have a look at the receipt that you got for your Chanel bag. These days, the “Tax Free Form” is usually generated from the cash till machine and looks like a long strip of paper with the words Tax Refund Cheque or Tax Free Form at the top.
      If you don’t have this, then I suggest you phone Chanel at CDG Airport (Phone : +33 148160100) and ask if they could mail you the form or go to a Chanel shop in London and see if they can help you obtain it. Without this cheque/form, you’ll not be able to get your Customs stamp.
      Alison, also note that there is a time limit on having your VAT form stamped and it’s usually 3 months after the issue of your VAT form.

      All the best,

  9. avatarYvonne C says

    Hi Helen,

    You mentioned that 10% fee will be deducted for cash refund. Do you mean 10% of the purchase price? For example the handbag cost $1000×10% = $100.

  10. avatarYoung says

    Hi helen!

    im traveling to italy,france and UK. but i will be in the UK for at least a month before heading home(non EU).
    would it be possible for me to make the refund by then? is it possible for me to make the refund at each stop before i head to another destination? Is there opening hours for the VAT refund?
    one last question, can i use my debit card to get my refund back?
    sorry to bombard you with so many question.
    hope you can enlighten me :)
    thank you!

    • avatar says

      Hi Young,

      1. You have three months from the date of purchase of goods to make your VAT refund claim. It doesn’t matter that you are staying in the UK for a month, as long as your Italy and France purchases are within that three-month timeframe.

      2. Refunds can only be claimed at your final point of exit from the EU which in your case is the UK. In the UK the VAT Refund is handled by Travelex. At T3, their VAT operating hours are 06:30 – 22:00.

      3. You can have your refund credited to your credit card. As regards debit cards, some don’t allow credits to be processed. Please check with your card company.

      Hope the above is enlightening!

      Kind regards,

  11. avatarSad says

    Hi Helen,
    I am going back from london and want to get back my vat.i shopped many things but I didn’t get Vat form from any retailers.i asked 2 or 3 shops they told me our vat no is on receipt so you can claim it necessary to get vat form or we can claim without forms?one more thing I bought iphone last year but i didnt used that i got receipt but don’t have form is it possible to get back vat.please tell procedure of vat claim.i will be very thankful if you help me.


    • avatar says

      Hi Sad,
      I’ve included a new image (third picture down) in the above post which shows what a Tax Free Form looks like if it has been generated from the cash machine. The strip of paper will say “Tax Free Form” and it will have the name of the VAT handling company on the top (e.g. Global Blue or Premier Tax Free), your ID information on it, the purchase amount and the VAT to be refunded. The shop has to sign the declaration section at the bottom of the form. Just a VAT no. on a receipt is not sufficient.

      The smaller shops may still use the manual process, in which case you will be given a form that is manually completed and which will have all the information mentioned.

      Whichever form you receive, they usually give you a reply paid envelope so that you can send in your claim by mail if you don’t have time to queue at the airport.

      You must have either one of these forms. Without the tax free forms you will not be eligible to make a claim. I suggest that your check the ‘receipts’ that you have and see if they are actually the Tax Free Forms. If not, you’ll need to go back to the shops, with your passport, and ask them to provide you with the correct VAT documentation.

      As regards your iphone, you will not be able to claim VAT on this as it is past the 3 months time-frame allowed for making your claim. Again, without the Tax Free Form, you’ll not be able to make a claim.

      For future shopping in Europe, always ensure that you have the Tax Free Forms, if you intend to make VAT claims.

      Hope the above helps,

      Kind regards,

  12. avatarHailey says

    Hi Helen!

    I’m heading to EU in June and will be leaving in July. While I’m in Paris I will be purchasing a chanel hand bag. We will be flying out of Heathrow airport terminal 1. Do you know what the vat tax rate is? Would it be best to get the refund in cash to be safe? Or silly that they charge you so much for it so just get it charged back to your credit card. Also in terminal 1 where would we stop before or after security and all that other fun stuff. :)



    • avatar says

      Hi Hailey,

      The link below lets you calculate your VAT refund. This is Global Blue’s calculator, so if the shop that you’re buying from uses a different VAT handling company such as Premier Tax Free, you can look them up as well.

      My personal preference is to get cash in hand so that there can be no surprises such as reversal of payment to your credit card amount. In Australia, the banks charge us 3% for any foreign transaction so if I had a credit to my card account, I’d have to pay the 3%.

      Re your other question “where would we stop….”, I looked up Heathrow Terminal 1 and there is a notice that Terminal 1 will be closing on June 30th for renovations.

      You may want to check with your airline again as to which terminal you’ll be flying out of in July.

      Kind regards,

  13. avatarRam says

    Hi Helen,

    Nice to see your posts. Very informative.
    I had one question. I have electronic item with worth above 250 GBP. I wish to claim the VAT for that. I also have all the related VAT forms from seller.

    There is one statement in the VAT form is, I can claim these goods only end of 4th month from date of purchase . I did not understood that. I purchased goods in march and I am travelling in may 1st week. Still can I claim?

    Another question is, there is a statement mentioned that I can not claim the VAT if I return to UK / EU countries within 12 months. Because of my JOB, I don’t know I may visit europe in 12 months. Does it serious issue to claim my VAT?

    Please advice,

    Thanks alot in advance,

    • avatar says

      Hi Ram,

      Q1 – There is a time limit for claiming your VAT refund and that is 3 months from the date of invoice.

      Q2 – The 12 months that you mention refer to :

      (i) EU residents who are usually not entitled to claim VAT. However, if they are leaving the EU for 12 months or more then they are eligible.

      (ii) non-EU resident who work or study in the UK and are leaving the EU for 12 months or more. If you are visiting the UK for work meetings, this does not apply to you. But if for instance you are transferred by your company to work in the UK for a period of time (for which you would have had to obtain a work visa) then you need to show that you are leaving the EU for 12 months or more to be eligible for claiming VAT.

      For more detailed information on your VAT entitlement, please see the link below

      Kind regards,

  14. avatarGan says

    Dear Helen,

    I actually travel to Paris in february and bought a handbag there. The tax refund was handled by travelex. I received the tax refund in the form of cash. They request me to leave a credit card number and mention if I did not leave European union in 21days I will receive a charged-back on my credit card.
    However, I left UK after 3 days from London Heathrow airport back to my country. But today I received a charged-back on my credit card. The charges was more expensive than the vat refund.
    I wonder how to solve this problem. This is so frustrating as the tax refund thing is time-consuming. Can you give me some advices? Thanks.

    • avatar says

      Hi Gan,

      Can you clarify a few points for me please:

      (i) Where did you receive your Travelex cash tax refund – in Paris or London?
      (ii) Was it done at a Travelex office downtown or at the airport?
      (iii) Which VAT company did the handbag shop use, i.e. Global Blue, Premier Tax Free…?

      Usually tax refunds are processed at the point of your departure from the EU, but you seem to have yours done before leaving the UK, which suggests to me that it was at done at one of the downtown Travelex offices. In some cities you can get your refund processed downtown before leaving the EU, but you still need to have your documents stamped by Customs when you leave and the tax form has to be returned to the VAT refund company. If the documents are not received, they will reverse the VAT refund and charge a huge penalty as well. It sounds like this is what happened to you because when you get cash refunds, it is not necessary to provide your credit card details.

      Yes, when VAT refunds go wrong, it is frustrating, time-consuming and difficult to challenge. You can contact your credit card company and dispute the charge, but before doing that, I’d try and understand where the problem lies.


      • avatarWan says

        Hi Helen Page, I am writing in regards to Gan’s question on April 27, 2015 at 10:43 am.
        I faced the similar problem as Gan.
        After clarifying with Global Blue, I was told that there was no customs stamp on the form.
        Therefore, my card has been charged.
        Global Blue is sending back the tax refund form to me so I still have a second chance to get back the VAT if I can get:
        – An import stamp from local customs > Malaysia

        · An export stamp from EU Customs

        · A notary stamp from Malaysia

        But how do I go about with it??
        It is truly frustrating.
        We as consumers are actually very dependent on the Travelex staff, if they do not perform every step correctly, we will be penalized!

        • avatar says

          Hi Wan,
          I’m sorry to hear of your VAT refund problem, but at least Global Blue is giving you the opportunity to try and correct the problem.

          – To get an import stamp from your Malaysian Customs, you should try contacting Customs at KL Airport and get their advice on this.

          – Re Export stamp from EU Customs – To get an export stamp, you will need to check up the websites of a few EU consulates in KL and see if they offer this service. I recently checked the website of the German Consulate in Sydney to see if I could get my documents stamped and found that although they offer the service, the fee of Euros 25 for each receipt made it not worthwhile for me to pursue this. If your purchase is a large one, you may wish to look this up, if you can’t get a free stamp from the Malaysian Customs.

          – A notary stamp from Malaysia – you’ll need to look up a Notary Public in Malaysia and discuss this with them. Getting a notary stamp is easy, but the Notary Public will charge a fee for each document that they notarize. Before you spend your money with the Notary Public option, I suggest that you check with Global Blue to see what exactly they need you to do, e.g. is it sufficient to certify your VAT return form and receipts or do they require any other verification from the notary public.

          I’m afraid all the options require you to do some work. Before you send any documents back to Global Blue, please be sure to take copies of all documents so that you’ll be able to track your refund online.

          All the best with your claim.

          Kind regards,
          Helen Page

  15. avatarJoan says

    Hi, if I am flying out of Heathrow to Singapore, but I also have a 23h stopover in Helsinki, where should I claim the refund?

    • avatar says

      If your bag is checked all the way to Singapore, they’ll let you claim your VAT in London. However if you are claiming your baggage in Helsinki and then checking in again for your flight to Singapore, i.e. separate ticket, then you’ll have to do your VAT claim in Helsinki as this is your last port of departure from EU.


  16. avatarYvonne says

    Hi Helen,

    Do you know the rough estimate queuing time at terminal 4 Vat refund counter? I was thinking to contact personal shopper to get me to Chanel boutique at terminal 3. I worry I might not have enough time to do my VAT refund and to terminal 3. Need some advise. Thanks


    • avatar says

      Hi Yvonne,
      It’s difficult to say what the queuing time will be at any of the Heathrow terminals as it all depends on how busy the airport is when you are due to travel. It took us two hours at T3 and the Travelex supervisor said that the queues are just as busy at the other terminals.

      At Heathrow you can do your VAT refund before checking in for your flight so there’s no reason why you can’t go really early and sort that out first.
      According to the Heathrow Personal Shopper information, you must have “more than three hours before your flight, we may be able to arrange to transfer you to another terminal to visit shops”. So, the question is what to do with your luggage before your airline desk is open for check-ins. You might want to find out from the Personal Shopper people as to how the process works.

      I wouldn’t mind knowing so if you can post a comment here, it would be helpful for others as well.

      Thanks and happy shopping,

  17. avatarKamonwan says

    Hi Helen,

    I have a question, I went to travel in Paris and I bought handbags from Lafayette department store I did tax refund with Global Blue company on 6 April 2015 and got refund by cash on 7 April 2015 but the staff took my credit card for guarantee and the last country that I’m leaving from EU was England on 17 April and I went to vat refund department at Heathrow Airport (Terminal 3) to get the stamp and the staff stamped my refund form and she told me that she will send it back to the company. However, yesterday (6 May 2015) I got a message from the bank of my credit card that I will be charged from global blue with the same amount as credit card guarantee. So, What should I do? because I follow all steps of refund process. It not suppose to be charged.

    Please give me an advice.

    Best Regards,

    • avatar says

      Hi Kamonwan,

      When you take cash refunds in advance of your departure from the EU, there usually are conditions attached and I don’t know what could have gone wrong in your case.
      – I suggest you contact Global Blue and ask them what went wrong with your refund.
      – Talk to your credit card bank and get their advice on disputing the charge.

      When you eventually get this sorted out, I’d appreciate it if you could post a comment here so that others can be aware of things to watch out for when taking tax refunds in advance of your departure.

      Good luck,

  18. avatarkimmy says

    Hi Helen

    can i ask you, i understand Global Blue Tax takes 30-40% of your VAT refund as handling fees. so if we take cash, our VAT refund is effectively 50% left given 40% of handling fees + 10% cash deduction fees?


    • avatar says

      Hi Kimmy,

      Can I ask you where you got your information about the 30-40% handling fee from? As far as I’m aware, that’s not correct.

      Kind regards,

  19. avatarRobert Marsh says

    Dear Helen ,

    I was hoping you could help me.
    My wife and I left the UK via Heathrow last September ( 30th.) We followed the VAT refund procedures
    but are yet to receive anything. I was expecting the amount to be credited to my cc. I appreciate this is not your problem but was hoping you could provide
    a Govt. email address so I can chase up. Thanking you either way.

    Rgds Robert Marsh

  20. avatar says

    Hi Robert,

    As you would know, in the UK, VAT refund is handled by Travelex. on their website, under the section “I haven’t received my refund yet, what should I do?”, they suggest that you contact the commercial tax refund company that your retailer works with, i.e. Global Blue, Premier Tax Free, etc. On these companies’ websites you are able to track the progress of your VAT refund, that is if you have copies of the relevant documentation such as invoice, VAT refund cheque no. etc.

    In the HM Revenue and Customs website, they advise as follows:

    “If you do not get your refund within a reasonable time you should write to the shop.
    Please do not write to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) or UK Border Agency (UKBA).”

    As advised by Travelex, you should firstly approach the tax refund company that your shop is aligned with.

    I hope you do have copies of all your documentation with you because they will need your Tax Free Form Number (DOC ID) to do the refund tracking.

    All the best with chasing up your refund.

    Kind regards,

  21. avatarGloria Guan says

    Hi Helen,

    I have a question needing your help. My parents came to England to visit me and they want to have tax refund. However, they bought things by my debit card which is a UK card and has my name on it. I was just told today that they might not be able to have tax refund because the debit card is mine and my visa is student visa so I cannot have tax refund. Is that right? I am looking forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards,
    Gloria Guan

  22. avatarSukalyan Ghatak says

    Hi Helen,
    Is there a VAT refund for the VAT charged at the hotel against the room tariff? I am staying in Hampton by Hilton for almost a month and the VAT amount is quite significant. The hotel said they would be issuing a VAT certificate as well. I am just curious, is it really possible to claim it?
    Just so you are aware, I am a business traveller, so came to London on a Business Visa.

    • avatar says

      Hi Sukalyan,

      VAT refunds only apply to goods that your are exporting (unused) out of the EU. Therefore your hotel room tariff and meals do not qualify for VAT refund.

      Enjoy your stay in London.

      Kind regards,

  23. avatarSukalyan Ghatak says

    Thanks, that’s what I thought as well. I am wondering why the Hotel would even issue the VAT receipt certificate? I was checking online and found that there are few exceptions for business travelers. Do you know of any?

    Sukalyan Ghatak

    • avatar says

      Sorry, can’t help you there. It may be that the VAT receipt would be relevant to your company’s VAT returns, but I’m not aware of any exceptions for individual business travelers. Why not ask the hotel?


  24. avatarRob says

    Great information, thanks! So how often do they actually check the goods and is there a particular threshold for getting checked? My girlfriend has a tier 2 work visa and I fly back and forth to the States. I like to leave some items behind between visits but will eventually take them home. I’d still obviously like my VAT refunds but worry about getting checked. Most items are under a few hundred pounds, pretty much clothing. Think I’d be safe with 8 or 9 slips at a time?

    • avatar says

      There is no predetermined limit for which goods are checked for VAT claims and checking is done randomly. However if you’re claiming VAT for electronics, jewellery and watches over £250 you will need to have your VAT processed after Security and the implication is that these may be scrutinized more closely.

      As long as you follow the rules on VAT claims, you really shouldn’t be concerned about being checked. The checking is to ensure that people don’t abuse the VAT system.

      As regards leaving some items behind in London, be aware that to be eligible for VAT claim, your purchase must be unused and exported within three months of purchase.

      Kind regards,

  25. avatarNonkosi says

    how does one go about claiming VAT if I was unable to do it at the airport due to time constraints ?
    I travelled from London Heathrow last Monday on the 27th of July 2015, traveling to South Africa but I was running late so at check-in I was advised to do it on-line, and I have the forms filled in and all

    • avatar says

      Unfortunately, you’ve been misinformed. To be eligible for VAT refund, you must have your VAT form validated by UK Customs and have your goods with you just in case they decide to do a spot check. At LHR, the Vat Refund function has been outsourced to Travelex.
      If you have substantial amount of VAT to claim, you can get your form validated at any EU embassy in South Africa. You’ll need to find out which embassy provides this service and those that do will usually charge a fee for this.

  26. avatarAndre says

    Hi Helen: Last December my wife and I purchased a couple of pieces of art glass on a trip to the UK. We filed for the VAT refund and had our the forms stamped and approved by the Travelex agent. We put my wife’s bank account info (UK bank account – although we live in the US) on it. To date, after 8 months there still has been no refund to the bank account. Luckily the Travelex agent had us snap photos of the forms, warning us that “sometimes things get lost”. Evidently they did. Do you have any suggestions as to what we do now?
    Many thanks,

    • avatar says

      Hi Andre, you didn’t mention which VAT refund company your retailer uses, e.g. Global Blue or Premier Tax Free, etc. Most of the companies have an online refund tracking service which you can use to track your refund. It’s a good thing that you have a copy of the forms as a critical part of the tracking is the Document ID. The links below are to Global Blue and Premier Tax Free’s website, but if it is a different VAT refund company, you should be able to find the refund tracker on their site.

      If they claim that your form has gone astray, you’ll still be able to mail your claim back to the refund company, in the prepaid envelope that was provided to you, with an explanation that the original has gone missing. But be sure always to retain a copy of the stamped form. Without this form and the stamped verification you will not be able to follow up on any claim.

      All the best with your claim and I’d be interested in hearing of your good news.

      Kind regards,

  27. avatarbelinda says


    Great article.
    I just flew back to Australia today and forgot all about it getting my refund.
    I had all the receipts ready,
    I realised whilst I was sitiing on the plane.
    Do you know if its too late to get the refund?
    Or if I can send it back to Travelex with my boarding pass?
    Thank you

    • avatar says

      Hi Belinda,
      It’s not too late to get your refund, but unless your purchases are of high value, it may not be worthwhile. What you have to do is to get your tax refund form validated at any EU consulate before sending it back to Global Blue, Premier Tax Free or whichever tax refund company that your retailer uses.

      The consulates will probably charge a fee for this service and if your refund is not substantial, it may not be worthwhile pursuing this. Last December, I left Germany by road to cross into Switzerland (not an EU country). As I was unable to get the Customs stamp at the German border, and I was flying out of Zurich, I was not able to have my VAT processed at Zurich Airport. I checked the German consulate website in Australia and found that they want Euros 25 for each receipt that they validate. As my purchases were not substantial, I had to forego the VAT refund.

      If you’re returning to Europe within the next 3 months you can still have your VAT form validated, but then it means that you have to take those goods with you to show proof of export.

      Hope that answers your query.

      Kind regards,

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