PABLO IS YOUR ELECTRONIC CUSTOMS STAMP FOR VAT REFUND (DETAXE) IN FRANCE:
In France, the VAT Refund procedure has been made much easier with the PABLO barcode reader. PABLO allows shoppers to get their VAT forms electronically verified without having to queue up for a customs stamp. The machines are fast and easy to use, but they can only be used for certain purchases made in France.
PABLO is a Godsend
When I first came across PABLO at CDG Terminal 1 a couple of years ago, he was a single machine tucked away in an obscure corner of the terminal. I didn’t pay too close attention to it. However, on our recent shopping trip to Paris, I very quickly realised that PABLO is a godsend. With my stash of VAT refund forms, PABLO certainly saved time.
When making eligible purchases in shops that offer tax-free shopping, you will be issued with a PABLO enabled VAT refund form. You’ll see the PABLO logo on it. All you have to do is scan the barcode of your VAT form at the PABLO terminals. This is equivalent to having your form stamped by Customs.
The PABLO machines are available at any time of the day so it doesn’t matter if you have a very early morning or late night flight. It is still possible to get your VAT form verified.
Detaxe at CDG
At CDG Terminal 1, the Detaxe area is one floor down from where we were dropped off by our airport transfer. The Detaxe service is clearly signposted. We arrived to find a small area with a bank of six PABLO terminals. A supervisor was on standby to help if you have any difficulties.
The system is very easy to use and fast.
- Firstly, select the language for your PABLO operation,
- Next, place the barcode of your VAT refund form where it says “Scan your form here”
- If you see a green tick on-screen, it means that your form has been verified. If not, you’ll see a red cross.
I had ten forms to scan and only one failed. It turned out that the shop assistant didn’t print the entire barcode and so PABLO couldn’t read it. The supervisor advised me that I had to get a manual Customs stamp for this form.
What to do after PABLO
Once your forms have been PABLO verified, the next thing to do is to get yourself checked in for your flight as there may be long queues. We were lucky not to face any queues at the Singapore Airlines check-in.
Circumstances when a manual stamp is required:
The PABLO barcode readers are usually located near the Customs area. You’ll also need to get a manual Customs stamp:
- If PABLO is out of order, or
- If your form has been rejected by PABLO, or
- If you don’t have a PABLO-enabled VAT form
I had VAT forms from Norway and Germany and these had to be manually stamped. The one PABLO form with incomplete barcode was also manually stamped. There were no hassles at Customs – all they needed to see were my passport and flight booking before stamping my forms. They didn’t ask to see the goods at all.
Cash Refund by Travelex
Travelex handles the VAT refund for cash payments at CDG Airport. I headed to the counter as I wanted my non-French refunds to be paid in cash. There were only three people working at the windows for VAT refund/money change, and the queue was slow moving. Luckily I got there just before a Chinese group.
The unsmiling Travelex woman said that she could not handle my Norwegian payments as they were over one month old. She said that I’d have to mail them for credit card refund. I don’t know where this rule comes from, but there was no point arguing. My other non-French VAT refund was for Euros 13, for which I was charged Euros 3 handling fee.
Credit Card Refund
For credit card refunds, the PABLO scanned forms have to be sent back to the VAT company in the envelopes provided. Before you arrive at the airport, it’s worthwhile spending time to go through your forms to make sure that they have been properly completed or that you have the correct form – I was actually given the VAT form for another customer at the Karl Lagerfeld shop. Luckily I had time to go back to the shop to fix the error.
Different companies have different requirements. For example:
Galeries Lafayette – When the VAT refund staff at Galeries processes your VAT refund, they retain the original invoice. Before mailing the form back to the VAT company, you tear off the perforated bit at the end of the VAT form. This is your copy of the VAT document. It has your VAT form ID no. which is necessary if you need to track your VAT refund.
Printemps – Will give you the original invoices together with your VAT form. The invoices must be returned with the VAT form.
Shops that provide cash machine generated VAT forms – Some shops don’t bother completing your details so you need to ensure that your name, address, passport number are on the form. Also make sure that your credit card number is included and that you have signed the form.
Thumbs up for PABLO
I normally prefer receiving cash refund so that my whole VAT refund process is completed before I arrive home and there’s no chance of any VAT refund reversal. However, with Travelex appearing to have the franchise for handling VAT refunds at numerous airports, I am rethinking my approach since Travelex charges Euros 3 – 4 for each VAT refund form handled.
The French PABLO system seems to be an efficient electronic process so I was happy to receive credit card refund for all my French purchases. I was told to allow one month for the refund to come through. My Galeries Lafayette refunds came through just after two weeks. My other refunds all came through within a month.What questions does this raise for you?