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Paris: Shopping Duty free

Buying at a Duty free shop

Most people immediately think about tax refunds when they think about duty free, but in Paris you can also shop at “duty-free” shops, most of which are located around Opéra and Palais Royal. These will sell you products with the tax already deducted, in particular luxury items like perfume and leather goods. Mind you, I find some of the prices higher than if I buy the same goods at other places and claim the tax back, but then I suppose you have to pay for convenience.

This advantage is only for those resident outside the European Union, which is why you will be asked to produce your passport at the moment of purchase, and often your flight ticket too. Major department stores also have their “duty-free” services, as do the international zones at the airports.

Tax Free ShoppingClaiming a Tax Refund later

Want to shop duty free in Paris and get a tax refund? There are five requirements:

  • You must come from a country outside of the European Union
  • You must be over 15 years of age
  • You must spend more than €175 on the same day in the same store
  • You must export the goods within 3 months of the date of purchase
  • You must obtain a valid Customs stamp on final departure from the EU

If so, you can benefit from a refund of the VAT (Value Added Tax) you paid.

There are two main ways you can get your French tax back:

1. Tax free Shopping France invoice

Ask for a Tax free Shopping France invoice when you shop in any major store or “Tax free for tourists” boutique. The amount to be refunded is shown under the heading “Montant de la détaxe”. In the case of the big department stores, this will be 12%, but smaller stores may refund anything up to 16%. However, we have experienced a couple of outwardly respectable smaller shops failing to put through the paperwork a few years ago (you get a refund on your credit card). The newer system may work better, but caveat emptor!

You have your invoices stamped at airport customs on leaving the EU and return the validated pink copies within three months using the stamped addressed envelope given to you at the time you made your purchases.
N.B. Food, services, travel, photo processing, alterations and repairs are not eligible for a tax refund.

Paris train stations, unlike airports, do not have a customs office. So if you're leaving the country by train or road you need to use a specialist company like Global Blue or Premier Tax Free to to get your tax refund. Actually these days, apart from the big department stores which frequently have their own system, this is the usual way you'll get your tax back.

2. Private Tax Refund Company

This is the safer but more expensive way of getting your refund. Many stores are affiliated with a specialist tax refund company such as Global Blue or Premier Tax Free. There are more than 15,000 stores affiliated to Global Blue's Tax Free Shopping service throughout France and for Paris they actually have a little brochure detailing shops in their network. Premier Tax Free have 90,000 retailers worldwide with the emphasis on Europe (they're based in Ireland). Note that the tax refund company will take a slice of your refund, which is why in France you'll get just over 12% instead of the full amount.

How it works:

  • Premier Tax Free logoThe shop gives you e.g. a Premier Tax Free export declaration form which sets out a description of goods, price paid including tax, and refund amount.
  • You take the form and merchandise to the customs office at your last point of departure from the EU and where the form will be stamped.
  • The form can either be mailed back to Premier Tax Free for a refund through your credit card (Visa, American Express, Mastercard, Diners, JCB), cheque (in 13 currencies) or bank transfer, or alternatively a cash refund can be obtained from various airports or Amex or Travelex offices on the day of departure.

Tax Free ShoppingGlobal Blue, the biggest tax refund service (37 countries, more than 270,000 merchants around the world), works the same way. They will cash your refund cheque in France or abroad in one of their more than 200 international cash refund offices. They'll also directly credit your credit card, send you a bank cheque, or directly credit your bank account if you have one in France (you have to supply your IBAN).

If you're leaving by road, you can cash your Global Blue cheque at one of their International Cash Refund offices, located at most major border crossings.

Next Page: Shopping in Paris Department Stores

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