Rome shopping and VAT Refunds
If you love all things Italian and shopping is your vice, then Rome, the Eternal City, will not disappoint you. The Spanish Steps is a must visit area and the streets spanning out from the Steps hold a concentration of designer shops. Of these streets, Via Condotti has most of the big names – Valentino, Gucci, Prada, Armani, Ferragamo, Louis Vuitton…. and the list rolls on. If shopping is an important element of your holiday enjoyment, then planning a trip around the Salde (Sales)seasons (July and January) makes sense. The ability to obtain a VAT refund on purchases above €170 is an extra bonus. The refund system in Rome works very well and Premier Tax Free and Global Refund are two of the major companies offering this service. Global Refund offers you several options of receiving your VAT refund:
- Cash at a city Cash Refund Office – you will not be able to get Euros with this option and then you’re at their mercy with the exchange rates.
- Cash refund when you return home
- Direct crediting of a chosen credit card or bank account
- Bank cheque sent to a chosen address
With all VAT refunds, you do have to show your purchases at Customs and obtain a stamp on your paperwork. If you’ve done a lot of shopping, then the dilemma is what to do at the airport - do you have to hand-carry all your goods with you onto the plane, for example? It can get quite confusing if you’re not aware of the options and the process may take time too….especially if you’re standing in the wrong queue! We did this a couple of years ago, but of course I’d forgotten. Here are the options:
- If you have a lot of purchases and would like to have them in your check-in baggage, you will need to firstly have yourself checked in with your airline and obtain your boarding pass. With your boarding pass and luggage, proceed to the Customs VAT Refund office (same level as the check-in area), show your boarding pass, goods purchased and documentation. Your VAT documentation will be stamped and you can then pack your purchases into your case and return the case to your airline for handling. The queue can be quite long, so allow yourself time.
- If you have valuable items or small purchases that you intend hand-carrying, then check in your luggage as normal. Once you pass through immigration, there is a VAT office on airside. Show your goods and documentation to the Customs officer for stamping. Once this is done, the Premier and Global Refund desks are just next door and you can get your cash back immediately, if that’s the option you chose. I like this option as there’s nothing like having the money in your hands instantly.
- If you have obtained an advance cash refund in the city, you will need to present your goods for inspection and documentation for stamping. Failure to do this will result in the refund being debited from your credit card or bank account.
Note that the level of VAT varies, depending on the type of goods, and you will not get the whole amount back as there is a handling fee. But hey, anything helps when it comes to mending the damaged bank account!