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
If you intend on doing a lot of shopping in France, you’ll very quickly appreciate that PABLO is a godsend. We always manage to find plenty of things to buy in Paris and 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
In the past, it was necessary to send your stamped VAT form back to the VAT company if you wanted your VAT paid to your card account. With the arrival of PABLO, this is no longer necessary under certain circumstances.
New instructions : If you would like your refund to be credited to your card account and the store has electronically inserted your card details on your VAT form, your refund will be credited automatically to that credit card once your form has been validated at the PABLO kiosk. In this case, you do not have to send the forms back to the VAT company. You should however hold on to the forms until such time as your VAT has been paid, just in case anything goes wrong.
Most of the larger stores will ask for your credit card details to include in the VAT form, but smaller shops may not do this. In your card details have not been included in your VAT form you will need to send the PABLO verified form back to the VAT company.
Tip: 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 – In September 2017 when I did my VAT claim at Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann, I noticed that they now process the VAT refund in-house. We had to show our passport (or a copy of the information page). Their VAT refund staff prepared the Electronic Tax Free Form which included our credit card details. I was provided with a Customer Copy of their Summary of Tax Refund Form. At the airport, I scanned the Tax Free Form barcode at a PABLO machine and it was verified. As it was validated, it was not necessary to send any documents back to Galeries LaFayette. At the end of October the refund was credited to my credit card account.
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.