How to enjoy tax-free shopping in France when travelling by Eurostar
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Arriving on the Eurostar into the Gare du Nord for your stay in Paris, or onward journey to the rest of France, is always a tremendously exciting moment. Arriving in the Gare du Nord to say goodbye to l’Hexagone and return home, normally, less so. But now, this could be the point in your travels where you process your VAT refund on your holiday shopping, making it rather more satisfying.
Since Brexit, British tourists in France have been able to claim back some of the VAT paid on items they’ve bought on their holidays. If you are a non-EU resident over the age of 16, this could save you 8-13% off your total spend. If you want to know more about the numbers, we break this down in our article Tax-free shopping in France.
There are other traditional services that allow you to claim, but they require more paperwork, take longer, and take a higher commission which means you get less back – Wevat gives you up to 23% more VAT back compared with in-store VAT refund providers. So, you’ve got your Eurostar tickets booked, you know which shops you want to visit and what you’re hoping to buy, here’s how to save yourself some money.
In the shops
Make sure you have downloaded the Wevat app before you start shopping so you can record each purchase as you go. You will need to ask the shopkeeper for an invoice addressed to Wevat for your purchases and simply take a snap/picture of that invoice and upload it to the app. The Wevat team will verify your invoice within a few hours and you can carry on shopping elsewhere at the same time. The great thing about the app, as opposed to the traditional method, is that you aren’t limited by a minimum spend per purchase, you only need to have spent at least €100.01 total across all the purchases on your trip in order to be eligible for the VAT refund. It also means that you don’t have to restrict yourself to shopping in stores that are partnered with the traditional refund companies, so you can browse all the shops from large department stores to small boutiques and there’s more opportunity to find exactly the items you want. When you have done all of your shopping, go into the app and generate the digital tax refund form, which you will need later.
FAQ: Is there a time limit on claiming back VAT?
You can only claim a VAT refund on items bought in store after you have arrived in France and you must then leave France and the EU with your purchase within three months following the month in which you bought your item. You will need to scan the relevant barcode on paper forms/app as you leave the country and your refund will be given afterwards.
At the station
It’s always good practice, when catching the Eurostar, to arrive at the station with plenty of time to spare in case there are queues, and of course you wouldn’t want to run out of time to process your refund.
You will go through a customs area between the ticket barriers and security but this is not the one you’ll need so keep on going through. Once you’ve done all the ticket and bag checks and you’re out of security, then it’s time to find the tax-refund kiosks – look for a sign that says ‘détaxe’, or ask the Gare du Nord staff for directions.
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At the kiosk
The tax-refund kiosks are touchscreen with simple on-screen instructions. You will be asked to scan the barcode from the digital tax refund form that you generated on the Wevat app. This is another benefit of using the app over a paper form method – you can generate one single barcode from a number of purchases, rather than processing them all separately. A big green tick on the screen will tell you when your form has been successfully validated. You will need to have the goods that you have bought accessible and unopened, as the customs staff occasionally do manual spot checks of your purchases, invoice and receipts. After this you can relax, get yourself a coffee and take your seat on the train when it arrives.
Enjoy your journey home and once you’ve left you can continue to keep an eye on your refund on the Wevat app. The day after you’ve made your way back through the tunnel to the UK the refund tracker should show your money is on its way. The money should arrive in your bank account within a week (compared to traditional services which take longer as forms need to be sent off to the refund company to process). In the meantime you can crack open that bottle of French wine and show off the stylish new outfit you’ve bought.
FAQ: Which other French stations and airports support Wevat refund processing?
A: Wevat currently have supported departure points at:
- Paris Charles de Gaulle airport
- Paris Gare du Nord Eurostar station
- Paris Orly airport
- Nice Côte d'Azur Airport
- Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport
- Lille-Europe station
- Calais Eurotunnel
- Calais Ferry Port
More departure points may be added in the future so do check here for the latest list.
Download the Wevat app and start saving money for your next trip to France.