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How to get a tax return on european purchases - private, customized hiking trips - Tour du Mont Blanc, Haute Route, Dolomites, Essential Alps, Julian Alps in Slovenia, Tour de Monte Rosa, Bernese Oberland, Crete, Normandy, guided and self guided

Get Value-Added Tax refunded when returning from europe

Travellers can save from a minimum of 4% up to a maximum of 20% of the selling price for goods purchased during their travels in Europe.
This is, as long as they meet some minimum requirements.

There is also a website that can help you with tax-free shopping, check out Global Blue (a tip from one of the blog readers, very helpful. They received their cash return straight from them, after showing the custom stamp).

Below are the requirements for France, Italy and Switzerland.

Rules for French VAT refunds:

– You have to be non-residents of the EU

-Your stay cannot exceed 6 months

-You must purchase goods of a minimum value of Euro 175.00 in the same store, and at the same time.

-Goods must be exported within 3 months

How to obtain your refund:
Once you purchase your goods, the store will fill in a Tax Refund Form, called ‘Bordereau de Détaxe’.
You can choose between a refund in cash or a refund directly onto your credit card.

When leaving a country belonging to the EU, and prior to check-in, please present your Tax Refund Form with purchases and receipts along with passport and airline ticket. If you decide to have the tax back on your credit card, you will have to post the pink slip which will have a stamp placed on it and the address already on it.

Rules for Italian VAT refunds:
Here is the legal mumbo-jumbo directly from the Italian Government:
You can be granted VAT refund or relief provided that:

  • You are a EU non – resident traveller;
  • The goods are intended for personal or familiar use and are personally carried in your baggage;
  • The overall value of goods exceeds 154,94 Euro (VAT included);
  • The purchase is certified by an invoice containing the description of goods, your personal data as well as the particulars of your passport or of any such equivalent document;
  • The goods leave the EU territory within three months after the purchase was made;
  • The goods go through some special customs formalities;
  • The invoice is returned to the Italian seller within four months after the purchase was made.

The goods purchased and the relevant invoice must be shown at  customs when leaving  EU territory.

The Customs office, after having ascertained that all the requirements are met, endorses the invoice. This endorsement is essential to prove that the goods have effectively left the Community territory.

The Customs office where the invoice must be presented in the last country belonging to the EU,  before you are returning home.
If, for example, you purchase goods in Italy and then you travel to Austria, the Customs office to visit is the Austrian Customs office.

However, in case you are checking in only once, receiving your boarding pass for your connecting flight right away, and your final destination is outside of the EU, you can go to the Customs office located at your departure airport. (Example: You fly from Milano to Frankfurt, and then to New York. In theory, you would have to process your paper work at Cstoms in Frankfurt, as this is from where you are leaving the EU zone. But as you have already received your boarding pass for your connecting flight from Frankfurt to New York in Milano, and you have checked in your luggage in Milano, which means that Customs in Frankfurt can’t check that you are really exporting your purchased items, you have to go to Customs in Milano).

Note that the goods must be shown at the customs office: if you intend to pack the purchased items into your check-in luggage, you must go to Customs BEFORE checking in.

Customs controls and the certification required to obtain VAT refund may require a long wait, especially at the biggest airports or in concurrence with the departure of international flights going to certain third countries; therefore, in order to avoid unpleasant delays, please go to Customs at least two hours before flight departure.

As for the refund, you will have to send the papers received by Customs to the Italian shop where you pruchased the items, within four months after the papers had been issued.

If the seller doesn’t receive your papers within four months, he will have to pay VAT for your purchase to the government.

This is why  Italian salesmen, as a precaution, prefers to charge you VAT, and then refund it later once you have sent back the processed documents. Alternatively, there are some TAX-FREE companies that can grant immediate VAT cash refund when the goods leave the Italian or Community territory, i.e. without you having to return the papers to the seller: however you can use this procedure only at the big international airports or main border crossings.

However, the services supplied by TAX-FREE companies imply the payment of a sum which is directly deducted from the amount of VAT refunded to you.


Swiss VAT refund requirements:
A Sales tax (VAT) of 7.6% is included in prices. A refund for the VAT can be obtained for receipts of taxable amounts of CHF 300 or more. Visitors should ask shop staff for the refund form, which must be validated by a customs official at the time of departure from Switzerland and mailed by the customer back to the shop. The shop where the items were purchased will obtain the refund on behalf of the purchaser.

3 easy steps to claiming your refund in Switzerland:

– In the shop:
The total purchases in a shop must amount to CHF 300 (including VAT). Yout must reside outside of Switzerland and the goods must be exported within 30 days.

– Through customs:
When leaving Switzerland, the Tax-Free Shopping checks have to be stamped by Swiss customs authorities after showing the goods to them.

– Collecting the refund
You have several choices: immediate cash at a Cash Refund Office, direct credit to a chosen credit card or bank account, a bank cheque and even, for certain countries, a cash refund when you return home.

With the euro zone in dire financial trouble there may be an opportunity this coming summer to make some purchases which will not break the bank. Chamonix still has some of the best deals to be found  of any of the Alpine resorts. If you are travelling late in the summer season, you will find many of the shops slashing prices up to %50 on gear. Add a %20 VAT refund and you will come away with some flash gear that you will  not be able to find in North America. In Chamonix, look for the Millet shop which sells some very good gear at reasonable prices.

Below are the member states of the European Union.

AustriaBelgiumCyprusCzech RepublicDenmark
SloveniaSpainSwedenThe NetherlandsUnited Kingdom

If you have questions, please let us know, we will try and answer any questions you might have.

Refuges, as they are called in France, are found in several Alpine nations. Called cabanes in French-speaking Switzerland, or hütte in German-speaking Switzerland, they are typically found at high altitude mountain passes that have served as important trade routes for centuries. One of the most historic, the Grand Saint Bernard in the Col du Grand Saint Bernard, can trace its roots to a hospice established around 1050 by Saint Bernard, in aid of struggling travelers and pilgrims.Among its historic claims to fame, the Saint Bernard location can boast a connection to the beloved dogs of the same name. The religious community began the practice of breeding and training dogs for use in helping area travelers in distress.

A guided Swiss Alps hiking tour is the best way to ensure a memorable experience, accessing the most fully equipped and staffed of these characteristic mountain retreats, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience—or perhaps just the first of many. Expert local guides will have personal knowledge of the inns and huts on your itinerary, and make your reservations well in advance. Often, they know the proprietors and may themselves live in a nearby village.

We carefully prepare detailed itineraries, including stops at some of the most welcoming refuges and inns in the Swiss Alps and along other mountain routes. Please contact us for more info on the best tour routes to access these historic Alpine treasures.

We are here to make your dream holiday come true
About Alpine Interface
Alpine Interface is a small, family-run organization, specializing in guided, customized European hiking trips, in the Alps, France, and Greece, for your family and friends.

The company is owned and operated by Karin Stubenvoll and Louis Marino.

Louis is the owner of the company and the lead guide. He is responsible for the smooth operation and high quality of all our private, guided hiking trips in the Alps, France, and Crete. He is also responsible for new itineraries, and our special customer care, which is the main reason why we have so many returning clients. Karin is the Office Manager and does all the work!

In 2005, Karin and Louis moved from Chamonix in the French Alps to the Bow Valley in the Canadian Rockies in order to explore the wilderness of the Canadian west. It also provides better customer service, being in North America.

Imagine letting Alpine Interface tailor your private dream holidays for your family and friends. Celebrating our 20th anniversary in business this year has given us vast experience when it comes to the details of trip preparation. Let us take you to the majestic trails of the European Alps, to Provençal markets, the historic D-Day beaches of Normandy, and the jagged limestone spires of the Dolomites.

  • All guides are certified professionals with adequate work permits
  • Exceptional customer care and service
  • Fully customized itineraries catering to your group
  • Safe travelling with family & friends only


Alpine Interface organizes customized European hiking trips with an intimate knowledge of, and focus on,  the regions’ cultures, history, gastronomy and geography – to provide expert advice for your trip of a life time. Private Hiking Trips in the Alps are our main focus.

Our company provides the best possible private hiking and cultural trip without breaking the bank. We do not sell fluff, nice t-shirts, duffel bags, or anything else. We just provide really good trips for a very good price led by professionally certified guides.
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