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Old 09.05.2007, 12:23
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Tax Free Shopping (EU returning to Switzerland)

I have tried searching around the forum for a full explanation of this, but can only find the odd mention rather than a guide:

As a (British) resident of Switzerland, I understand I am eligible for tax-free shopping in the EU. I've read the guide in the 'Living and Working in Switzerland' book (a bible for all auslanders in Switzerland), which says that I can fill out a form at participating outlets in the UK (for example) when I make a purchase for a value of more than 50. When I return to Switzerland, I present the form, reciepts and the purchased items at customs and will be given a refund of the VAT I paid (17.5% in UK).

There are also some alternatives (ie. Global Refund tax-free shopping who take their 10%ish cut, leaving you with only a 7.5%) that will handle the refund themselves, so you get the discount at the point of purchase.

I've only tried to do this once, but was told at the shop that I would not be eligible, since I had a British Passport. I've read somewhere that it helps if you have Swiss entry stamps in your passport - last time I tried to get one, the Passport Control bloke was adamant that since I did not require a visa for entry, I couldn't have a stamp.

What is the deal, exactly? Also, if anyone has some practical pointers as to what I should expect at Customs in Switzerland on my return, that would also be helpful. I'd like to take full advantage of any savings on shopping when visiting home or going on holiday.......
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Old 09.05.2007, 12:24
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

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I have tried searching around the forum for a full explanation of this, but can only find the odd mention rather than a guide:

As a (British) resident of Switzerland, I understand I am eligible for tax-free shopping in the EU. I've read the guide in the 'Living and Working in Switzerland' book (a bible for all auslanders in Switzerland), which says that I can fill out a form at participating outlets in the UK (for example) when I make a purchase for a value of more than 50. When I return to Switzerland, I present the form, reciepts and the purchased items at customs and will be given a refund of the VAT I paid (17.5% in UK).

There are also some alternatives (ie. Global Refund tax-free shopping who take their 10%ish cut, leaving you with only a 7.5%) that will handle the refund themselves, so you get the discount at the point of purchase.

I've only tried to do this once, but was told at the shop that I would not be eligible, since I had a British Passport. I've read somewhere that it helps if you have Swiss entry stamps in your passport - last time I tried to get one, the Passport Control bloke was adamant that since I did not require a visa for entry, I couldn't have a stamp.

What is the deal, exactly? Also, if anyone has some practical pointers as to what I should expect at Customs in Switzerland on my return, that would also be helpful. I'd like to take full advantage of any savings on shopping when visiting home or going on holiday.......
Take your Auslander Ausweis with you when shopping, this proves that you are non-resident & are allowed the Duy Free element.
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Old 09.05.2007, 12:29
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

indeed; I've done this and all you need to show is your passport and your permit. They want to know you live outside the EU.

With the overheads, it's often not worth it to be honest - unless you're spending a lot on a single item.

Coming into Switzerland, it depends on method of entry and what you're carrying. My mate has come from Italy getting Italian VAT back on a diamond ring but not being stopped at the Swiss side of the border.
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Old 07.06.2007, 17:29
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

bear in mind if u dont pay the duty on a big ticket item and u bought it while a swiss resident it, depending on your policy, may not be covered. so 'fess up in case u lose it, or it's stolen.
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Old 08.06.2007, 09:09
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

When you buy an item in the UK - or anywhere else int the EU - simply ask for a VAT reclaim form. I have never had this refused and I have never had anyone ask for proof that I live in Switzerland. If anyone refused to provide the form for any reason then I would take my business elsewhere. You then have to get the form stamped when you leave the EU. Not when you enter Switzerland. For example, at the French / Swiss border at Basel you have to go to French customs to get the stamp. Then you go to Swiss customs to pay the import duty. If you are flying you have to go to customs at the airport before you fly. And of course you should pay the import duty at the airport in Switzerland.


Nigel
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Old 08.06.2007, 09:57
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

There are a few points here ...

Firstly, you need to show permanent residence and NOT temporary residence to qualify for VAT reclaim. This is either done through a B or C permit. An L permit technically does not qualify...

Secondly, you need to have the stamp provided by the customs of the country where the VAT was charged - this will change but it is not quite that far yet.

Thirdly, in countries without a border to a non-EU country it is rare that there are formal forms for export. The VAT authorities handle this with proof of delivery but there is quite a bit of paperwork for the seller involved so it is not something they promote or indeed know about...

Fourthly, if you make a purchase over the tax free limit you are obliged to declare this to the Swiss authorities. The purchase limits vary dependent on the goods and the transport method.

And finally it is completely irrelevant what passport you have - the decision is simply made on your domicile.
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Old 08.06.2007, 10:16
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

Correct me if im wrong Richard.
When stopping on the German border to get the paperwork signed to say the item was leaving Germany I was told with a B permit was not allowed to claim the VAT it had to be a C permit. Even though I had done it several times before with a B permit maybe just a sore border guard.

DC
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Old 08.06.2007, 11:19
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

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Correct me if im wrong Richard.
When stopping on the German border to get the paperwork signed to say the item was leaving Germany I was told with a B permit was not allowed to claim the VAT it had to be a C permit. Even though I had done it several times before with a B permit maybe just a sore border guard.
A couple of year ago, a few Brits in Basel were having that problem. I've gone with my B many times and had no issue. My B is issued based on being married to a Swiss, so perhaps that has something to do with it?
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Old 08.06.2007, 12:20
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

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Correct me if im wrong Richard.
When stopping on the German border to get the paperwork signed to say the item was leaving Germany I was told with a B permit was not allowed to claim the VAT it had to be a C permit. Even though I had done it several times before with a B permit maybe just a sore border guard.

DC
You're wrong Strictly and I mean strictly speaking you need to have been here 2 years hence an L permit has not right to VAT refund as the (theoretical) maximum time an L permit can be held is 18 months. A B permit person could (also theoretically) be here for a month and then leave so while a C permit is not necessary 2 years unbroken domicile in Switzerland is. The majority of border guards don't check that closely though. They should be looking for the date of entry on the permit...
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Old 09.06.2007, 16:50
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

It's been 1 June 2007, so now in theory all EU citizens should be able to get a B-permit working in Switzerland and not just a L-permit......
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Old 11.06.2007, 22:04
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

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You're wrong Strictly and I mean strictly speaking you need to have been here 2 years hence an L permit has not right to VAT refund as the (theoretical) maximum time an L permit can be held is 18 months. A B permit person could (also theoretically) be here for a month and then leave so while a C permit is not necessary 2 years unbroken domicile in Switzerland is. The majority of border guards don't check that closely though. They should be looking for the date of entry on the permit...
I have to say this is the first time that I've heard of this. I've been on an L permit for over 4 years and have claimed many times over that period on my purchases in the EU. As a Swiss taxpayer I consider myself resident in Switzerland and therefore eligible to claim VAT back from EU countries. No one has ever queried it. Maybe I should be claiming on all my purchases in Switzerland instead?
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Old 11.06.2007, 22:13
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

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I have to say this is the first time that I've heard of this. I've been on an L permit for over 4 years and have claimed many times over that period on my purchases in the EU. As a Swiss taxpayer I consider myself resident in Switzerland and therefore eligible to claim VAT back from EU countries. No one has ever queried it. Maybe I should be claiming on all my purchases in Switzerland instead?
Which of course goes to show how much notice they actually take of the permit types... By the way your permit is now "upgradeable"...

You should also be aware that if the amount is big ie you buy a flat screen tv you need the stamp of both the Swiss and the Germans and the Swiss won't oblige. This happened to me when I brought in my top of the range hifi years ago and never got my German VAT back - L Permit no thanks...
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Old 11.06.2007, 22:27
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsP...HMCE_CL_001212


I can't comment on how the Germans run their scheme but importing from the UK you don't have to show a permit (I have never been asked anyway) and you never have to get a stamp from the Swiss.



Nigel
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Old 11.06.2007, 23:05
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

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http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsP...HMCE_CL_001212


I can't comment on how the Germans run their scheme but importing from the UK you don't have to show a permit (I have never been asked anyway) and you never have to get a stamp from the Swiss.



Nigel
This is my experience also. The scenario goes something like this, I spend more than say 100 pounds in whatever shop in the UK, I ask for a tax refund form, the shop completes their bit, I fill in my name and address in Switzerland and add my passport number (British) and sign it in front of them. Before I travel I complete the section with the flight details and give my credit card number for the refund. The form and receipt then go in the envelope they have provided. I generally pack the items I have purchased in my checked baggage as it's usually shoes and clothes, although you are in theory suposed to carry the goods on, however, if they are too bulky you are allowed to pack them, and in these days of reduced carry-on this is my preference. It's irrelevant anyway, as I mostly fly through London City airport where there is a convenient post-box for your form just the other side of security and no sight of a customs officer. My experience of other UK airports is similar, there is always a post box somewhere airside. In larger airports it might be accompanied by a telephone which has a recorded message (the sign says it's to be used to speak to a customs officer but I've yet to speak to one). Anyhow, the refund appears on my credit card statement so I'm happy.
A couple of additional notes, you have up to 3 months to claim your refund, for example, I find on my shopping trips to Milan that I don't have time on the train to get the form stamped, so I just make the claim the next time I fly through the UK (with the goods).
I have also found more recently that some shops have started to charge an admin fee, which is annoying but it is usually still worth doing the refund.
Hope this helps.
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Old 11.06.2007, 23:23
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

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http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsP...HMCE_CL_001212


I can't comment on how the Germans run their scheme but importing from the UK you don't have to show a permit (I have never been asked anyway) and you never have to get a stamp from the Swiss.



Nigel
Yep - I once bought a PDA, got the form from the shop, gave it in to a UK Customs and Excise official at Heathrow and got the tax refunded to my credit card upon production of my Swiss residence permit.
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Old 12.06.2007, 16:09
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Re: Tax Free Shopping

Re upgradeable L permit and the 1st June EU citizen being allowed to get a B permit, you still have to wait for your current permit to expire before they will allow you to change permit status.

My husband arrived here in Jan 2006 for a permanent job but was given a L permit. We have been told that it was a luck of the draw as to what permit you got regardless of a permanent job situation or a contract one. The children and I have our permits dated from his entry to Switzerland, even though we turned up later.

We have been having the same problem with getting tax back at the border. The guards allowed it for so long and now say they won't stamp the receipts as we have an L permit. We cannot change our permits now, so say the Migration dept and have to wait until Jan 2008 when the current permits expire, then we will get the supposed wonderful B permit.

Actually may go off and make a phone call again and see if this has changed.
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Old 04.08.2008, 13:19
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Tax free shopping in the EU while travelling by car

Hi!

During our short trips to various European countries we enjoyed to use the fact that Switzerland is not in the EU and we could get the sales tax back. We know how the paperwork is normally done: You get some papers at the shop, you need to get them stamped at the airport while being able to present you goods and the ticket and then send it back... however: last time we went by car. When I got the paperwork done I asked where I need to get the forms stamped and was told: At the French customs before the border. When I drove back yesterday I really looked hard, but at Basel I only found a "douane" for trucks (which was closed on Sunday evenings) and then stood in front of a guy in a Swiss uniform already.
I think it would be a rather idiotic move to ask him... after all I guess the chance was high that he could not refund me my French tax but very well charge me the Swiss ones... so I did not.

What should I have done and where? Any tips and tricks?
(I guess this one could be useful for the people who did not try out the tax free shopping as well)

Chris
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Old 04.08.2008, 14:54
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Re: Tax free shopping in the EU while travelling by car

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Hi!

During our short trips to various European countries we enjoyed to use the fact that Switzerland is not in the EU and we could get the sales tax back. We know how the paperwork is normally done: You get some papers at the shop, you need to get them stamped at the airport while being able to present you goods and the ticket and then send it back... however: last time we went by car. When I got the paperwork done I asked where I need to get the forms stamped and was told: At the French customs before the border. When I drove back yesterday I really looked hard, but at Basel I only found a "douane" for trucks (which was closed on Sunday evenings) and then stood in front of a guy in a Swiss uniform already.
I think it would be a rather idiotic move to ask him... after all I guess the chance was high that he could not refund me my French tax but very well charge me the Swiss ones... so I did not.

What should I have done and where? Any tips and tricks?
(I guess this one could be useful for the people who did not try out the tax free shopping as well)

Chris
You must go through a major border crossing during manned hours. When Switzerland joins Schengen (January 2009?), there will be even less manned posts, despite the fact that Schengen and Taxes are separate topics. Instead of manned posts, there will be more mobile "flying" squads checking. But how to find somebody to stamp your export tax form?
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Old 14.08.2008, 16:30
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Re: Tax Free Shopping (EU returning to Switzerland)

Does anyone know what's the minimum amount on which refunds can be claimed? I heard it's 150 euros.. is it so?
Any restrictions on the type of items that are eligible for refund?
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  #20  
Old 14.08.2008, 17:01
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Re: Tax Free Shopping (EU returning to Switzerland)

I bought PS3 from Argos just before flying back home to Switzerland. Had I known that I could have gotten the VAT back I would have asked for one of those forms. Is it too late now?
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