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Old 03.01.2014, 18:21
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EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

I'm wondering if it's possible to pay Swiss VAT and get back the EU VAT if I'm traveling by plane. My particular interest is Latvia which I'm leaving soon from Riga airport by taking a direct flight to Zürich. I had some experience before with a land border crossing where German and Swiss custom officers were sitting next to each other, but not sure how it applies to flights.

Do you have some experience that you can share?
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Old 09.01.2014, 20:26
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Re: EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

Have done it many times from Spain.
Go to the airport's VAT refund desk with your swiss residence permit, the boarding card, the refund forms and the original bills. A policeman will check the papers and stamp them.

Normally there's a mailbox close to the desk to send the forms back to the retailer or tax refund company.

They can ask to check the goods as well, so don't check-in your luggage before you have the forms stamped.

If you get those Global Blue refunds, you can have them paid in cash at Zurich HB's bureau de change, it's faster and safer.

I only had trouble once when the policeman refused to stamp the form because I had been living here 5 months and a half and the minimum was 6 months. Had them stamped a month later in my next trip...
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Old 09.01.2014, 22:31
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Re: EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

The store I was buying goods from was not a member of Global Blue or anything like that. If I understand it correctly, in Germany (at least in Konstanz) you can get the VAT back even without this. However, in Latvia custom officer refused to stamp the document that I got from the store, saying that they only do tax return if its a Global Blue or other Tax Free network member.
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Old 10.01.2014, 08:47
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Re: EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

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...they only do tax return if its a Global Blue or other Tax Free network member...
In this case the officers are not well trained.

The export documents have to show:
  • the vendor
  • the price
  • the VAT, seperately
  • the address and the country of the customer, with the name of the country in full (no abbreviations).
The green slips everyone carries around in Konstanz are for "usual" receipt-slips from cash registers, as those donīt have space for the address of the customer.

In theory it would be allowed to just take any cash-register issued slip, write your address on the side of the slip and get that stamped.

In practice the latter wonīt work, because both vendors and customs-officials mostly donīt know the rules well.

The stamp by EU-customs only confirms that the item listed on the slip left the European Union.

If Swiss customs also stamp the slip, it confirms that import-duty for Switzerland was paid.

Thatīs pretty much it.
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Old 10.01.2014, 09:26
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Re: EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

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In practice the latter wonīt work, because both vendors and customs-officials mostly donīt know the rules well.
Thanks for the explanation. Do you, maybe, know a way to convince this not-well-trained customs officers to do their job? Maybe cite some international laws or agreements?
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Old 10.01.2014, 18:44
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Re: EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

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...Do you, maybe, know a way to convince this not-well-trained customs officers to do their job?...
I only ever tried this in Germany, and since itīs my mother tongue I never had problems.

In other places, especially with a language barrier, the whole process might become impossible...

Simple example: Try to get a German bill for EUR 10 stamped from French customs upon entering Switzerland. They might refer you to the French minimum purchase limit (~€150, canīt remember the exact number), and refuse to stamp it. Since the limit doesnīt exist in Germany, French customs should usually still stamp it - after all it only confirms exportation of the goods.

Summary: Unless you have a standard case, this can quickly be rather messy!
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Old 10.01.2014, 18:52
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Re: EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

Also, they don't have to stamp it.

Anyway, begging and pleading has worked for me when I was traveling from Italy with EUR 4k of motorcycle parts, as Italy has a max of EUR 600, otherwise you have to use the commercial customs!

The guy even showed me the law, but finally relented and said that this was a one-off.

Tom
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Old 10.01.2014, 19:30
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Re: EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

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In this case the officers are not well trained.

The export documents have to show:
  • the vendor
  • the price
  • the VAT, seperately
  • the address and the country of the customer, with the name of the country in full (no abbreviations).
The green slips everyone carries around in Konstanz are for "usual" receipt-slips from cash registers, as those donīt have space for the address of the customer.

In theory it would be allowed to just take any cash-register issued slip, write your address on the side of the slip and get that stamped.

In practice the latter wonīt work, because both vendors and customs-officials mostly donīt know the rules well.

The stamp by EU-customs only confirms that the item listed on the slip left the European Union.

If Swiss customs also stamp the slip, it confirms that import-duty for Switzerland was paid.

Thatīs pretty much it.
It's not a requirement as far as reclaiming the tax is concerned to have it stamped by the Swiss Customs. For example in France the French customs will happily post the form they just stamped back to the seller who will in many cases just refund your credit card. You should show it to the customs for amounts over 300chf if they ask
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Old 10.01.2014, 21:23
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Re: EU tax refund if traveling by plane (not Germany)

Language was not a problem in my case. Latvian people can speak decent Russian which is the mother tongue for one third of the country. But the officer was so confident that they only do Tax Free stamps, that it was hard to argue and I didn't want to be late on my flight. She was very surprised that I'm willing to pay taxes in my country
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