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Old 05.08.2014, 14:34
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French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

Hello -

I searched the EF for information regarding shopping in France and Germany as a way to pay lower prices and then reclaim the EU VAT. I found conflicting information, possibly because most of the posts on the subject were from 2010 and 2011. It is now 2014 and here is my recent experience. I would love to hear from the Veteran Posters if my experience and assumptions were normal.

We drove into France looking for wineries [read: probable that I'm forming a drinking problem...] Along the way we saw what looked like a Casino! Gambling and drinking, what fun. What a great Saturday this was turning out to be!

However, this casino had shopping carts. Unless people were hauling out gobs of winnings in carts, this was most likely a grocery store. Rats!

We stopped anyway and after watching what we think was a cross dresser in a mini skirt wearing a fur boa and bright orange blush [see? it could be Vegas!] we went in. What a great grocery|stuff store!

When we were finished, we had spent a little over 300 Euros. We were careful to follow the limits on wine and beer and meat. I'm *not sure* if the amount spent makes a difference in this story?

At the checkout, we asked for a VAT slip. They told us to go to the customer service counter which we did. There they took my ID card, passport and had me write my name and address, which I thought was odd since it is on my ID card.

After some time, she came out with a form with a barcode on it and told me to go to the SBB Change office.

Today I went to the SBB change office where they told me I had to get a stamp from the French folks (down the hall, past the Migros) or else there was nothing they could do. This was all just too much for the guy at the Western Union office. I was getting the "how dare I" vibe for inconveniencing him in this manner.

I went down there and the French guy (very nice) told me, in short, that the change guys were Douches and that I didn't need a stamp because the little symbol on the paper indicates that this is a stampless document i.e. electronic stamp (there is a bar code at the top.)

I went back to the change office (now avec huge line) where they in fact did concede that I did not in fact need a stamp but it was their system that was broken because it couldn't read the barcode. I looked at the lady like I wasn't going to leave.

She then found the courage to type in the numbers under the bar code and voila! She was able to issue me my French Tax refund.

So, contrary to other posts:

1. You can get French VAT back.
2. You need identification. They asked me for it and then didn't look at it, but you need to have it.
3. The SBB change office cannot read the barcode on the French "electronic" stamp VAT forms, but the ARE ABLE to type in the numbers and it will work. You just need a nice Western Union person to attempt it.

Thoughts? Suggestions on how this could better next time?
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Old 05.08.2014, 14:46
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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I'm *not sure* if the amount spent makes a difference in this story?
Yes it does. To be able to claim French tax back there is a minimum amount you have to spend ( somewhere around €175 I think).

There is no minimum when shopping in Germany.

That's the essential difference between the two countries WRT tax refunds.

Nice post btw.
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Old 05.08.2014, 15:18
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

For France, it's 300€ 175€ before the shops can be bothered to do the tax forms.

I didn't know there was such a thing as a "stamp less" form - i.e. one where you haven't officially got the customs stamp to say you exported the items, although the fact you're getting the money in Switzerland is proof enough I suppose.

Did the Western Union place give you ALL the tax back or is it like Global Blue where they steal half of it for their commission?

In Germany you spend a minimum of 10€, you get the form stamped by the German customs (theoretically it can be any customs that you use to leave the EU to enter Switzerland, but good luck walking over the bridge from Weil to St Louis and persuading a Frenchie to stamp your German form) to prove you've exported the stuff, then you *go back to the shop* the next day or whenever and they give you ALL the tax back.

Last edited by adrianlondon; 05.08.2014 at 18:00. Reason: Changed from 300, then to 150, now to 175€
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Old 05.08.2014, 15:27
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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For France, it's 300€ before the shops can be bothered to do the tax forms.

I didn't know there was such a thing as a "stamp less" form - i.e. one where you haven't officially got the customs stamp to say you exported the items, although the fact you're getting the money in Switzerland is proof enough I suppose.

Did the Western Union place give you ALL the tax back or is it like Global Blue where they steal half of it for their commission?
They did in fact give it all back. The amount of VAT on the form (and on my receipt) was circled and I was expecting to get 8% or 12% of that taken back, or at least a commission. When they gave it all to me, I was happily surprised.
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Old 05.08.2014, 15:30
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

Also, I forgot to mention, I also had a German tax form from Lorrach for a Dyson vacuum cleaner. Even though it wasn't French, the (helpful!) French man in the SBB office stamped THAT ONE too. For that, I have to go back to the store and do something to get my VAT back.

Finally, none of these forms are green. They are all white. Everyone keeps referring to green forms and I haven't had a green form yet.

I could be doing this all wrong, but when they hand over money to me, I just go with it.
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Old 05.08.2014, 15:44
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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Yes it does. To be able to claim French tax back there is a minimum amount you have to spend ( somewhere around €175 I think).

There is no minimum when shopping in Germany.

That's the essential difference between the two countries WRT tax refunds.
Italy also has a minimum (about EUR150), and a maximum (EUR600). Go over the maximum, and you have to do a commercial export (i.e. EUR100 of paperwork, and then wait in line wit the trucks!

Tom
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Old 05.08.2014, 15:45
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

The forms are only green in Marktkauf as far as I'm aware. Oh, and when you go back to the German store you don't need to do anything apart from give them the stamped form. They give you the tax back as cash.

I'm still surprised Western Union gave you all the money (20% VAT on non-food items) back.
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Old 05.08.2014, 15:49
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

Many of the German shops in Loerrach and Weil am Rhein use the green forms. At least they did on my last trip 6 months ago. But many shops also have automated export forms on the receipt printer, just depends on which shop you use.
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Old 05.08.2014, 15:53
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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Hello -


I went down there and the French guy (very nice) told me, in short, that the change guys were Douches and that I didn't need a stamp because the little symbol on the paper indicates that this is a stampless document i.e. electronic stamp (there is a bar code at the top.)
So that I know for next time. What did the symbol look like? Was there a french word for "stampless"?
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Old 05.08.2014, 16:13
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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For France, it's 300€ before the shops can be bothered to do the tax forms.

I didn't know there was such a thing as a "stamp less" form - i.e. one where you haven't officially got the customs stamp to say you exported the items, although the fact you're getting the money in Switzerland is proof enough I suppose.

Did the Western Union place give you ALL the tax back or is it like Global Blue where they steal half of it for their commission?

In Germany you spend a minimum of 10€, you get the form stamped by the German customs (theoretically it can be any customs that you use to leave the EU to enter Switzerland, but good luck walking over the bridge from Weil to St Louis and persuading a Frenchie to stamp your German form) to prove you've exported the stuff, then you *go back to the shop* the next day or whenever and they give you ALL the tax back.
Actually it's 175 € per store, that means you cannot add purchases from different stores: E. Leclerc 100 € + 55 Géant Casino + 20 € Intermarché ...


In Germany there are discussions to set minimum purchase amounts (100 - 150 €, just like in France) or to introduce a chip card to reduce paperwork (tons of Ausfuhrkassenzettel). Instead of stamping, the border officers will swipe your chip card, your ID (or passport if you don't have EU style ID). The IHK Südbaden / Hochrhein-Bodensee and the local Handelsverbände are against the former proposal.
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Old 05.08.2014, 16:26
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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Actually it's 175 € per store, that means you cannot add purchases from different stores: E. Leclerc 100 € + 55 Géant Casino + 20 € Intermarché ...

Thanks that was what I thought but it is a while since I read the notice in the Casino in Pontarlier so I thought it may have changed more recently.
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Old 05.08.2014, 16:37
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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Italy also has a minimum (about EUR150), and a maximum (EUR600). Go over the maximum, and you have to do a commercial export (i.e. EUR100 of paperwork, and then wait in line wit the trucks!

Tom

Italian bureaucracy! Why make it easy when you can make it difficult?

I was once in Italy with my school, some 25 years ago, and I wanted to convert 50 Swiss Francs to Italian Lire (at that time the EU currency was virtual and known as the "Ecu"). So I went to a post office and the lady working there filled out something like 5 different forms (all for internal use) which took like 5 minutes; at the end she opened a huge folder that had the pictures of all major banknotes to verify that mine is genuine (no Internet at that time) ...
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Old 05.08.2014, 17:39
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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So that I know for next time. What did the symbol look like? Was there a french word for "stampless"?
JoMiFa-

Here is what the symbol looks like. They kept pointing at it saying: "If it has this symbol, you don't need a stamp"

http://snag.gy/h5j7w.jpg
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Old 05.08.2014, 17:58
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

Pablo is a new one on me. Not that I buy that much in a French supermarket. I've just edited my post down from 300 to 150€ but the official form below states 175€. Anyway ...

So it seems you need a barcode reader. Was there one at SBB? Inside the Western Union thingy?

http://www.douane.gouv.fr/Portals/0/...-in-france.pdf
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Old 05.08.2014, 18:01
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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Did the Western Union place give you ALL the tax back or is it like Global Blue where they steal half of it for their commission?

.
Adrianlondon, I was thinking more about your comment and thought, did they give me it all back? It seemed right, but then I have been drinking quite a bit lately...

Here is the math:
102.57 was taxed at 5.5% so 5.63
210.04 was taxed at 20% so 42.03

My total tax was 47.66
The change office gave me 56.70

At the current exchange rate, the 47.66 should be more like 58.01 so maybe they took 1.31 CHF as a toll? Does that sound right?

http://snag.gy/tPNX4.jpg
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Old 05.08.2014, 18:14
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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Pablo is a new one on me. Not that I buy that much in a French supermarket. I've just edited my post down from 300 to 150€ but the official form below states 175€. Anyway ...

So it seems you need a barcode reader. Was there one at SBB? Inside the Western Union thingy?

http://www.douane.gouv.fr/Portals/0/...-in-france.pdf
There wasn't a Pablo reader in the Western Union in SBB. The customs office in the French portion of SBB does have one (it's at the guy's desk, it's NOT the fancy one you see in the link above...)

Important to note: the Western Union people say they can't take a Pablo form and will demonstrate this by holding your Pablo form, taking out their bar code reader and, with rolling eyes and frustrated gestures, indicate the form is infuriating! Their scanner does not work! See? See?

With your eyes, indicate that you *have all day* to do this. This is not your first paperwork rodeo. Suggest they type in the numbers? Voila! VAT refund!
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Old 05.08.2014, 18:36
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

Your first post doesn't mention that you went and got the barcode approved at the Pablo machine - did you do that, or not bother?

Also, the 1.31Fr difference above sounds like their currency exchange commission - Global Blue take around half the refund in fees, so it appears you weren't charged. Which is odd. Good, but odd. Global Blue forms actually state the amount they will refund (in Euros) and when I last looked at one it was just over half the actual amount of MWST.

Karstadt (German department store in Lorrach) use Global Blue forms but once you get it stamped you just take it back to the shop and they give you the full tax refund. If you actually go to a Global Blue office (or concession such as you went to) they only give you the amount it says you will be refunded. Global Blue actually have a calculator on their web page which shows how much commission they take. It's never zero. Except for you!
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Old 05.08.2014, 18:43
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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Your first post doesn't mention that you went and got the barcode approved at the Pablo machine - did you do that, or not bother?
.
I didn't even know what Pablo was until 10 minutes ago when you gave me that link. I've learned so much about VAT thanks to you!

For the record all I did was:
  • Tell the cashier at the Casino grocery store that I wanted a VAT refund.
  • He gave me two receipts.
  • I walked over to the customer service desk and they did a bunch of paperwork and finally gave me to identical forms (the ones with the Pablo stamp)
  • I didn't go to a customs office, they just told me to go straight to the SBB Change office.

I didn't ever have it scanned anywhere and I don't think it matters. Maybe things are easier if you just deal with a Pablo machine?? I've never seen one. It's a good reason to go back to France and try to find one and see what happens. Maybe I'll find a winery on the way!
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Old 05.08.2014, 21:08
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

I still don't get how (a) you got the full tax back without the usual commission being taken and (b) that they accepted a form not "e-stamped" by the Pablo machine. Maybe you confused them so much by waving the form around and refusing to leave
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Old 05.08.2014, 21:14
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Re: French VAT and Shopping in St. Louis

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I still don't get how (a) you got the full tax back without the usual commission being taken and (b) that they accepted a form not "e-stamped" by the Pablo machine. Maybe you confused them so much by waving the form around and refusing to leave
A glitch in the Matrix perhaps. Oh, and I wasn't wearing a bra.
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