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Old 10.07.2017, 22:20
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Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

Many people (Swiss and expats alike) have experienced the convenience of 100% tax refunds in Konstanz but struggled with Italy and other countries where Global Blue is common. Now it is summer and many people will visit Italy so I'm sharing a handy template that an accounting friend gave me.

For Konstanz merchants, they know which side their bread is buttered on: most of the shoppers are from Switzerland, repeat customers who travel a long way for a dedicated day of shopping, too clued up to be conned by the Global Blue racket, so all the merchants there pay back 100% of the tax when you bring back the customs stamp or post it to them with your IBAN number.

Italian merchants see a more diverse range of shoppers: while they get shoppers from Switzerland, many of their visitors are Americans and Japanese on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, unlikely to ever do tax-free again. The Italian merchants train their staff to push the Global Blue rort. Global Blue skims about 30% of the tax or more and splits it with the merchant.

It is not all doom-and-gloom though: if you visit small shops and you are dealing with the owner of the shop, unlike the ordinary retail staff, he or she is usually very aware of how VAT works and keen to satisfy you and will do a tax refund just like in Konstanz. Get the stamp, bring receipt back on next visit to shop or post it with bank details for
100% tax refund.

We've noticed the bigger outlets in the border region are also quite flexible. In one of the outlets in Vertemate, they always pull out the Global Blue form but when I object, they reach into a drawer and pull out another document for me to write my IBAN number. I've always posted my receipts back to them and always got the 100% refund.

As you get away from the border and approach Milan or if you are a shopaholic and head south to the Serravalle outlet mall, however, there are far less Swiss visitors and often the staff will insist on giving you a Global Blue form because that is the only thing they've been shown how to do. It is not the end of the world though, you can still protect yourself:

a) you accept the Global Blue form they give you. They will insist you sign it in front of them because if you don't sign it, the money is 100% yours and Global Blue has no right to skim from it.

b) you get the customs stamp as usual

c) now, on the Global Blue form, you put a line through the nasty stuff. Be careful not to cross out the bit that says you confirm your details are correct. Just cross out the bit that reads like this:

"I understand (i) that the retailer issuing this Tax Free Form and I have agreed to my VAT being refunded by Global Blue or its authorised refund partners only (ii) that Global Blue charges a fee for its services and (iii) that I shall not authorize any third party to process or use this Tax Free Form"

Of course, do NOT under any circumstances alter the customs stamp or the details of the products or prices. Only cross out the bits about Global Blue. Write a note near your signature "Direct refunded requested"

d) Attach a cover letter like this:

[Your address]

[Date]

[Merchant company name from tax-free-form]
(Accounts department / ufficio contabilitŕ)
[Merchant headquarters address from tax-free form]

Please remit the VAT / IVA amount of
(Si prega di inviare la somma IVA di) EUR 123.45

To avoid the inconvenience of visiting the airport and paying un-necessary administration charges, I decline to have my refund and personal data processed by Global Blue and request that you remit the full amount to me directly by bank transfer.
(Al fine di evitare l'inconveniente di visitare l'aeroporto e di pagare le spese di amministrazione non necessarie, rifiuto di avere il mio rimborso ei dati personali trattati da Global Blue e chiedo di rimborsare l'intero importo direttamente tramite bonifico bancario.)

IBAN: [Your IBAN]

BIC: [POFICHBEXXX]

My account is denominated in EUR, please do not request conversion to CHF.
(Il mio conto č denominato in EUR, non richiedi la conversione a CHF.)

Sincerely,

[Joe Shopper]

e) photocopy or scan everything

f) post it all to the retailer's headquarters. If the VAT amount is large, send it registered mail.


So far, no merchant has ever failed to give me the refund. Once this letter, along with the customs stamp proving the export, hits their accounts department, they have a debt to you for the full amount. While the sales people may be a bit pushy about the Global Blue way,
the accounts people process it like any other bill. Naturally they all hope to see you back in their store, they are aware of the fact German retailers are wooing Swiss with 100% tax back and they also know that customers left out of pocket will not wait long to complain on social media these days.

Note that this will not help you avoid the EUR 155 minimum spend requirement in Italy. That is an Italian legal requirement, it is not something made up by Global Blue or the shops so you are stuck with it.

Happy shopping.
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Old 10.07.2017, 23:00
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Re: Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

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Note that this will not help you avoid the EUR 155 minimum spend requirement in Italy.
Per shop.

And they have no legal obligation to refund you, either.

Tom
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Old 11.07.2017, 07:21
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Re: Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

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Per shop.

And they have no legal obligation to refund you, either.

Tom
So why do they all do it then?

Most Italians would rather give the VAT money back to their customer than give it to their Government anyway.
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Old 11.07.2017, 07:36
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Re: Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

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...

c) now, on the Global Blue form, you put a line through the nasty stuff. Be careful not to cross out the bit that says you confirm your details are correct. Just cross out the bit that reads like this:

"I understand (i) that the retailer issuing this Tax Free Form and I have agreed to my VAT being refunded by Global Blue or its authorised refund partners only (ii) that Global Blue charges a fee for its services and (iii) that I shall not authorize any third party to process or use this Tax Free Form"

Of course, do NOT under any circumstances alter the customs stamp or the details of the products or prices. Only cross out the bits about Global Blue. Write a note near your signature "Direct refunded requested"
This reminds me of that old Facebook thing. "From today ... I don't give Facebook permission to use my pictures , information, or my publications ,both of the past and the future...".

For a strike out to be binding, it would need to be initialled or signed by both parties. By changing the contract after signing, without the agreement of the other party, well, that could be fraud, couldn't it?
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Old 11.07.2017, 07:44
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Re: Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

I am not sure what is going on? What is the problem with Global Blue now?

I buy my goods, I get the Global Blue form properly signed and validated, I bring it to the airport customs on my way back, get my goods checked, get the stamp, move to the Exchange counter on the other side and get my money back - who work on behalf of GB - (minus the processing fee). Never had a problem with them.

What is it that you are against?
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Old 11.07.2017, 07:54
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Re: Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

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For a strike out to be binding, it would need to be initialled or signed by both parties. By changing the contract after signing, without the agreement of the other party, well, that could be fraud, couldn't it?
The forms are not signed by Global Blue, they only have the customer signature on them, so the customer can alter the form at any time.

It is actually two documents in one:

a) proof of export - details of the original retailer, the products, the prices and the customs stamp

b) a contract between you and Global Blue, whereby your signature is your agreement to give up some of your tax refund to Global Blue

Document (a) remains valid and can be processed by the accounts department at the retailer even if you cross out everything from (b)
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Old 11.07.2017, 07:58
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Re: Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

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I am not sure what is going on? What is the problem with Global Blue now?

I buy my goods, I get the Global Blue form properly signed and validated, I bring it to the airport customs on my way back, get my goods checked, get the stamp, move to the Exchange counter on the other side and get my money back - who work on behalf of GB - (minus the processing fee). Never had a problem with them.

What is it that you are against?
If you go to all the trouble of carrying the goods through your hand luggage and queuing up to get the customs stamp, why should you give a chunk of your tax refund to Global Blue? For all that effort, you deserve to receive 100% of the tax.

Example: if the tax is EUR 45, Global Blue will take about EUR 15 and only give you EUR 30.

But you are entitled to the full EUR 45

When you do your income tax return, would you agree to give your accountant 33% of your tax refund? Or do you want to get as much as you can for yourself?

The whole Global Blue thing and their fees only exists for shoppers who don't have a bank account in Europe and never come back to the shop again. For repeat shoppers and shoppers who can be refunded by bank transfer in the SEPA system (Euro clearing, without fee), the Global Blue fees are not necessary.
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Old 11.07.2017, 08:14
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Re: Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

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So why do they all do it then?
They don't all do it, but most do. I've never used Global Blue there.

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Most Italians would rather give the VAT money back to their customer than give it to their Government anyway.
Quite true.

Tom
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Old 11.07.2017, 12:57
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Re: Italy shopping 100% tax back, avoiding Global Blue

Have you ever stopped to consider Global Blue and their business model, you think they keep all the commission or maybe the retailers get a refund to cover, lets call it "administration costs" for the time being as this is polite rather than full out....SCAM !
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