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Old 19.03.2013, 23:35
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Export VAT refund

I recently purchased an item at auction for a considerable amount. As I am an US citizen who will eventually return to the US, I would like to export it out of the country and get my 8% VAT back. The auction house has provided me with the necessary documents, including the completed "Export document in tourist traffic" form. I just need to get the customs stamp so they can process the refund.

The problem is that I need to get the stamp within 30 days, but I won't be leaving Switzerland for another 2 months.

I was told that I can acquire the necessary stamp at the export office at Geneva airport, but for that, I need to present boarding pass and actually fly somewhere.

Do I have other options for getting the stamp for my VAT refund? Can I take a train to France and get it at the train station (Gare Cornavin in Geneva). Or alternatively since the border is so close, can I drive up to a border crossing and get the stamp there and then just wander back into Switzerland?
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Old 20.03.2013, 00:07
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Re: Export VAT refund

It's cheaper not to export it but pay the Swiss VAT, probably the import in the US will be much higher than 8%.

Than you import it as personal belonging and it won't be subject to duty?

Exporting it to France will be paying 22 or so % at the border...
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Old 20.03.2013, 00:24
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Re: Export VAT refund

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It's cheaper not to export it but pay the Swiss VAT, probably the import in the US will be much higher than 8%.

Than you import it as personal belonging and it won't be subject to duty?

Exporting it to France will be paying 22 or so % at the border...
The idea is to export it out of CH and get the 8% back, then not re-import it on the other side (either US or FR).

To export out of CH, I only need to get the stamp at a customs office, the CH customs office doesn't care whether I import it into FR or US afterwards, they just need to verify that it is leaving Switzerland.

Does anybody know if the train station in Geneva does this or if there are any nearby border crossings where I can procure this stamp?
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Old 20.03.2013, 00:30
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Re: Export VAT refund

I don't think it's possiblw what you plan to do as you'll need the two stamps export and import to get the 8% back, plus keeping the item in Switzerland and not paying VAT... Is illegal.
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Old 20.03.2013, 00:49
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Re: Export VAT refund

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I don't think it's possiblw what you plan to do as you'll need the two stamps export and import to get the 8% back, plus keeping the item in Switzerland and not paying VAT... Is illegal.
Actually, looking at the form I was provided "Document d'exportation dans le cadre du trafic touristique", it only requires one stamp, and it is the one provided by the Swiss customs upon exit.

Legal wise, it is a bit of a grey zone. There's no question that the item is eventually leaving Switzerland (I'm returning to the US in May). The problem is that I have 30 days to get it out of the country so I need to get it out before I actually get it out permanently.
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Old 20.03.2013, 00:55
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Re: Export VAT refund

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Actually, looking at the form I was provided "Document d'exportation dans le cadre du trafic touristique", it only requires one stamp, and it is the one provided by the Swiss customs upon exit.

Legal wise, it is a bit of a grey zone. There's no question that the item is eventually leaving Switzerland (I'm returning to the US in May). The problem is that I have 30 days to get it out of the country so I need to get it out before I actually get it out permanently.
Even so, custom offices nowdays communicate very well, once you obtain export stamp, you'll be in the system. No import will ring a bell eventually.

If you pay at a later date they will hold the article so you can time it for your departure.
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Old 20.03.2013, 01:03
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Re: Export VAT refund

So I don't see how this is different from say global blue vat refund. If I buy something in the UK and then fly to CH, I can get the UK VAT back, but I don't need to import into CH in order to get that VAT. And nothing happens if I don't import into the CH (I've VAT refunded UK purchases dozens of times without re-importing into CH with no repercussions).
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Old 20.03.2013, 01:11
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Re: Export VAT refund

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So I don't see how this is different from say global blue vat refund. If I buy something in the UK and then fly to CH, I can get the UK VAT back, but I don't need to import into CH in order to get that VAT. And nothing happens if I don't import into the CH (I've VAT refunded UK purchases dozens of times without re-importing into CH with no repercussions).
You've been lucky not to have repercussions but it is certanly not legal if you don't declare and import the goods you've brought in Switzerland
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Old 20.03.2013, 01:36
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Re: Export VAT refund

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To export out of CH, I only need to get the stamp at a customs office, the CH customs office doesn't care whether I import it into FR or US afterwards, they just need to verify that it is leaving Switzerland.
And that you are a non Swiss resident if memory serves me correctly. You need to be very careful here, if you present incorrect documentation to these guys and they check it, it will almost certainly cost you more than the tax refund.

Last edited by Jim2007; 20.03.2013 at 01:57.
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Old 20.03.2013, 01:54
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Re: Export VAT refund

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So I don't see how this is different from say global blue vat refund. If I buy something in the UK and then fly to CH, I can get the UK VAT back, but I don't need to import into CH in order to get that VAT. And nothing happens if I don't import into the CH (I've VAT refunded UK purchases dozens of times without re-importing into CH with no repercussions).
Yes but coming into the country you are required to declare anything above 200 CHF. And anything coming through the post etc is charged in the normal way.
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Old 20.03.2013, 02:01
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Re: Export VAT refund

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So I don't see how this is different from say global blue vat refund. If I buy something in the UK and then fly to CH, I can get the UK VAT back, but I don't need to import into CH in order to get that VAT. And nothing happens if I don't import into the CH (I've VAT refunded UK purchases dozens of times without re-importing into CH with no repercussions).
Ok, as a happy cross border shopper: What you plan to do is obviously illegal, but you are clearly aware of that. I'll not get into the judgemental part, but simply into the practical tips.

If you stop at say the German border, get the paper work and your VAT back are you at many border crossings out of sight of the Swiss guys yet. I have personally witnessed how a German border guard picked up his phone after giving a Swiss guy a good sum back - he tipped off the Swiss that there is one incoming... or put differently: Your plan works for things small enough that the cops don't care or things that can be argued to be personal traveller items like ONE watch or ONE laptop. If you bought some expensive antiques and want some thousands of VAT back am I sure the next entry country is expecting you already...
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Old 20.03.2013, 02:17
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Re: Export VAT refund

So much misinformation in this thread.

The OP is correct -- you need simply to export the item (get the stamp from the Swiss side only, when leaving CH) to qualify for the refund of Swiss VAT, IF you are a tourist in CH.

It is then the responsibility of the owner to declare the item IF it it is taxable in the country of importation, and pay the applicable VAT/duty. For France, this would be rather high. It's entirely up to the owner whether to declare the item or not; not to declare it would be breaking the law of the country to which you're exporting the item.

"Exporting" the item from Switzerland (and obtaining the customs stamp on the VAT refund form) only to smuggle it straight back into Switzerland, tax-free, is clearly illegal. I don't see any confusion about that.

You have 30 days to export your item (permanently) from Switzerland. The OP is leaving Switzerland (permanently) over three months after purchasing the item. As far as I can see, that means that the OP does not qualify for a refund of Swiss VAT.

Swiss and neighbouring countries' customs officers DO communicate with each other. If an official of one country were to authorise a large refund for someone, I would not bet against them informing their opposite number about the incoming tax-revenue-collection opportunity.

Swiss VAT is 8%. Would this item attract tax or duty of at least this amount in the US if not classified as part of your household? Is it really worth the risk of attempting to defraud the Swiss government?

The tax-free importation limit INTO Switzerland is CHF 300 per person per day. HOWEVER Jim2007 is correct: tax refunds are ONLY FOR TOURISTS -- not for residents! A Swiss resident (even one who will be leaving soon) is NOT entitled to refunds on purchases made in Switzerland while resident here. So the entire argument is moot, anyway.
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Old 20.03.2013, 06:01
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Re: Export VAT refund

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So much misinformation in this thread.

The OP is correct -- you need simply to export the item (get the stamp from the Swiss side only, when leaving CH) to qualify for the refund of Swiss VAT, IF you are a tourist in CH.

It is then the responsibility of the owner to declare the item IF it it is taxable in the country of importation, and pay the applicable VAT/duty. For France, this would be rather high. It's entirely up to the owner whether to declare the item or not; not to declare it would be breaking the law of the country to which you're exporting the item.

"Exporting" the item from Switzerland (and obtaining the customs stamp on the VAT refund form) only to smuggle it straight back into Switzerland, tax-free, is clearly illegal. I don't see any confusion about that.

You have 30 days to export your item (permanently) from Switzerland. The OP is leaving Switzerland (permanently) over three months after purchasing the item. As far as I can see, that means that the OP does not qualify for a refund of Swiss VAT.

Swiss and neighbouring countries' customs officers DO communicate with each other. If an official of one country were to authorise a large refund for someone, I would not bet against them informing their opposite number about the incoming tax-revenue-collection opportunity.

Swiss VAT is 8%. Would this item attract tax or duty of at least this amount in the US if not classified as part of your household? Is it really worth the risk of attempting to defraud the Swiss government?

The tax-free importation limit INTO Switzerland is CHF 300 per person per day. HOWEVER Jim2007 is correct: tax refunds are ONLY FOR TOURISTS -- not for residents! A Swiss resident (even one who will be leaving soon) is NOT entitled to refunds on purchases made in Switzerland while resident here. So the entire argument is moot, anyway.
The red higlighted piece is correct as someone currently living here you are NOT eligible or permitted to claim the VAT to export this even if you plan to leave at some point
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Old 20.03.2013, 06:06
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Re: Export VAT refund

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So I don't see how this is different from say global blue vat refund. If I buy something in the UK and then fly to CH, I can get the UK VAT back, but I don't need to import into CH in order to get that VAT. And nothing happens if I don't import into the CH (I've VAT refunded UK purchases dozens of times without re-importing into CH with no repercussions).

Wrong to get the export tax paid you are required to import to somewhere else, what you claim here if you have been doing this is illegal. The only exception may be if you are under the limit which is actually no different except you dont have to declare as soon as you reach the limit amount you must declare or else it is illegal
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Old 20.03.2013, 14:10
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Re: Export VAT refund

So, I have what is known as a carte de légitimation issued by an international organization, which also gives the cardholder immunity from the local jurisdiction, and I presume local taxes.

Does anybody know if this makes it eligible or ineligible for the Swiss VAT refund?
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Old 20.03.2013, 14:19
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Re: Export VAT refund

If you export (receive VAT back) and then legally import it (pay tax) will you be much ahead/behind compared to simply taking it back as "personal belongings"??

^^All assuming that your special status means you are viewed as a tourist and not a resident
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Old 20.03.2013, 14:21
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Re: Export VAT refund

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So, I have what is known as a carte de légitimation issued by an international organization, which also gives the cardholder immunity from the local jurisdiction, and I presume local taxes.
You have immunity for many things but not for a crime. The Swiss will request the organisation to lift your immunity if the swiss police/courts want to prosecute you. As for VAT taxes and many local taxes (i.e. garbage, fire), you are still liable unless a senior official with specific exemption.

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Does anybody know if this makes it eligible or ineligible for the Swiss VAT refund?
As above, only refundable if a senior official with specific exemption.
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Old 20.03.2013, 14:32
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Re: Export VAT refund

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Actually, looking at the form I was provided "Document d'exportation dans le cadre du trafic touristique", it only requires one stamp, and it is the one provided by the Swiss customs upon exit.

Legal wise, it is a bit of a grey zone. There's no question that the item is eventually leaving Switzerland (I'm returning to the US in May). The problem is that I have 30 days to get it out of the country so I need to get it out before I actually get it out permanently.
There is NO GREY AREA, the item must leave in 30 days.
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Old 20.03.2013, 14:35
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Re: Export VAT refund

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So, I have what is known as a carte de légitimation issued by an international organization, which also gives the cardholder immunity from the local jurisdiction, and I presume local taxes.

Does anybody know if this makes it eligible or ineligible for the Swiss VAT refund?
There are different levels of immunity, not everyone with a carte de legitimation is the same. But generally the organization will be p**sed off if you use your imunity to avoid VAT if you are cought.

If your carte de legitimation enables you not to pay VAT (some do), then you have to contact the Swiss seller and tell him that so he charges 0% tax, and refunds you, problem solved. No export/import required. (I've seen people present their card at coop to avoid VAT, so any decent seller should know how to deal with that case).

If your carte de legitimation does not give you VAT off privileges, then you are stuck. Basically, there is no way the authorities will stamp your form, if you have a residence / legitimation card. You need to prove to them you are non-swiss resident (as well as that you are exproting the goods). And yes, they have computers and databases.
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Old 20.03.2013, 15:09
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Re: Export VAT refund

Is there a way to tell if my carte de legitimation exempts me from VAT? Or do I just have to go to the customs office and ask?
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