Tax refund and customs
How to reclaim VAT on your purchases in France? Sav’in Tax Free tells you all about the tax exemption procedure and the steps to follow in case of difficulties when validating your customs form. With the Sav’in Tax Free mobile app, you can carry out your tax refund easily and make savings on your purchases.
Everything you need to know about validating your tax-free sales slip with customs
According to French customs regulations, “the refund of VAT by a tax-free operator depends on the validation of your export sales slips by customs (customs visa)”. This means that to obtain your VAT refund, you must have made your tax-free form validated by customs.
If you are not (yet) a tax refund expert, the validation procedure may raise some legitimate questions. That’s why we’re going to explain everything in this article!
What do I have to do to obtain my “custom visa”
To obtain the precious “customs visa”, you must present yourself (sufficiently in advance) to a PABLO terminal or to a customs officer when leaving the European Union.
You must be able to present:
– Your tax free form (in paper or digital format);
– Your passport (Please note that for EU nationals, an official document proving residence outside the European Union may be required);
– All the goods listed on your purchase proof (Note: in the event of a customs inspection, failure to present the goods will result in the cancellation of the tax free form and possibly the payment of a fine);
– Your transport ticket (except if you are leaving the European Union by car).
Special case: if you are leaving the European Union from Geneva-Cointrin or Basel-Mulhouse airport, you will have to complete all the tax-free formalities in the French sector.
How much time do I have to validate my bill of lading with customs?
From the day you generated your tax-free bill on the Sav’in Tax Free application, you have the current month + 3 months to get your tax-free bill validated.
For example, you have generated your tax-free form on 1 January 2022. In this case, you have until 30 April to have it validated.
Do I have to validate my tax-free bill at the PABLO electronic terminal, or do I have to go to a customs officer (customs stamp)?
Two visa procedures coexist in France:
– The PABLO electronic visa.
– The visa by a custom stamp.
Validation at the PABLO electronic terminal
This procedure only works if you are leaving the European Union through France. In this case, you can go to a PABLO terminal at your place of departure (e.g. Bardonnex customs at the Swiss border), and follow the procedure indicated on the screen.
In the framework of the electronic visa at the PABLO terminal, the procedure is computerised. You must then:
- Select the language of your choice;
- Present the barcode of the voucher (in paper format or digital format on a smartphone) in front of the optical reader of the terminal.
- Obtain the message “OK Validated form” which confirms the export of the goods in the same way as the customs stamp. However, if the kiosk screen displays the message “Voucher not validated”, you must go to the customs counter with the goods in question.
If the operation is validated, you will receive your refund within 21 days. Moreover, unlike the customs visa, you do not need to send us a copy of the tax free form.
Validation by customs visa: If you are leaving the European Union via a country other than France, it is important to go to a customs office because you will not be able to complete your procedure at the PABLO terminal. Indeed, most countries do not have a PABLO terminal and even if some countries do, the PABLO terminals only work at national level, and you will therefore not be able to obtain your tax exemption with a French tax-free form. In the customs office you will then have to:
- Print your tax-free form.
- Validate your tax-free form with the customs authorities of the country where you are leaving the European Union.
For example, you have made purchases in France and have generated your tax-free form on the Sav’in application. Then you travel to Italy, before finally leaving the European Union and returning home. In this case, you will have to validate your form in Italy and not in France. Once you have passed through customs, you will get the precious customs validation stamp on your form.
- Send the original of your stamped tax free form to the following address to obtain the refund:
SAV’IN TAX FREE
11 chemin de l’industrie
06110 Le Cannet, France
What about stopovers?
As you know, you must pay duty free on your purchases at the point of exit from the European Union. However, it may happen that you make a stopover in the European Union before returning to your country of residence. In this case, it may be difficult to know whether you should validate your tax-free form at your departure airport or during the stopover. To make your life easier, we explain the customs regulations according to your situation:
– Flight with a stopover of less than 3 hours.
If you have a stopover of less than three hours on EU soil before returning to your country of residence, you must validate your tax-free form at your departure airport.
– Flight with a stopover of more than 3 hours.
If you have a stopover of three hours or more in the European Union and have access to a tax-free counter, you must zero-rate your purchases and validate your tax-free form at the airport where you stop.
Please note! If you check in your luggage in the hold, you must carry out your tax exemption at your airport of departure because you are obliged to present the goods to be tax exempted when you go through customs.
Tip: Check beforehand that the customs office at your stopover airport is accessible. If this is not the case, you can carry out your duty-free procedure at your airport of departure.
Other special cases: travelling by train or boat
– If you are travelling on board a ship or an international road vehicle
You must have the tax-free form validated by the customs authorities at the last port or road exit point in the European Union.
– If you are travelling by train
If you are travelling directly to a third country and the customs service at the station of departure is unavailable, you can complete your tax-free formalities and get your tax-free form validated during the French customs control on the train.
This formality can also be carried out by a customs officer from another EU country before you leave the EU.
What deadlines must be respected to obtaining your-tax free allowance ?
Tax-free shopping is undoubtedly a fantastic way to save money. If you live outside the European Union and meet the eligibility requirements, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it!
“Click here for the link to the eligibility conditions.
However, without a clear explanation, the customs regulations and deadlines tend to appear complicated. However, you don’t want to end up on this sour note and miss out on a simple trick that could easily save you money every time you enter France!
This article will help you to understand the deadlines you need to meet to get your VAT refund without any hassle.
First of all, you need to download the Sav’in Tax Free application and create an account.
Once you have created your account, you will be able to carry out your tax refund procedures. However, to get your VAT refund you must respect the deadlines for each step!
To have a clearer view of the process you can refer to the following example:
After downloading the app, you have travelled to France, and you made purchases on 1 January 2022.
Step 1: from the date you made your purchases, you have 20 days to take a photo of your proof of purchase (invoice for an online purchase) and add it to the Sav’in application using the “Add my purchases” tab.
In our example, you must add your proof of purchase between January 1 and 21, 2022.
Step 2: you have until the 20th day of the month following the month of your purchase to generate your tax-free form on the application via the “Get my refund” tab.
Reminder: the cumulative total of your purchases must be greater than €100.01 including tax to be able to generate your tax-free form on the application.
In our example, you need to generate your tax refund form between 1 January and 20 February 2022.
Step 3: From the day you generate your tax-free form, you have the current month + 3 months to go to customs and have it validated.
Remember: you must go to customs with your purchases, your passport and your tax-free form.
In our example, there are two possible scenarios:
– If you generated your tax-free form in January, you have until 30 April to obtain the customs validation.
– If you generated your Tax-free form in February, you have until 31 May to have it validated by customs.
Good to know, in our example we have given you the maximum time limits to be respected at each stage but be assured that the entire procedure can be completed in a single day.
If all these steps have been correctly followed, you will receive your refund within 21 days from the date of your tax-free form has been validated by customs.
Have you encountered a problem with the validation of your tax-free form or a difficulty at the customs offices?
In certain cases, you can request a regularization of your tax-free form by “visa à posteriori”. Thanks to this derogatory procedure, you can obtain the tax exemption on an exceptional basis if you have encountered a problem during the validation of your customs declaration (tax-free forms). However, this derogation procedure is only possible in very specific cases.
What are the conditions of eligibility?
You can benefit from this derogation procedure if you meet the following two conditions:
– You left the European Union via France.
– You were unable to have your documents validated by customs when you left the European Union, for reasons due to the organisation of the customs service (malfunctioning of the PABLO terminals or absence of the customs service). Example: You take a night flight and when you arrive at the airport, the PABLO terminals are not working or are absent.
! Please note that if you were unable to complete your tax-free form because of a late arrival at the place of departure, you are not eligible for this procedure!
How to apply for regularisation?
You have 6 months from the date of your purchase to send your application by post to the regional customs office from which you left the territory of the European Union (e.g. the regional office at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle if you left France from that airport). Here is the list of the competent regional customs directorates and their contact details:
If your place of departure is not on this list, don’t worry! Please send your letter to the following address
REGIONAL CUSTOMS DIRECTORATE OF PARIS
30 RUE RAOUL WALLENBERG
- Indicate the following information:
– The reason why you were unable to have your tax-free form validated;
– The place and date of your exit from the European Union.
- Attach the following documents:
– Any official document proving your usual residence outside the European Union and that you have been in France for less than six months (copy of passport, identity card, consular card, resident card, etc.);
– Proof of export of the goods.
To provide this proof you can present one of these two documents:
– A receipt from the customs service of your country of residence certifying that you have paid the duties and taxes in force there.
– A certificate from an authorised authority within the French embassy or consulate;
– The original copy of the bill of sale or its digital copy;
– A copy of your ticket.
When should you declare your purchases to Swiss customs after shopping in neighboring France ?
This depends on the amount of your purchases and the number of people present when you cross the border. You must pay VAT:
- When the total amount of goods exceeds 300CHF (excluding tax) per person
- For all individual purchases worth more than 300CHF (excluding tax).
To clarify the rules of customs re-declaration, we offer you some examples and the amount of VAT to pay according to the situation.
The total amount of your purchases is less than 300 francs (excluding tax) per person (present at the time of customs clearance): You benefit from a VAT exemption, which means that you can cross the border without paying Swiss VAT.
Example 1: You cross the border with goods worth CHF 300 (excluding tax) and you cross the border alone.
Example 2: You are accompanied by a second person and you cross the border with several purchases with a total value of CHF 600 (excluding tax) and whose individual amounts are less than CHF 300 (excluding tax).
The amount of your purchases exceeds CHF 300 per person: You must declare your purchases and pay Swiss VAT.
Example 1: You have spent a total of CHF 400 (excluding tax) and you cross the border alone. You will have to pay Swiss VAT on the TOTAL value of the goods (in this case 400 francs). In this example, you pay 30.8 francs.
In this example, we use a rate of 7.7%. To calculate the VAT to be paid for the import of this good into Switzerland, simply multiply the amount before tax (400CHF) by the VAT percentage applied (7.7%). The calculation is as follows: 400 x 0.077 = 30.8CHF.
Example 2: You have spent CHF 400 (excluding tax) on a single purchase and cross the border accompanied by another person. You will have to pay Swiss VAT on the TOTAL value of the goods (in this case 400CHF excluding tax), even if there are two of you because the individual value of the goods is more than 300CHF (excluding tax). In this example, you pay 30.8CHF.
Example 3: You have spent CHF 900 (excluding tax) and you cross the border accompanied by another person. You have exceeded the threshold of 300CHF (excl. tax)/person. The first person is entitled to an exemption of 300CHF (excluding tax). The second person, on the other hand, must declare the remaining goods and pay VAT on the entire remaining value (in this case 600CHF excluding tax). In this example, you pay 46.2CHF.
Example 4: You have spent 800CHF (excluding tax) and you cross the border accompanied by another person. Your basket consists of 3 purchases:
- Purchase 1: 200CHF (excluding tax).
- Purchase 2: 150CHF (excluding tax).
- Purchase 3: 450CHF (excluding tax).
- As we have seen previously, you must pay VAT on all purchases over 300CHF (excluding tax). In our example, you will have to pay VAT on purchase n°3 (450CHF excluding tax).
- As regards purchases n°1 and n°2, their total value is greater than 300CHF (excluding tax) (200 + 150 = 350CHF). You will therefore benefit from a VAT exemption on 300CHF (excluding tax) and you will have to pay VAT on the remaining 50CHF (excluding tax).
You pay 38.5CHF VAT on the 500CHF (excluding tax) ((450 + 50) x 0.077 = 38.5CHF) and you benefit from a VAT exemption on a value of 300CHF (excluding tax).
Special cases : Be careful with quantities !
Some food products are also subject to customs fees depending on the quantities imported.
The following indications are given per person and per day, for goods intended for your private use or to be offered as a gift.
How much do Swiss customs charges cost?
The bill can vary greatly. Two rates are applied:
- Normal rate = 7.7%.
Ex: You bought a piece of furniture for CHF 400 excluding VAT, you will have to pay CHF 30.8 in Swiss VAT.
- Reduced rate = 2.5% (e.g., foodstuffs, non-alcoholic drinks, books or medicines).
Ex: You have bought food for CHF 400 excluding VAT, you will have to pay CHF 10 in Swiss VAT.
The calculation is as follows: 400 x 0.025 = 10 CHF.
How do I declare my goods to Swiss customs?
Option 1: Download the QuickZoll application:
Quickzoll is the official mobile customs clearance application of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. Designed for private tourist traffic, QuickZoll is available on Google Play and the Apple Store.
What are the advantages?
You can make your declaration and pay any fees directly on your smartphone, without having to stop at a Swiss customs office. At airports you can use the green lane.
You will also find all the information you need about customs clearance on QuickZoll.
Finally, the application can be used offline (only a possible fee payment requires a connection).
What are the disadvantages?
You do not benefit from the reduced VAT rate of 2.5% (for food purchases, books or medicines for example).
In addition, fees can only be paid by credit card (MasterCard or Visa).
Option 2: Make an oral declaration to Swiss customs
If the customs office you are visiting is staffed by a customs officer, you can go there to declare your goods.
Here is the list of customs offices that we advise you to favour, as far as possible because they are occupied 24 hours a day:
- Bardonnex customs
- Boncourt/Delle customs
- Basel/St. Louis customs
If you do not go through these customs offices, we advise you to check the opening hours before going there.
Option 3: Make a written self-declaration
If the Swiss customs office you are visiting is unoccupied, you can make a written self-declaration of your goods using the customs forms available there. Once completed, you must hand in your form in the declaration box of a Swiss customs office.
Please note that not all customs offices have a declaration box. Here is the list of customs offices equipped with one:
Here is the list of customs offices that we advise you to favour, as far as possible, because they are occupied 24 hours a day:
- Boncourt/Delle customs
- Basel/St. Louis customs
- Bardonnex customs
Good to know
For private goods carried in tourist traffic, the main customs offices are manned 24 hours a day. Customs offices at airports have special opening hours. Many smaller customs offices, on the other hand, are only open at certain times and some are not open at all. Please note the opening hours of Swiss customs offices.
The amounts in Swiss francs mentioned in this article may vary according to the exchange rate in force at the time of your purchases