What exactly is tax-free shopping ?
VAT, (short for Value Added Tax) is a tax paid by the final consumer when purchasing goods for use within the European Union. As a result, non-EU residents are not subject to this tax and can claim their VAT back. It is important to note that VAT is very rarely refunded in full. Even when you go directly to the trader, some of the VAT will probably not be refunded to you as the zero-rating is very often done through an intermediary to simplify the process.
(+ link to “All about VAT”)
Please note that the tourist tax refund concerns people who are not resident in the European Union. It has nothing to do with nationality. For example, if French expatriates visit France, they can be reimbursed VAT in the same way as any tourist living outside the European Union.
Yes, good news! Residents outside the European Union, expatriates and tourists alike, thanks to the tax-free system and subject to certain conditions, you too can pay for all your purchases made in France at the “duty free” price that we dream about in airports.
But the tax-free system can be frightening for many people… Customs, PABLO terminals, borders, tickets, deadlines to be respected or even a tax-free form are all mysterious terms and conditions that do everything to dissuade you from taking advantage of an efficient way to recover your VAT.
That’s why at Sav’in Tax Free we offer to help you with all your tax refund procedures: from issuing your proof of purchase to obtaining your refund.
With Sav’in Tax Free, shopping in France and enjoying a wide choice of French brands has never been so easy and economical.
To benefit from a VAT refund when passing through customs, you must respect the rules and conditions of the French customs regulations. It is important to note that each country has its own procedures and regulations for tax exemption.
Who is eligible for VAT exemption in France?
- Persons residing outside the European Union for more than 6 months per year.
The first criterion to benefit from the tax exemption is to reside outside the European Union. Since 1 January 2021, British residents can also benefit from tax relief.
Be careful not to confuse European countries with EU countries. Here is a non-exhaustive list of European countries that do not belong to the European Union: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, United Kingdom, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine.
It is important to note that although Monaco does not belong to the European Union, the principality cannot benefit from tax exemption in France. On the other hand, residents outside the European Union can benefit from tax exemption on Monegasque territory.
In parallel, persons residing in certain third countries can benefit from the zero-rating of VAT. In particular, some of the overseas collectivities of the EU countries are called “third countries”.
The following French overseas collectivities can benefit from VAT refund: French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, the French Southern and Arctic Lands, etc.
- Persons aged 16 or over.
In addition to residing outside the European Union for more than 6 months a year, you must be 16 years of age or older to be eligible for a VAT refund.
What conditions must the goods meet?
1. Have made purchases worth more than €100.01 including VAT.
The minimum purchase amount to claim a tax-free form (detailed purchase statement) is €100.01 including VAT in France.
Depending on the method you use to obtain your tax-free form, you may or may not be able to combine your purchases to reach this amount. If you ask a retailer for your tax-free form, you will be obliged to spend more than €100.01 (incl. VAT) in a single shop or group of shops over a maximum period of three days. However, if you use Sav’in Tax Free, you can accumulate all your purchases over 20 days.
- The goods purchased must be eligible for tax exemption
What goods are eligible for tax-free shipping? The purchase must be of goods sold at retail for non-commercial use. A tax-free form may therefore be refused if it concerns the purchase of too large a quantity of the same product.
Please note! Some goods are not eligible for zero-rating. Here is a non-exhaustive list of goods that are not eligible for VAT exemption: manufactured tobacco, petroleum products, prescription medicines, means of transport for private use, arms and ammunition (with some exceptions), goods subject to special formality(s), certain cultural goods, postage stamps, unmounted precious stones etc.
3. Leave the EU with all the goods you wish to zero-rate intact and in their original packaging.
As we have seen, VAT is the tax on the purchase of goods for the purpose of using them within the European Union. So, to be obtain a VAT refund, you cannot use your purchases until you have left the EU. In addition, your goods must be carried in your personal luggage. For example, you cannot ask a third party such as a delivery company to handle the zero-rating of VAT and the transport of your purchases.
What are the residence conditions to be eligible for VAT exemption?
- You must be visiting France for less than 6 months.
To be eligible for VAT exemption in France, you must have been in France for less than 6 months and not reside in France for more than 6 months per year.
- You must have your tax slip validated and leave the European Union before the end of the third month following the month in which your tax slip was generated
This is the legal deadline imposed by customs. So, for example, if you want to benefit from the tax exemption on purchases associated with a tax-free form generated in January, you must have your tax-free form validated by Customs and leave the European Union before the end of the following April.
- You must carry out the zero-rating procedure at your point of exit from the European Union.
The duty-free procedure is carried out at your point of exit from the European Union. For example, if you take a plane from France that stops in Italy for more than 3 hours before leaving the European Union, you will probably have to complete the VAT zero-rating procedure in Italy if your stop is long enough and if a custom is available. This means that you will not be able to zero-rate your purchases at French customs and you will have to print your tax-free form and send it to us at the following address
Sav’in Tax Free
11 chemin de l’industrie
06110 Le Cannet, France
VAT NUMBER FR 595 0870 2677
(Link to article: “Everything you need to know about validating your tax-free form at customs”)
In France, you can obtain your tax-free allowance by requesting a tax-free form directly from the trader or by using Sav’in Tax Free.
The classic method to get a tax refund
The classic zero-rating procedure consists of requesting a tax-free form from your retailer at the time of your purchase. It is important to note that a trader is free to accept or refuse to offer you zero-rated VAT.
Step 1: Ask the trader for your tax-free form (also known as an export sales slip) at the time of your purchase. If he agrees to carry out the zero-rating procedure, he will send you a paper as your tax-free form and you will have to keep it until you go through customs (as a reminder, your total purchase must be greater than €100.01 in the trader’s shop for him to issue you a tax-free form).
IMPORTANT: It is important to note that not all French customs offices have a PABLO terminal. It may be useful to check beforehand that the customs office you will be passing through is equipped with automatic PABLO terminals. If this is not the case, we advise you not to use the dematerialised version of your entry form and to print it out before you go through customs.
Step 2: Validate your tax-free form at the customs office (using PABLO terminals, for example) of the country from which you are leaving the European Union (Be careful if you have a stopover of more than 3 hours: “See: Everything you need to know about validating your duty-free form at customs”). In the event of a customs inspection, you must absolutely be able to present all your purchases in their original packaging to prove that you have not used them in the European Union.
Step 3: Redeclare your goods in your country of residence. When you import goods from a foreign country, you must re-declare your goods whether they have been exempted from VAT or not.
VAT rates may vary depending on your country of residence.
(For the Swiss link to: “importing goods into Switzerland”)
The limits of the classic method:
– You are obliged to exceed the threshold of €100.01 in each of the shops where you make your purchases to obtain a tax-free form. Indeed, since it is the trader who directly issues your tax-free form, you will obtain a printed document per shop and you will have to exceed the €100.01 threshold in each of the stores.
– As we have seen, the shopkeeper is not obliged to offer you tax exemption. Therefore, you may not be able to access the tax-free allowance directly in the shop where you made your purchases.
– It is unlikely that you will be able to benefit from a VAT exemption on an online purchase delivered in France. Indeed, it is rare for an e-commerce to offer a tax-free service due to the numerous administrative constraints that this implies.
The SAV ‘in’ method:
Step 1: Shopping
Shopping in physical shops:
Take advantage of your stay in France to do your shopping and discover exclusive French brands. To benefit from tax-free shopping, make sure you ask for a receipt or an invoice when you shop in France. It is essential that the following information is included on the receipt: Name of the brand, Date of purchase, Amount including VAT, Amount of VAT.
Online shopping :
To benefit from tax-free shopping online, you must ensure that the shop in which you make your purchases is registered in France for French VAT purposes.
If you make your purchases at Décathlon, for example, make sure that it is Décathlon France and not another subsidiary (Switzerland, Italy, etc.). If you have trouble finding the French brand, replacing the code of your country in the html link with “fr” will in many cases redirect you to the French site.
In addition, you must have your order delivered to a French address (at a friend’s house, at your hotel or at a relay point). The person who made the purchases must collect the goods in France in order to claim the tax exemption. Finally, do not forget to ask for an invoice made out to Sav’in Tax Free. You must include the following information:
Sav’in Tax Free
11 chemin de l’industrie
06110 Le Cannet, France
VAT NUMBER FR 595 0870 2677
Our advice for easy online tax exemption? Add the Sav’in address as a secondary billing address on e-traders where you regularly order.
Step 2: Take a picture of your receipts.
Take pictures of your receipts or invoices as you go along and save them in the Sav’in Tax free application. Thanks to Sav’in Tax free, you no longer need to exceed the €100.01 threshold in each store to obtain tax relief. You can upload your receipts and invoices progressively on the application and thus accumulate your purchases in different shops in France to reach the minimum threshold for VAT exemption.
Don’t forget! You have up to 20 days after the date of your purchase to upload your invoice or receipt.
Step 3: Obtaining a tax-free form
Once you have uploaded all the receipts for the goods you wish to tax-free, you can request a tax-free form if the minimum threshold of €100.01 inc. The Sav’in tax free advantage? Forms issued in an average of 20 minutes during the company’s opening hours. Sav’in Tax Free covers all shop opening hours and more (Monday/Friday: 9am-8pm, Saturday/Sunday: 9am-9pm). Once you have received your form, you can print it out or use the paperless version.
Please note! You have until the 20th day of the month following the month in which you added your tickets to request your tax-free form.
Step 4: Validate the tax-free form
Once at customs, all you have to do is present your tax-free form in paper or digital format. You can use the automatic PABLO terminals to have it validated quickly. If you wish to have a tax-free form validated outside France (e.g. a stopover country in the European Union), you must go to a customs counter.
When validating your bill of lading, customs officials may ask you to prove that you meet the conditions of eligibility for tax exemption.
You must therefore be able to present the following items:
– An identity document.
– A transport ticket (if the journey is not made in a private car).
– The goods you wish to tax-free in their original packaging.
Please note! You must have your tax-free form validated by customs and leave the European Union before the end of the third month following the month in which you generated the declaration.
Step 5: Get your refund.
Get your VAT refund in cash at the exchange office or within 21 days by credit card refund. Don’t forget to re-declare your purchases in your country of origin.
Sav’in Tax free advantages:
– You can accumulate your purchases over 20 days and in several stores to reach the minimum of 100.01€ TTC instead of having to buy for 100.01€ TTC in each of the shops where you make purchases.
– You have three months from the date of generation of your form and not from the date of your purchases. This gives you 2 months more time to leave the EU territory than with a standard tax-free procedure.
– You do not need to wait in the shop to issue your tax-free form.
– You can zero-rate your purchases in almost all shops as long as the VAT rate, the amount of VAT and the unit price are clearly indicated on your proof of purchase.
– You can zero-rate your proof of purchase.
In which shops can you get your tax refund?
Before the existence of the mobile tax refund application, you could only obtain your tax free form from retailers. Each retailer was free to offer a tax-free service to his customers or not.
Today, thanks to Sav’in, you don’t need to go through the shopkeeper and wait in the shop, you just need to bring your proof of purchase.
From now on, you can buy tax-free in all the shops where you wish to make your purchases in France.
For your proof of purchase to be validated, make sure the following information appears:
– Amount of VAT
– Amount including VAT
– Name of the store
– Date of purchase
Unfortunately, because some shops fail to include information on your proof of purchase that is required for zero-rating, we are forced to reject VAT refund claims.
If you find that your proof of purchase does not include the necessary information, you can ask the shop to send you an invoice with the VAT information.
To make your life easier and to give you some ideas for your next shopping trip in France, we have decided to provide you with a (non-exhaustive) list of shops that we have already worked with and for which we have encountered no problems.
Supermarkets / Food: Carrefour, Grand Frais, Auchan, Leclerc, Casino, Intermarché, Aldi, Lidl, Coop.
Personal equipment / clothing: Decathlon, Courir, Go Sport, Sport 2000, Intersport, H&M, Zara, Sephora, Nocibe, Mango, Cos, Celio, Grand Optical, Etam, Quicksilver, G-star, L’atelier du diamant, Swarovski, Pandora.
Multimedia / Home appliances / Toys: Fnac, Boulanger, Darty, M-electronics, Brico+ Loisirs, Cultura, Nature et Découverte, Jouet Club, La Grande Récré, Micromania.
House / Garden: Leroy Merlin, Castorama, Mr Bricolage, Bricorama, Habitat, Ikea, Alice Délice, Maison du Monde, Gamme Vert.
Tax exemption on online purchases
Did you know that? It is also possible to have your purchases tax-free online with the Sav’in Tax Free application! It is important to note that your purchases must have been made from a listed company in France to be able to benefit from the VAT exemption. So, if you decide to order sports equipment online from Decathlon, you need to make sure that it is the French subsidiary of the company. In other words, the e-commerce site where you make your purchases must be registered for French VAT.
With this tax-free system, you can make your online purchases in advance and have them delivered to a French address (post office, friends, family etc.). Once you have made your purchases, you can collect them from the delivery point in complete peace of mind. You then just need to go to customs with your tax-free slip to have it validated at your point of exit from the European Union. All you have to do is wait for your refund!
Online shops: Amazon France, Decathlon, Zalando, Vente privée, Fly, LeRoy merlin, Grand optical, Carrefour.