⚠️ The UK left the European Union (EU) on the 31 January 2020 and entered a transition period until 31 December 2020, during which EU law continued to apply in the UK. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU, detailing the UK’s relationship with the EU from 1 January 2021, was signed on 30 December 2020. The guidance below has been updated as far as possible to reflect the position as we understand it from 1 January 2021. However, we continue to await guidance on some matters and we will update these pages with any relevant changes as soon as possible after that guidance becomes available.

Can I claim a VAT refund if I leave the UK?

Updated on 4 April 2022


When people shop in the UK, they pay VAT on most things they buy. Prior to 31 December 2020, there was a ‘VAT Retail Export scheme’ that allowed certain people to claim back the VAT they had been charged on most of the goods they took out of the EU.

Illustration of a bag with VAT refund written on it

What is VAT?

Value added tax (VAT) is charged on the supply of goods and services in the UK. VAT is charged at either the standard rate of 20%, the reduced rate of 5% (for things such as gas or electricity) or the zero rate (for things such as certain food). In addition, certain supplies are specifically exempt from VAT, such as postal services. When you shop in the UK, you pay VAT on most things you buy.

You can find out more about VAT on GOV.UK.

Can I get a VAT refund when I leave the European Union (EU)?

The ‘VAT Retail Export Scheme’ allowed certain people to claim back the VAT they have paid on most of the goods they took out of the EU. This scheme ended on 31 December 2020 in respect of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). It continues to operate in Northern Ireland.

The 'VAT Retail Export scheme' was also known as ‘Tax-Free Shopping’.

You can find a basic outline of the system on GOV.UK. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have also produced HMRC Notice 704/1 Tax-Free Shopping in the UK to explain the scheme further. Note that the guidance only applies to purchases made on or before 31 December 2020 in England, Scotland and Wales. The guidance continues to apply to purchases made in Northern Ireland.

Tax guides

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