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