This article is from the Europe FAQ, by Yves Bellefeuille email@example.com with help from Martin Rich M.G.Rich@city.ac.uk.
What does "VAT" mean?
"VAT" means "Value Added Tax"; it's a form of sales tax. The prices you
see quoted usually already include the VAT.
You can sometimes get a VAT refund for goods purchased in another
country. Please note that a refund is only available for goods: it's not
available for services such as transportation, hotel rooms, restaurant
meals, and so on. It's also not available for goods used in the country
itself, such as food or gasoline (petrol); you must bring the goods back
The requirements to get a VAT refund vary by country. Usually, you must
purchase the goods in a store participating in the tax refund program;
these stores are often identified by signs saying "Tax Free Shopping" or
the like. You must usually make a minimum purchase; sometimes the
minimum is quite high. You must make the minimum purchase in the store
itself; you can't combine purchases made in more than one store.
If you meet these requirements, ask the store to give you the
documentation you need to get a VAT refund. You may have to show your
passport. You might be able to get the refund at the airport as you
leave, or you may have to send the documentation by mail. Ask for
details. If you have any doubts about the rules, contact the customs
office when leaving the country, and before checking your luggage, if
travelling by air.
In the European Union (EU), VAT refunds are only available to travellers
from outside the EU.