UPDATED: August 2014
Please note that I will very shortly have new information which should (hopefully) ensure that fewer people end up in the situations described in the comments below. Please check back, if possible, before you visit Ireland
Visitors to Ireland from non-EU countries can claim back sales taxes on purchases made in Ireland.
Value Added Tax or VAT, a form of sales tax, which is added to almost all goods for sale in Ireland, is only payable by those who live in the EU.
Since Ireland’s VAT rate is high, 21% on most items, claiming VAT back is equivalent to getting a reduction of 17.36% on the displayed price of items in stores – a very worthwhile reduction indeed.
However there is some effort involved on your part in claiming back the tax, and the process can be complicated, this guide will help you to understand what you need to do.
The following points are important:
- VAT is already added to the price of goods you see in stores in Ireland, it is not added afterwards at the till, unlike for example sales taxes in the USA.
- VAT is only refunded for the purchase of goods, not services, so you cannot claim back any VAT you paid for accommodation, entrance charges, meals, guides, car hire etc.
- Some goods in Ireland are sold free of vat, for example children’s clothing and footwear, books and food (excluding things like chocolates or other confectionery).
Since you pay no VAT when purchasing these, you obviously cannot claim any back!
- There are NO refund desks in Ireland other than at Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports, so if you leave at another airport or by sea, it is more difficult to claim a refund.
- There is no minimum or maximum amount you can claim.
THE GOLDEN RULE!
Keep all the forms you are issued with when you purchase goods. Store them carefully. Without them you cannot claim your money back. Refunds will not be made on store receipts.
How to Shop Tax-Free in Ireland
Method 1: Ship Your Purchases Home
Many stores will offer to pack and mail your purchases home for you, and if you opt for this service you will not be charged VAT when you pay for them. You will have to pay the cost of shipping.
- Pros: Convenient, and unlike the methods below usually goes very smoothly.
- Cons: Shipping can be expensive, possibly more expensive than just paying the tax! Not all stores will offer this service.
Method 2: Claim Tax Back
Using this method you will pay VAT when you make purchases, then claim it back when you are leaving Ireland.
You do not have to register in advance to use the Global Blue system.
The Horizon Card is issued by Fexco, and is the most common system used and the most widely available in shops.
You do not need to register in advance or to do anything before you travel in order to use Horizon.
NOTE: While Global Blue is an international company offering tax-back to visitors to many countries, in Ireland their system is operated on the ground by Fexco, the issuer of the Horizon card. So in effect, no matter which method you choose, you are dealing with Fexco.
How Tax Back Works
A. Make a Purchase
When you make a purchase in a store displaying a tax-back symbol ask for a Tax Refund Cheque. The store will issue you with a check, made out for the total amount of VAT on your purchases. You will need to fill in the following details on each check you receive:
- Your name and address
- Arrival and departure dates
- Passport number
B. Have your Checks stamped by Customs
If a single purchase exceeds €2,000, you must have Customs verification prior to departure. Take your checks, your purchases, all receipts and your passport to the customs desk in the Airport to have them stamped and validated. Obviously you need to do this before checking in, so it’s important to get to the airport on time.
If no single purchase exceeded €2000, you can skip this step.
C. Claim Your Refund
You have two options for doing this:
- Get a refund at the Airport
Take the stamped Tax Refund Checks to the Global Blue/Horizon desk or Self-service kiosk at Shannon, Cork or Dublin Airport (see details below) and you will be given the option of either receiving your refund in cash, having it mailed to you or having it refunded to your credit card. This is the best method .
- Claim your Refund by Mail
When you return home, mail your Tax Refund Checks to Fexco, using a prepaid envelope (provided in stores). You can opt to have them mail you your refund or to refund your credit card.
Pros and Cons
- You get your money back with relatively little fuss if it all goes smoothly.
- The system is widely available in may stores in all parts of Ireland
- You pay a fee of about 2% of the total value of goods purchased; thus your refund will amount to around 15% of the ticket price of goods.
- Not all stores are part of the tax-back scheme.
Method 3: The ‘Money Back’ System
Also known as the Vat Off system, this is also run by Fexco but the difference is you do not pay the VAT at all at the time of purchase, it is deducted at point of sale by the retailer, less a 2% service charge.
In theory this is a much better method – you simply shop tax free wherever you see the Horizon or Global Blue symbol. Done. Except not quite.
There are some important points to be aware of when availing of this system:
- In order to avail of this system you must pay for your goods by credit card
- You will be given a form as a record of your purchase.
- These forms may be handed in at the tax-back desk/kiosk in the airport or mailed to Fexco within a defined period (usually 60 days)
- If you fail to return your form, the VAT will be charged to your credit card.
Obviously it is very important that you retain and return the forms you receive.
Pros and Cons
- It’s very convenient.
- Not available in all stores.
- You must remember to return your forms at the airport.
When claiming a refund at the airport, it will only be issued to the person named on the check. So if you are travelling as a couple or in a family group, have all checks made out to one person, so that only that person has to line up to claim the refund. It will save a lot of time.
When claiming a refund in the airport, you can opt to have it paid in one of several currencies. This may seem a good idea but you will pay a €1 additional charge and will probably also get a very poor exchange rate. It is usually better to accept the refund in Euro and change it later, or to have the money refunded to your credit card.
If you forget or are unable to complete these steps at the airport, don’t panic! You can have your tax-back checks or forms authorised by a Notary Public or similar on your return home, and then submit a claim to Fexco. But remember – checks are only valid for 90 days after they have been issued.
BIG IMPORTANT MESSAGE
Read the comments below this article. If you do not return your forms, you will be hit out of the blue with credit card charges long after you have returned home and, probably, discarded all your receipts and forms.
This can also happen it seems if the store where you made the purchase do not correctly complete their paperwork.
Who to contact if it all goes wrong
Since both the Horizon and Global Blue systems are run by Fexco, they are the people you need to contact. However the sad truth is that if you are hit with credit card charges it means your checks/forms are now out of date and your chances of being able to reclaim the money are between slim and none.
PLEASE do not contact me – as lots of people have in the past. I just write this stuff, I have NOTHING to do with the workings of the tax-back system and am not in a position to assist you.
Fexco Contact Details
FEXCO Tax Free
Spiddal Industrial Estate,
Tel: +353 91 553 258
Fax: +353 91 553 403
Tax-back Offices in Ireland
Terminal 1: Self service kiosk in Pier B, towards gates 301 – 313, adjacent to the Dixon retail unit.
Terminal 2: Self service kiosks in the departures area of T2, follow generic signage to VAT RETURNS.
Self service kiosks adjacent to the office in the Departures area.
Self service kiosk in the departure gates area