Planning Your Irish Vacation
It’s a sad fact; at one point or another, your magical vacation in Ireland will come to an end. As you are packing your suitcases, deciding which souvenirs are safe to be checked and which need to be carried on, you need to have all your VAT information ready to be turned in at the airport before you leave Ireland.
What is VAT?
Simply put, VAT is Value Added Tax. The easiest thing to equate it to in the states is a sales tax. Except the VAT is already added into the price of what you purchase, not added on at the end. VAT rates range from 10%-25%, and are applied to almost every product you purchase, with the notable exceptions of food, children’s clothing, medical services and purchases from non-profit organizations.
Non-EU visitors to Ireland can get a VAT refund quite easily- you just have to remember to ask for it when you make a purchase and you must remember to file the paperwork before you leave Ireland.
VAT and Shopping
While most stores will recognize you as a tourist, it is always helpful to request your VAT upon check out. Ireland has 4 refund systems; the first two listed are the ones I encounter most often.
Tax Free Worldwide
With Tax Free Worldwide (which includes Premier Tax Free) you are provided a rather detailed form upon checkout. The form lists what you have purchased, how much you paid in VAT and the shop you purchased at. The clerk will sign and verify the purchase, then hand you the receipt, often in an envelope. Before you leave, you need to fill out the bottom of the receipt and either post it or turn it in at the Tax Free Worldwide counter airport when you leave Ireland. If you paid in cash, a refund check will be mailed to you. If you paid by credit card, a credit will be applied to your account.
Tip: Multiple receipts for Tax Free Worldwide can be inserted into a single envelope as long as the refund is for a single person. Different people, separate envelopes.
Horizon/ Fexco Tax Free Shopping
My favorite system, because you don’t have dozens of receipts to deal with, is the Horizon card. All information is stored on the card, making it an easy process without the possibility of misplaced receipts. If a shop uses the Horizon card, they will ask if you have one. If not, they will give you the card. One is all you need, no matter how many different shops you visit. Simply present the card when you shop. It will be swiped and the information will be registered to that card number. Some retailers will immediately remove the VAT at point of sale, while others will have the money refunded. Again, all the information is saved to the card. Now, you must do one thing… Register the card online. It’s quite easy and only takes a matter of minutes. Automated kiosks are at the Fexco counter in Dublin and Shannon airports, making it easy to claim your VAT as you leave. Simply enter the card number and requested information. A kiosk receipt will print telling you if the VAT was refunded at the sale or if a refund will be coming to you, via check or credit to the card you used.
Tip: You can get a Horizon card prior to your trip. This is very handy if you don’t think you will have access to a computer or internet during your trip.
Global Tax Refund Shopping
Much like Tax Free Worldwide, Global Tax Refund provides you with a detailed receipt to be turned in as you leave Ireland. Unlike other refunds, Global Tax Refund will refund cash to you in your currency of choice. Refunds to your credit card are also an option.
Tip: Be sure to figure in time at the airport to visit the VAT desks. While it is often a quick process, queues can form, causing a bit of a wait.
In Store Refunds
If you pay by credit or debit card, it is likely a store will have an “in store refund” option. In this case, the store will simply remove the VAT at the point of sale, supply you a detailed receipt and an envelope for one of the refund companies. If you are paying with cash, and the store has an “in store refund” system, you will pay the VAT and the store will send a check, usually within 6-8 weeks.
Tip: Don’t forget to get your receipt and turn it in (or have it entered on your Horizon card), or the refund could be applied to your card after you return home.
Money Saving Tip
When using a credit or debit card you may be asked if you would like to charge in Euros or in dollars. Though it is impulse to have the charge in dollars, be sure to say, “Charge in Euros” to get the best exchange rate.
Do you have any tales to share about getting a VAT refund in Ireland? What is your favorite VAT refund system? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below!