Shopping in Ireland: Before You Leave Turn in Your VAT

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Ireland vacation tip: Understanding the VAT | save money in Ireland | Ireland travel tips

Planning Your Irish Vacation

Euros & an Irish 20 Pound note
Euros. Sadly that Irish £20 note is only useful as a souvenir.

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 Ireland 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, in Ireland, VAT is already added into the price of what you purchase, not added on at the end.  VAT rates range from 9%-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 VAT 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

Horizon Tax Free Shopping card Ireland
Horizon Tax Free Shopping card

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!

 

19 COMMENTS

  1. Where to find: How to proceed through check-in, security, customs, etc., plus maps of the Dublin airport.

    Also, is it better to order Horizon card before we leave on September 14, 2017? Or is it just as easy to receive one at the first place in Ireland we make a purchase? Is the hang-up that it has to be activated first before you use it at the store?

      I have a very thorough article about arrival and departure from Dublin Airport: https://irelandfamilyvacations.com/dublin-airport-tips-arrival-departure/regions-and-counties/dublin/ No maps, I’m afraid, the airport website doesn’t even have them. But Dublin airport is small- just 2 terminals- so you don’t need to worry about getting lost. 🙂 I did find an airport map here: http://maps-dublin.com/dublin-airport-map

      No need to order a Horizon card- you will receive it at the first store that utilizes their service. No, it doesn’t have to be set up before use, but it is handy to have it set up before you arrive at the airport to depart.

      Hope that answers your questions! Safe travels!

    I just applied for the Horizon card. Do they just mail this to my home prior to us leaving????

      Hi Rhonda. Yes, if you applied for it you should receive it in the mail. That said, there is no need to apply for it in advance, the shops that utilize it will have it available for you to pick up with your first applicable purchase.

    Check in took forever and we had such little time after check in before our flight left Dublin and there was a line to feed your receipts in a machine. I just grabbed a form and an envelope and mailed my VAT receipts in when we arrived home. It took a little longer to get our refund about 4 weeks but I did receive them through Horizon.

    I kept copies of all our receipts just in case something happened with he post. This is always an option too.

      I always advise at least 3 hours to get through Dublin Airport and not be rushed- it truly does take that long in the high season (and not much less at all other times.)
      All the VAT refund options do offer a mail in option if you can’t complete at the airport- but they can be a hassle to fulfill all the requirements (and they do vary by company). I highly recommend filling out your forms and having them ready to drop off when you arrive at the airport.

      That is what I did, mailed the receipts in the provided envelop from home… my mum had a Horizon card, but I didn’t… I had no problems getting my refund… but I’m prepared for my next trip (hopefully, next spring – that’s the plan, fingers crossed), I ordered a Horizon card… just need to remember to use it!..

      Bob is right, Dublin is not the easiest airport… I printed out Jody’s instructions on how to proceed through check-in, security, customs, etc., plus maps of the airport from the DUB website… every now & then I take it all out & study it… maybe be the time I go, I’ll have it learned well enough that I won’t be in a panic!..

        Tip: There is no need to pre-order a Horizon card; you can get one at the first retailer that uses the system. You do have to register it, though, before you can secure your VAT.

    There should only be one company looking after refunds.
    I think I am right in saying that many years ago the Revenue department looked after refunds themselves.
    Terminal 1 at Dublin Airport lacks any booth has only post boxes,My last two visits to Ireland on the worlds largest planes terminal 1 was where we they unloaded and loaded us.
    Is terminal 1 considered somewhat of a lesser terminal than 2.
    Dublin not the easiest of Airports.
    As I struggled with all the bits of paper I noticed 3 people give up in despair.
    I agree that Horizon card is best method.

      It would definitely be easier if there were only one option, but if you plan ahead and have everything ready to drop off, it really isn’t that bad. So, my goal is to let people know what to expect ahead of time and hopefully help them reclaim all the VAT.
      I don’t know if Terminal 1 is ‘lesser’, though I believe it receives fewer long haul flights than terminal 2, so it may offer fewer VAT type services. I do agree- Dublin is not the easiest of airports.

    I spent over $400.00 at Blarney Woolen Mills but forgot to give the sales clerk my Horizon card. The sales slip shows vat deduction. Did not have time at the airport to go to Horizon kiosk . How do I get refunded the vat amount?
    My other purchases are showing on the taxrefund site

      Hi Dorothy. It can be a bit of work to claim your refund after leaving Ireland but it can be done. You just have to figure out if the amount of money is worth he time and effort.

      Shop Tax Free has the details on their website (scroll to the bottom: #2 No Time to Leave Documents). Steps include filing a report online, taking necessary papers to a notary public, then filling out an mailing reports.

      Do be sure to keep copies of everything in case you need the paper trail to support your case.

      Good luck!

    Thanks for the info. I went to Ireland last year & didn’t know any of this. Is there an expiration date on the Horizon Card? I’m planning to go again, but it might be a year or two.

      Great question! I have re-used Horizon cards without a problem. I recommend checking the card before you leave to make sure it is still activated and the information is correct.
      But if you happen to lose or discard your Horizon card, no worries. You can get another when you return- you just have to activate it.

        Jody

        Thanks for this tip. I have applied for the card. Hopefully it will arrive prior to our trip in March.

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