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 your VAT refund information ready to be turned in at the airport before you leave.
What is the VAT?
Simply put, VAT is Value Added Tax. The easiest thing to equate it to in the United 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-European Union visitors to Ireland can get a VAT refund quite easily- you just have to be sure to get the forms when you make a purchase totaling €75 or more (per receipt) and you must remember to file the paperwork before you leave Ireland.
All goods must leave Ireland within 3 months of purchase (the length of a tourist visa).
VAT and Ireland Shopping Tips
While VAT is added to most goods purchased in Ireland, you will not receive a refund on every item you buy. Hotel stays, car rental, and restaurant meals are a few of the purchases you will make that do not offer a VAT refund.
Most stores will recognize you as a tourist, but 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.
Read More: Best Ireland Souvenirs for Everyone You Know
With Planet you are provided a detailed receipt upon checkout. It 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 Ireland, you need to fill out the bottom of the receipt and either post it or turn it in at the Planet counter at the airport when you leave Ireland.
Tip: Multiple receipts for Planet can be inserted into a single envelope as long as the refund is for a single person or family. Different people, separate envelopes.
FEXCO Tax Free Shopping
My favorite system, because you don't have dozens of receipts to deal with, is the Horizon card from FEXCO Tax Free. 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 at both Dublin and Shannon airports, making it easy to claim your VAT at your point of departure. 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. The Horizon card also offers exclusive discounts, so it is handy to check the website before you travel.
Global Tax Refund Shopping
Much like Planet, Global Blue provides you with a detailed receipt to be turned in as you leave Ireland. Unlike other refunds, Global Blue will refund cash to you in your currency of choice. Refunds to your credit card are also an option.
Tip: Global Blue also has an app to track refunds and find nearby locations that offer tax free savings.
In Store Refunds
Some stores, often larger retailers, may 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.
Turning in Your VAT Refund at the Airport
You will find the VAT refund locations just past security and before the customs office at both Dublin Airport and Shannon Airport.
Do be sure to figure in time at the airport to visit the VAT desks. While it is often a quick process, queues can form and cause a wait.
Money Saving Ireland Shopping Tip
When using a credit or debit card you should always pay in local currency.
Though Dynamic Currency Conversion offers the ability to pay in your home currency always pay in the local currency – Euros in the Republic of Ireland and Pounds in Northern Ireland- to get the best exchange rate.
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