French Customs is in no way responsible for reimbursing the VAT paid on purchases made in France. Only the retailer from whom you purchased the goods can do so.
This page sets out the key points concerning VAT refunds. It is for information purposes only, and is not a substitute for the regulations in force.
If your primary residence is in a non-EU country 2, you may be eligible for a refund of the VAT on the price of goods you purchased in France.
A stamp by the customs office at the point of departure from the EU definitively exempts the seller from collecting VAT. It is up to the seller to reimburse the VAT paid on the basis of the customs validation.
There are two refund approval methods in France:
Please note: since 1 January 2014, VAT refund forms from retailers have had to be issued using the PABLO application. Travellers must scan their forms at the PABLO terminals available at international ports and airports, as well as at the Swiss border.
Not all retailers offer the VAT exemption service.
Eligibility for VAT refunds
To qualify for a VAT refund, you must:
- Be a resident of a non-EU country 2 at the time of purchase
- Have been in France for less than six months
- Be at least 16 years old
At the time of purchase, you must be able to produce evidence of the above, such as a passport or, as an exception, an original, valid identification card if you live in a non-EU country that is part of the Schengen Area (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein).
The following individuals are ineligible for a VAT refund:
Residents of an EU Member State: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (including the Isle of Man)
Residents of the Principality of Monaco
Individuals who are leaving to take up a position in a non-EU country or non-EU territory
Individuals who are returning to live in France or in the European Union
Individuals who are definitively leaving the European Union, even if they are returning to their country of origin
Members of diplomatic or consular missions, and employees of international organisations posted to France or the European Union
Students and interns living in France or in the European Union for six months or more per year
French social security beneficiaries who are seeking a VAT refund on partly or fully reimbursable pharmaceutical products
Residents of the French overseas départements of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion
Individuals employed by transport/travel companies (air, sea and road) who are travelling as part of their professional duties
1 Since 1 July 2013, the 28 Member States of the European Union have been Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
2 Non-EU countries: countries that are not EU Member States.
The following are deemed to be non-EU countries, as they are not part of the customs territory of the European Union:
- The French overseas communities of French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy.
- The following territories of other EU Member States: the Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey, etc.), Andorra, the Faeroe Islands, the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, San Marino, the Vatican, Gibraltar, the Dutch side of Saint Martin, the island of Heligoland and the territory of Büsingen, Livigno, Campione d’Italia, Mount Athos, the Åland Islands and Greenland.
Goods that are eligible for VAT refunds
Retail purchases of a tourist nature are eligible; those of a commercial nature are not.
Some goods, due to their nature, are not eligible for VAT refunds.
- Goods subject to specific procedures (such as those covered by the Washington Convention, dual-use goods, narcotics, etc.)
- Manufactured tobacco
- Petroleum products
- Cultural goods
- Means of transport for private use, together with their equipment and supplies (food, fuel, etc.)
There are specific exceptions for the last three categories under which tax relief is possible. For more information, please contact your local French Customs office prior to departure.
Qualifying for a VAT refund
The item(s) you buy must be retail purchases of a tourist nature.
The total amount of your purchases, inclusive of all taxes, must be greater than €175. They must have been bought in the same shop and on the same day. At the time of purchase, the retailer will give you an VAT refund form, which must be signed by both the retailer and you.
By signing the form, you agree to comply with certain procedures.
When you leave EU territory and prior to checking your luggage, you must present both your purchases and the VAT refund form to customs. The concept of "luggage" may be extended to include the boot and the passenger compartment of the private means of transport.
You must do this before the end of the third month following the month in which you made the purchase(s).
NB: if all of these conditions are not met, customs will refuse to stamp your form(s).
If you leave the European Union from France
If you opt for the manual procedure, French Customs will stamp and return the two sheets of your VAT refund form to you. You then send the stamped form to the retailer.
If you opt for an electronic stamp using a PABLO terminal, the process is entirely computerised:
Please note: if you are inspected by customs during the stamping procedure (whether manual or electronic), you must show your purchases. Failure to do so will result in the cancellation of your VAT refund form and a possible fine.
If you leave the EU by train
You must have your VAT refund forms stamped by customs, either during your journey or at the border crossing station (at the EU exit point).
If you leave the EU aboard ship or by road
You must have your VAT refund forms stamped by the customs office at the final port or road exit point in the European Union.
If you leave the European Union from another Member State than France
After an inspection, the customs office of the Member State will stamp and return your forms.
- When you return to your country of residence, you send the stamped form to the retailer.
- In all cases, the retailer will, using the details and instructions you provided, send you the amount indicated in box D of the form, which corresponds to the amount of VAT to be refunded.
Retailers may also refund the VAT at the time of purchase, but this does not exempt you from carrying out the procedures described above.
Please note: the retailer must receive the appropriate sheet of the stamped form within six months of the purchase.
If your VAT refund form was not stamped
...before leaving France
This procedure does not apply to travellers who did not present the VAT refund form and/or the related purchases when exiting EU territory. However, if your VAT refund form (issued in France) was not stamped by French Customs upon your departure from the European Union for reasons attributable to French Customs, you may request retroactive certification of the form from the customs office with territorial jurisdiction.
To do so, you must submit your request within six months of the purchase date to the Regional Customs Directorate whose jurisdiction includes your point of departure from the European Union (for example, the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Regional Directorate, the Nice Regional Directorate, the Léman Regional Directorate, etc.)
You must state:
- The reasons that prevented you from completing the customs export formalities
- The name of the Customs office at your point of departure and the date of your departure from the European Union
You must enclose with your request:
- Any official document proving that your habitual place of residence is outside the European Union and that you visited France for less than six months (photocopy of passport, identity card, consular card, residence permit, etc.)
- Proof of export of the goods. This proof consists of either a receipt issued by the customs authorities in your country stating that all applicable duties and taxes have been paid, or by having an accredited authority in the French embassy or consulate issue a certificate 3 or stamp box C2 of the VAT refund form.
- The original VAT refund form stamped by the embassy or consulate and/or the certificate issued by the consulate or embassy
- A copy of your travel ticket
Please note: rectifying your VAT refund by having your VAT refund form stamped at a later date is an exceptional procedure.
3 A registry fee of 27 euros will be charged.
If your VAT refund form was not stamped and you left the EU from another Member State
If you make purchases in France but leave the European Union from another Member State, requests for regularisation should be sent to:
Direction régionale des douanes de Paris
30 rue Raoul Wallenberg
You must include the elements listed above with your request.
Your request for a customs stamp on your VAT refund form may be refused if:
- You do not have the required supporting documents
- You do not present your purchases at the same time as the VAT refund form
- The purchases for which you are requested a VAT refund are not personal in nature
- The VAT refund form that the retailer gave you is not in compliance with the regulations in force
- The period your VAT refund form was valid has expired
- The VAT refund form that the retailer gave you is not signed
- You are not the person whose name appears on the form
These are the primary grounds for refusal, but this list is not exhaustive. One of the above-mentioned grounds is enough for customs to refuse to stamp your VAT refund form.
To learn more: