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VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

Los Angeles...
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VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

Hi,

I recently traveled to London & Paris. I knew about the VAT refund scheme for non EU tourists and happily did a bit of shopping in Paris. Little did I know, I would be caught up in a VAT refund disaster.

I purchased items from Chanel & Louis Vuitton and had them provide me with the appropriate VAT refund forms. I then left Paris by train to London via Gare du Nord. I asked an attendant at Gare du Nord where to file my VAT refund and was told they don't do that at the train station. Since my point of departure from the EU back to the US would be at London Heathrow Airport, they told me to get my forms processed there.

Fast forward to my arrival at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 1. I asked an attendant where to get my VAT forms processed and he directed me to a desk. I don't recall what sort of desk it was, perhaps a Travellex desk? Anyways, it seemed like I was in the right place because the couple in line ahead of me also had VAT papers in hand. I get to the front window and show the attendant my receipts and forms. I vaguely recall he asked me, "Did you get your forms stamped in Paris?" to which I replied that I was told to get them stamped in London. Anyways, the attendant processed my forms for me, asked me how I would like my refund (I said credit card), gave me back my store recipts and copy of VAT forms, and kept the forms that were to be mailed. He said everything was good to go and that I would get my refund within 3 weeks.

Fast forward a month later, I inquired about the status of my Louis Vuitton refund and was told my VAT forms were REJECTED due to a missing customs stamp! I am very confused as to how this could have happened? I'm still waiting to hear back from the Chanel tax people...

Has this happened to anyone else??

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Dunfermline, United...
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1. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

Never happened to me, but then I wouldn't dare splash the cash on those kind of items

Besides, we need the revenue. Can't make it easy for you tourists to go claiming our hard-earned tax back. Someone has to pay for it ;-)

London, United...
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2. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

And the French need it even more than we do:)

It does seem odd, if you saw them being stamped. I don't think we have heard other reports of this happening, although some posters have mentioned that CC refunds can take a couple of months.

Los Angeles...
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3. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

Global Blue emailed me a copy of the VAT forms that were submitted. It had been stamped by Travelex but the stamp was for a credit card refund approval.

What I haven't been able to figure out is: do you go to a customs desk to get your VAT forms stamped BEFORE you go to the VAT refund desk to get your forms processed/mailed? Or is Travelex/VAT refund desk a one stop shop to get your customs stamp, process, and mail your forms?

At this point, I'm thinking this error may have been the attendant's. He looked at my forms and didn't point out that the customs stamp was missing, nor did he direct me to another desk to get them stamped. He also kept all my forms to be mailed.

I checked my copy of the VAT forms and they are not stamped either...

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

It's a two step process.

1. You get you forms stamped by customs who might want to look at your goods at the same time

2. You either line up for a cash refund in a separate line (the Travelex people) OR mail your forms if you have asked for a credit card refund. There is typically a post box nearby but you can mail it from anywhere in the world as long as you supply the correct postage.

Auckland, New...
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5. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

I presume the stamp you're talking about should have been stamped on the form in the shops when you originally purchased the items.

I have never had a problem at Heathrow and I would very much doubt that it was from their end.

A few years ago you used to have to get UK customs to stamp your form as well and then go through security at Teminal 1 to the Travelex/VAT counter airside. Last year it was all done in the one transaction at the landside Travelex counter just as you describe.

Your attendant was trying to tell you the shop where you purchased the goods should have stamped the form or till receipt.

6. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

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Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

>> I wasn't aware that the stores where you made your purchases is where you get the customs stamp? <<

It's not. The customs stamp is issued by the customs agent at the point of leaving the EU.

It looks like the process is slightly different at Terminal 1 because at Terminal 3 it's as I described.

Auckland, New...
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8. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

When I claimed my VAT it was only on purchases I bought in the UK. The shops don't put on a customs stamp but fill in and sign the forms they print out and give that to you with your till receipt.

What I am saying is that Travelex process both customs and refund at the same counter now at Heathrow Terminal 1. You line up with your purchases and documentation.

Perhaps before leaving France for the UK you were supposed to get a customs stamp on departure as your purchases were from that country. I am sorry you've had this problem and hope you can get some clarification and share it on the forum. Good Luck.

Auckland, New...
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9. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

Hi Mez

Terminal 1 refunds used to be processed the same way as you describe at Terminal 3, however when I left the UK last September it had changed to how I've described and is significantly quicker.

Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: VAT Refund Disaster at London Heathrow Airport

>> Perhaps before leaving France for the UK you were supposed to get a customs stamp on departure as your purchases were from that country. <<

No, you do not.

I have done this many times and can tell you with absolute certainty the customs stamp is issued when you leave the EU.