If you are visiting the UK from a Non-EU country you may be eligible to shop 'tax-free' when purchasing equipment from our store in Chiswick, London. Its proximity to Heathrow airport makes us a very convenient place to get your dive equipment, receive your necessary export documentation and head off to the airport.
There are a few rules and regulations about who, how and what can be purchased this way so read on for all the details.
What is VAT?
Value added tax (VAT) is a sales tax placed on goods and services you purchase as a private consumer. As a 'visitor' to the EU who is returning home or going on to another non-EU country, you may be eligible to buy goods free of VAT in stores that other the service such as Mike's Dive Store.
Who is a ‘visitor’?
If you permanently or habitually live in a country outside the EU then you are considered a visitor. The address shown in your passport or other national identity document will be taken as the place where you permanently or habitually live.
‘Tax-free’ shopping: how is the VAT refunded?
Can’t I just pay the VAT-free price in the shop?
Unfortunately not. There are formalities that you must comply with before you can reclaim the VAT such as proving the goods were exported within a certain time frame. If you were able to shop without paying VAT the system would be open to abuse and there would be no incentive to prove the goods were exported from the EU
As a result you will need to pay the full, VAT-inclusive price for the goods in the shop; you will get the VAT refunded once you have complied with the formalities and can show proof of export.
How do I do this?
- When you are in the shop, tell the our staff in advance that you would like to export your purchases outside of the EU.
- When ready to purchase your goods the shop assistant will ask you to provide proof that you are a visitor to the EU. You will need to show your passport or other identity document proving your residence outside the EU.
- The shop assistant will ask you to fill in a VAT 407 form (example below) with the necessary details. This form is not available for download or ordered online. You may be asked to show your ticket as proof you are leaving the EU by the last day of the third month from purchase. The shop assistant will fill in our part of the form.
- Make sure you understand exactly what you need to do and how you receive the refund. Once your reclaim form has been stamped at Customs and the form returned to us as proof of export we will action the VAT refund. Please note that the refund can take between 6 and 12 weeks.
- We charge a £10 administrative fee for this service (which will be later deducted from the refunded amount).
- You will receive an invoice for the goods. You must show the invoice, the refund form, the goods and any other necessary documents to the customs officers of the last EU country you leave. The customs officers must stamp the form as proof of export. Without the stamp, you will not obtain the refund.
- You must then follow the steps explained on your refund document or by our sales staff.
Will I get all the VAT refunded?
There is a £10 administrative charge for this service which is deducted from your VAT refund before it is processed.
Can someone else go to the shop for me?
No. You must be there in person in order to make a VAT-free purchase, although you do not have to pay for the goods yourself.
Where can I complain if I did not receive the refund?
Please contact us if the usual 6 to 12 week period has passed and you have not received your VAT refund. The European Commission does not intervene in particular cases of VAT refund to foreign visitors.
Can all goods be bought VAT-free?
No. There are some goods that do not qualify. The facility is intended for goods that could in principle be carried in personal luggage. Goods that have to be exported as freight are excluded.
How soon do the goods have to leave the EU?
The goods you buy VAT-free must leave the EU by the end of the third month after that in which you buy them.
For example if you purchased on the 10th September you must leave EU territory with the goods no later than 31 December.
Do I need to take the goods with me when I leave the EU?
Yes. The goods must accompany you when you leave the EU. You cannot buy VAT-free goods if for any reason, you cannot or do not wish to take the goods with you when leaving the EU. You have to be ready to demonstrate those goods to the customs officer who will stamp your VAT refund form.
Do I have to leave the EU straight away from the country where I purchased goods?
No. You can buy VAT-free goods even if you are going to be visiting other EU countries before you finally return home, as long as you actually leave the EU with the goods within the time limit. You have to get your documents stamped by a customs officer at the point of exit of the EU – not necessary in the same EU country where you bought it.
Be careful if you leave the EU by train!
You may be able to get the VAT refund documents stamped at certain train stations of the departure. However, you might also need to get off the train at the last station within the EU to get this stamp. Other methods could also apply (e.g. a customs officer might be boarding the train) .
This depends on the trains’ route and the internal arrangements in each EU country.
What if I did not get a stamp?
The stamped VAT refund document is obligatory for VAT refund.
The information above is intended for private customers purchasing for personal use. If you are a business looking to purchase dive equipment we are also able to supply goods VAT free if you provide your VAT number. Please contact us if you would like to know more.