The procedure of filling the ’Retail Export Form(s)’ allows travellers, residing outside of the European Union and on a visit to France for less than 6 months, to benefit from the exoneration of the VAT (Value Added Tax) on certain items purchased in stores which supply these forms (items excluded are; food, tobacco, services i.e. hotels, transportation, restaurants and tips).
The vendor will give the Retail Export Forms after the purchase of items in their store (3 page form). Within three months of the purchase date you must present the following to the Customs Office at the airport when you exit the European Union; the items purchased (with price tags attached), the proof of residence abroad (if you are a French Citizen a valid Consular Registration Card must be presented), and the Retail Export Form(s) which the Customs Officer will stamp, and must be mailed from the port of exit from the European Union.
If for a serious and valid reason your Retail Export Form(s) were not stamped by Customs upon your departure from the European Union, you may still ask for a tax refund once you return to your country of residence. However, the process is time-consuming, and may turn out to be more expensive than the amount of tax refund that you are claiming. This procedure does not guarantee a refund.
You have to address, within 6 months after the date of purchase of your goods, a request for a tax refund to the Customs office of the place where you left France.
This request must be supported by the following documents:
- A letter with exhaustive explanations of the reasons why you were not able to get your form stamped when leaving France (travelers’ carelessness or oversight can absolutely not be taken into consideration i.e late arrival at the airport, forgetting to show the items)
- An "attestation de présentation des marchandises" issued by the French Consulate that has jurisdiction over the state you live in. In order to get this document you must come to the Consulate with ALL the goods you bought (with price tags attached) and your passeport. There is a fee for each Retail Export Form (approximatively $20 per store) payable in cash or by credit card (see Fees).
- A copy of your passport
- A copy of your travel ticket stubs (plane ticket, bording pass or train ticket)
- The Retail Export Form(s) and envelope(s).
IF YOU HAVE ANY COMPLAINTS REGARDING FRENCH CUSTOMS OR CUSTOMS OFFICIALS, PLEASE FAX IT TO THE CUSTOMS OFFICE AT THE FRENCH EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON DC: 1 202 944 6517.