Visitors to Ireland from outside the European Union (EU) can buy goods in Ireland to take home with them and benefit from tax relief. Tax relief is not allowed on services, for example, hotel accommodation, meals or car hire.
The Retail Export Scheme operates in two ways.
Tax relief on purchases effectively means a reduction of 18.7% on the normal sale price of goods.
Tax relief can also be given to EU residents who can provide evidence that they are going to live outside the EU for a period of at least one year.
In addition to the Retail Export Scheme, retailers can also send directly to the tourist's home (outside the EU only) goods ordered or purchased by them. Where this takes place, no tax is payable by the tourist.
Usually, proof of export is the purchase invoice stamped by Customs at the last point of departure from the EU. For example, you buy goods in Ireland and then travel to Great Britain before you leave the EU, you must have the relevant invoices stamped by British Customs authorities. Irish Customs authorities will only stamp invoices for you if you are leaving the EU directly from Ireland.
If you are unable to have the invoice stamped by the relevant Customs authorities at the point of departure or have not used the services of a VAT-refunding agency, you can still have the documentation stamped in your own country by a person of official status (for example, by Customs or the police) before returning it to the retailer in Ireland.
Many retailers operate the refund scheme using VAT-refunding agencies that arrange for the tourist or visitor to benefit from the tax concession. VAT-refunding agencies operate independently of the tax authorities:
There are three variations in how these agencies operate:
Individual invoices for purchases of up to €635 may be lodged directly with the agency refund booths at Dublin and Shannon airports without a Customs stamp. Invoices for purchases over €635 must always be presented by you to Customs for stamping. In the event that the agency refund booths are closed, a Customs stamp will always be required.
It is important for you to retain your own copy of the invoice received from the retailer for future reference. If you are mailing an invoice back for refund, it is advisable to keep a photocopy.
Where an individual item costs €2,000 or more (including VAT), it must be presented to Customs, along with the receipt/voucher, before any VAT refund will be approved.
The retailer or agency is obliged to make the refund within five weeks at the latest after receiving of your invoice. If a refund is not received, you should contact the retailer or agency concerned.
If you are having difficulty getting your refund, you can contact the Revenue Commissioners, VAT Interpretation Branch, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2 (see where to apply). It should be noted, however, that the Revenue Commissioners do not administer the Retail Export Scheme OR make refunds directly to tourists under the scheme.
In order to cover administration costs, retailers and VAT-refunding agencies usually charge an administration fee. All retailers and VAT-refunding agencies are obliged to clearly indicate the level of this fee. Similarly, agencies making refunds in foreign currency are obliged to indicate the exchange rate used.
If you are having difficulty obtaining your refund, you can contact the Revenue Commissioners, VAT Interpretation Branch, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2.
More information on the Retail Export Scheme is available on Revenue's website.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.