Tax-free purchases for non-EU travellers
Visitors to Ireland from outside the European Union (EU) can buy goods in Ireland to take home with them and benefit from tax relief. This is called the Retail Export Scheme. It includes visitors from Great Britain, but does not include people resident in Northern Ireland.
Tax relief is not allowed on services, for example, hotel accommodation, meals, or car hire. The visitor must provide proof that they are a visitor from outside the EU when making each purchase. The proof includes evidence of the place of residence, inbound and outbound flight dates, and a signed declaration.
How the Retail Export Scheme works
The tax relief is provided under the Retail Export Scheme which operates in 2 ways.
- You pay Value-Added Tax (VAT) when making purchases and get a refund from the relevant retailer or VAT-refunding agency when the retailer or the agency receives proof that the items have been exported.
- In certain retail outlets, the goods are sold tax-free at the point of sale with or without the involvement of a VAT-refunding agency. The goods must be paid for by credit card. If the retailer or the agency does not receive proof that the goods have been exported, they charge the VAT on the goods to your credit card account.
Before making a purchase, you should confirm with the retailer that they operate the scheme. You should also clarify whether the retailer is operating the scheme or with a VAT-refunding agency.
If an agency is being used, you should follow the agency’s specific procedures when making the purchase. See 'using a VAT refund agency' below.
If the goods are being purchased without an agency, the retailer should issue you with an export voucher for the purchase. When leaving Ireland, you should get the voucher certified by Customs at the airport. The certified voucher is returned to the retailer. If VAT has been paid the retailer refunds the VAT (less any processing fee).
Conditions for tax relief
To qualify for tax relief, the following rules apply:
- You must be a resident outside of the EU.
- The goods must have a total export voucher value of more than €75 including tax.
- The goods must be exported out of the EU within 3 months from the end of the month in which they are bought. For example, goods bought during the month of January must be exported by 30 April.
- You must supply documentary proof that the goods have been exported.
Usually, proof of export, called a certification of export, is the export voucher stamped by Customs at the last point of departure from the EU. For example, if you buy goods in Ireland and then travel to Germany before you leave the EU, you must have the relevant documentation stamped by German Customs authorities. Irish Customs authorities only stamp the documentation if you have a ticket for a destination outside of the EU, valid not later than the end of the third month from the date on which the goods were purchased.
If you are unable to have the documentation 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.
There are additional conditions for residents of Great Britain. Proof of importation into Great Britain and payment of any import duties will be required in certain circumstances. You can get more details from Revenue.
Using a VAT-refunding agency
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:
Agencies use their own systems for operating the scheme, for example:
- The goods are sold tax-free at the point of sale: You fill out the agency’s tax-free form, have it signed in the shop, attach your purchase receipt to it, and return it to the agency. Your credit card will be charged the value of the tax if the documentation is not handed in at the airport or subsequently returned to the agency.
- Tax is paid at the point of sale: You follow the same procedure as above and the tax is refunded to you at the airport when you are leaving.
- Tax is paid at the point of sale: You follow the same procedure as above and the tax is refunded by the agency to you, either by post or by credit card transfer.
Some agencies use a card to record your purchases rather than forms. You swipe the card each time you make a purchase. You can get more information from the agency.
Individual tax-free forms for purchases of up to €2,000 (including VAT) may be lodged directly with the agency refund booths at the airport without a Customs stamp. Documentation for individual purchases of over €2,000 (including VAT) must always be presented by you to Customs, with the related export voucher, so that the voucher can be certified. This is necessary before a VAT refund can be processed.
You should keep your copy of the documentation received from the retailer for future reference. If you are mailing the documentation back for a 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 appropriate documentation, before any VAT refund will be approved.
If you do not receive your refund
The retailer or agency is obliged to make the refund within 25 working days of receiving your documentation. 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 (see ‘Where to apply’ below).
VAT-refunding agencies usually charge an administration fee. All retailers and VAT-refunding agencies are obliged to indicate the level of this fee. Similarly, agencies making refunds in foreign currency are obliged to indicate the exchange rate used.
Where to apply
You should contact the retailer or refund agent about claims for refunds of VAT. It should be noted that the Revenue Commissioners do not administer the Retail Export Scheme or make refunds directly to tourists under the scheme.
Retailers or refund agents can direct any enquiries to their Revenue office.
More information on the Retail Export Scheme is available on Revenue's website.