How can I claim VAT back at the airport?
Welcome to the website of the Federal Foreign Office
The prices of German goods include 19% value added tax (VAT). If goods are purchased and exported by a customer residing outside the European Union, the VAT can be refunded. This is a tax relief from the German state towards the seller, which most businesses pass on to the customer. However, there is no obligation to do so.
What do I have to do to get a VAT refund?
1. When purchasing the goods in Germany, the customer must inform the seller that the goods are intended for export outside of Europe. He will then be issued with an export and customer certificate. Many stores have passed the VAT refund to the Tax Free Shopping Service. In these cases you will receive a "Tax Free Shopping Check" instead of the export certificate.
2. When leaving the Federal Republic of Germany, these forms must be presented to the German customs authorities together with your passport (as proof of your non-European residence) and the purchased goods in their original state so that the export can be confirmed. Please note that the items must be brought abroad before the end of the third calendar month following the purchase.
3. The export certificates must then be sent to the respective shop in which the exported goods were purchased. If you have received a Tax Free Shopping Check, you may be able to get the VAT expenses back in cash, as this agency has several offices at larger airports. Otherwise, the checks must be mailed to the address given on the back of the checks. Please do not forget to enter your account number or your credit card number.
Export certificate from a German diplomatic mission abroad
Only in justified exceptional cases, if it was not possible to obtain the confirmation on the export form from a German customs office upon departure, the export confirmation can be issued by the German diplomatic mission responsible for you. The same requirements apply for this as for the export confirmation by a German customs office.
So the customer must present:
- the purchased goods (unworn or unused, in their original packaging and with a price tag)
- his passport with a registered residence in a country outside the European Union at the time of purchase of the goods as well
- the original invoices with export forms or tax free shopping checks.
You can find out which German diplomatic mission is responsible for you using our consulate finder:
Please note that an export certificate can only be issued for goods purchased in Germany (i.e. not for goods purchased in other EU countries).
Please note that the prerequisite for the tax exemption is that the item is exported before the end of the third calendar month following the month of purchase. If the purchased goods are later presented to the responsible German diplomatic mission abroad, the timely export must also be substantiated by suitable documents (e.g. flight ticket).
The fee for issuing export and customer certificates is 25 euros for every single invoice. The fee can be paid in cash (equivalent in US dollars at the current exchange rate) or with an international credit card (debited in euros; additional fees from the credit card company may apply).
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