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Frequently Asked Questions on tax-free shopping in France

How to shop tax-free with Airvat tax refund app

  • Say goodbye to high fees! Download the app and register your account before making purchases in person or online in France.
  • You can shop in all stores that will issue an invoice (or “facture” in French) in the name of Airvat (see “How to get a valid invoice?”). Cash register receipts, credit card receipts, or shop’s own VAT refund forms are not acceptable.
  • Upload clear images of your invoices into the app as early as possible.
  • You can upload as many invoices as you wish and each invoice can be of any value, however, in total you must have at least €100.01 of verified purchases to qualify for a VAT refund.
  • Finished shopping? Generate an electronic tax-free form before departure, which will display a barcode in the app.
  • Scan the barcode from your phone at a self-service Customs kiosk located in all the French international airports and train stations, including Calais Eurotunnel and ferry port.
  • Ensure that you have all your unused shopping ready as occasionally you may be selected for a Customs inspection.
  • If France is not your final exit point from the EU, or if there is no Customs kiosk at your departure point (such as some road border crossings), you will need to print your tax-free form and get a manual Customs stamp instead.
  • VAT refund will be paid directly to your bank account without any hidden fees or exchange rate mark-up after your form has been validated by Customs.

What invoices are valid for tax refund with Airvat

  • Cash register receipts, credit card receipts, or shop’s own VAT refund forms are not acceptable.
  • The invoice must be issued in the name of Airvat and contain the following information:
    1. State Airvat as the customer or buyer
    2. Retailer’s name, address, and VAT number
    3. VAT rate and amount
    4. Invoice date and number
    5. Goods description and quantity
  • You must upload a full clear image of the entire invoice capturing all four corners.
  • Invoice images taken from screens of other devices or photocopies are not accepted.

How to get a valid invoice

  • You will need to ask the store to issue an invoice (or “facture” in French) in the name of Airvat before making a purchase.
  • The information required to issue invoices in the name of Airvat is listed below. In the app you will find a handy invoice request screen to help you communicate this to the sales assistant.
    Airvat EURL
    10 rue de Penthièvre,
    75008, Paris
    SIRET 90084709600014
    (optional information)
    TVA FR 50900847096
    (optional information)
  • Don’t ask for the shop’s own VAT refund form, or mention “tax-free” to avoid confusion. Instead, simply ask: “Please could I have a ‘facture’?” and show the in-app invoice request screen.
  • Most shops will be able to issue an invoice instantly at the checkout by entering Airvat’s company details into their cash register system.
  • We strongly recommend asking the shop assistant for the invoice before making a purchase to avoid any disappointment after you have made a payment.
  • You do not need to justify yourself when asking for an invoice to be issued to Airvat. Every shop has a legal obligation to issue an invoice if requested by the customer.

Difficulties getting a valid invoice

  • Occasionally you might experience difficulties getting an invoice in the name of Airvat.
  • Some shops may have older cash registers that are not capable of issuing instant invoices. Instead the retailer’s back-office would have to process your request, which may take several days.
  • There is also a chance of the sales assistant just not being familiar with the retailer’s invoicing procedure. In this case ask to talk to the manager, or try another branch of the same retailer where staff could be more helpful.
  • Other shops, in particular the well-known luxury brands, may misleadingly insist that they can’t issue an Airvat invoice or that they don't sell to companies. This is usually because they are incentivised to promote their affiliated tax refund operator by receiving a sizable commission from your transaction.
  • While shops can’t legally stop you from using your preferred tax refund operator, they might make it extra hard or confusing for you. Hopefully we have provided enough information to help you assert your consumer rights and unlock extra savings by using the Airvat app for your tax-free shopping.
  • Remember that ultimately the shop wants to make a sale! If you are insistent on getting an Airvat invoice and prepared to walk away, a good sales assistant will always find a way to meet your demands.

How to get an invoice at Galeries Lafayette

  • Go to the concierge services desk (called “La conciergerie” in French) located on the 2nd floor of Lafayette Coupole, Galeries Lafayette.
  • Typically there will be an English speaking assistant to help you raise the invoice in the name of Airvat.

Does having an Airvat invoice affect my product warranty or insurance

  • No, but if in doubt, you can request for your name to be included alongside Airvat's company details on the invoice.

How long does invoice verification take

  • Upload your invoices as early as possible. This will allow sufficient time for the purchases to be reviewed.
  • Most invoices are processed within 4 hours, however, this can take longer during busy periods or outside of usual business hours.
  • In the unlikely event that your invoices have not been processed within 24 hours, or you have an imminent departure, please contact us at info@airvat.com

Who is eligible to shop tax-free

  • Anyone, aged 16 years or older, who does not permanently live in the EU and is visiting for a holiday or on business for less than 6 months.
  • EU nationals living outside the EU and returning on a visit to the EU. (Note: in the app you will need to provide proof of your non-EU residency e.g. foreign visa, residence permit, consular registration certificate, green card, or utility bill issued no longer than 3 months ago. For French nationals only, proof of consular registration outside the EU is required).
  • Non-EU residents studying or working in the EU for less than 6 months can get a tax refund on purchases made in the final 3 months before permanently moving out of the EU.
  • Following Brexit, UK residents, including the Channel Islands (e.g. Jersey, Guernsey), as well as Gibraltar are now eligible to shop tax free in the EU. However, residents of Northern Ireland are excluded from the scheme.
  • Residents of the following territories are also eligible for tax-free shopping: Andorra, the Vatican, San Marino, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, the Wallis and Futuna Islands, French Polynesia, the Faroe Islands, the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, Bonaire, Saint Eustace and Saba, the Dutch part of Saint Martin, the island of Helgoland and territory of Büsingen, Livigno, Campione d'Italia, Mount Athos, the Åland Islands, Greenland, Curaçao.
  • Exceptions:
    1. All EU residents as well as residents of Monaco, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Mayotte and Reunion, Northern Ireland.
    2. Diplomats and consular personnel stationed in the EU.
    3. International transport workers making purchases during work trips (e.g. lorry drivers, cabin crew, etc.).
    4. Non-EU residents studying or working in the EU for over 6 months.

What purchases qualify for VAT refund

  • Almost all personal goods, bought in person or on-line, where the invoice has been issued in the name of Airvat (also see “How to get a valid invoice?”).
  • Most common tax-free shopping purchases are clothes, fashion accessories, jewellery, portable electronics, watches, cosmetics, souvenirs, and edible gifts (e.g. chocolate, cheese, salami).
  • Goods must be taken out of the EU in your personal luggage by the end of the third month following the month of purchase.
  • Your items must be unused, still in their original packaging, and be available for Customs inspection when leaving the EU.

What purchases don’t qualify for tax refund

  • Purchases for which the retailer already issued their own VAT refund form.
  • Services (e.g. hotel stays, tickets, restaurant food, car rentals).
  • Used or partially consumes items, e.g. opened perfume bottles.
  • Goods not exported in your personal luggage but instead sent by courier or post directly to your home country.
  • Goods intended for resale or commercial use.
  • Anything that you can’t physically put in your luggage to take home and show to Customs for inspection before departure.
  • Car fuel or petroleum products.
  • Tobacco.
  • Restricted goods such drugs, medicine, chemicals, weapons, explosives.
  • Dual-use items, i.e. goods that can be used for both civil and military purposes such as curtain drones, night vision goggles.
  • Motorised vehicles as well as their parts (but excluding accessories such as car radios).
  • Personal mobility (e.g. scooters, quad bikes, snowmobiles, karts, but excluding bikes and e-bikes less 250 watts).
  • Historic art, cultural goods, and antiques older than 50 years.
  • Any goods requiring export licences or affected by sanctions.

Can I claim VAT refund on alcohol and cigarettes

  • You cannot refund VAT on manufactured tobacco goods (e.g. cigarettes, cigars, loose tobacco). However this does not include electronic cigarettes and e-liquids which are eligible for tax-free shopping.
  • You can refund VAT on alcohol purchases provided they do not exceed below allowance. Be sure to check the import allowance of your destination country as it might differ from what you can export from France (for the UK, please read here):
    1. 90 litres of fermented drinks (e.g. still wine, beer, cider),
    2. 20 litres of drinks with alcohol content not exceeding 22% (e.g. port, sherry, champain, madeira, vermouth)
    3. 10 litres of spirit/liquors (e.g. whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, tequila, brandy, limoncello).

Returning or exchanging tax-free purchases

  • If your invoice has been accepted by us but you decided to return or exchange the item, delete the item in the app and generate a new tax-free form.
  • If you decide to return a particular item after receiving a VAT refund, you will need to see Customs officers yourself when crossing the border on your next visit and show the Airvat tax-free form. Customs will collect the required VAT from you and issue a receipt. After completing this procedure, you can return the item to the store and receive a refund.

Can I get VAT refund on online shopping

  • Yes! You can order online even before arriving in France and have the goods delivered to your hotel or friends.
  • Ordering online and collecting your purchases at the retailer’s shop is also eligible for a VAT refund (i.e. click and collect service).
  • The online store must have a French tax registration or be registered for the EU VAT one-stop-shop (also known as OSS). Look for a VAT number (TVA in French) starting with FR on the retailer's website or in the terms and conditions. If in doubt, you can contact their support team for a confirmation.
  • Order confirmation emails or pro-forma documents are not acceptable, you must obtain a full invoice from the retailer. Your purchase invoice must be issued in the name of Airvat (see “How to get a valid invoice?”). For this you will usually be able to specify Airvat’s details in the “billing address” section in addition to your own delivery address, or contact support for the invoice
  • Important: Also do not specify the Airvat address for delivery as we will not be able to accept any parcels for you.
  • The goods must be delivered in France and exported in your personal luggage. Also be sure to create your Airvat app account before making internet purchases and uploading online shopping invoices.
  • All the other conditions for tax-free shopping apply as normal.

What is the minimum purchase requirement for a VAT refund in France

  • There is no minimum spend requirement per purchase with Airvat, however, you must have at least €100.01 in total across the sum of all your verified invoices in order to become eligible for a VAT refund.
  • You can upload as many invoices as you wish and each invoice can be of any value.

What is a tax-free form

  • A tax-free form, also known as VAT refund form, is a simplified export declaration.
  • The tax-free form contains some officially required information, such as your passport details, home address, which you provide when registering your Airvat account.
  • Airvat app will generate an electronic tax-free form in the app listing all of your verified purchases after you have finished shopping. There will also be a corresponding invoice attached to the tax-free form.
  • To validate your refund simply scan the tax-free form’s barcode from your phone at self-service PABLO kiosks located in all French international airports and train stations, including Calais Eurotunnel and ferry port.
  • If France is not your final exit point from the EU, or if there is no PABLO kiosk at your departure point (such as some road border crossings), you will need to print your tax-free form and get a manual Customs stamp instead.
  • Ensure that the information listed in the tax-free form is accurate as it can be checked together with your purchases if you are selected for a Customs inspection.

What do I need to do before departure

  • Simply scan the barcode from your phone at a self-service PABLO kiosk before departure to validate your refund.
  • PABLO kiosks are located in all the international airports and train stations, Calais Eurotunnel and ferry port.
  • Arrive 2 hours in advance to complete the authorization before checking-in any luggage.
  • Make sure to have all your shopping still unused and in its original packaging as listed on the tax-free form.
  • PABLO will either authorise your refund, or occasionally request to proceed to the Customs desk for inspection. That’s it, we will notify you by email when your refund is on its way.
  • If France is not your final exit point from the EU, or if there is no PABLO kiosk at your departure point (such as some road border crossings), you will need to print your tax-free form and get a manual Customs stamp instead.
  • Take a full clear image of each page of the stamped form or upload a pdf scan into the app before we can refund your tax. Occasionally, especially in case of high value purchases, we may request you to send us the stamped paper original form before making a refund payment.
  • Important! Customs will invalidate the entire refund if you part consume or fail to show any of the items listed on your tax form. It is a serious offence to make fraudulent VAT refund claims, which can result in missed departures, goods confiscation, or penalties of up to €1,500. French Customs carry out over 220,000 spot checks each year to prevent VAT refund fraud. Don’t take chances!

Can the tax-free form be authorised after departure from the EU

  • Yes, but only in case of absence of Customs service at your departure point (late arrival or long queues at the airport are not good reasons).
  • You can receive the authorization (known as posteriori procedure) at a French embassy or consular service in your home country within 6 months of goods purchase date.
  • Some French embassies, such as in London and Washington, have a Customs Attache who can carry out the posteriori procedure and electronically validate the tax-free form (see here for the full list of locations).
  • You will need to either present:
    1. a confirmation that import duties and taxes have been paid, or
    2. your travel documents, ticket, and all the unused items listed on your tax-free form.
  • Either box A of the tax-free form will be stamped or a certificate of goods presentation will be issued.
  • Take a full clear image of each page of the document or upload a pdf scan into the app before we can refund your tax.
  • Alternatively, you can request for posteriori authorisation by writing to closest applicable office at the direction regionale des douanes et droits indirects (DGDDI) depending on your departure points (see here for the full list of locations) and stating:
    1. Reason for not getting Customs stamp upon exit from the EU,
    2. Details of your exit point from the EU,
    3. Include scans of your passport and proof of residency, tax-free form, and the transport ticket.
    4. Evidence of export (either a certificate of goods presentation from a French consulate or embassy, or import duties payment receipt).
  • If your request is accepted, the tax-free form will be authorised electronically.

I have a layover flight, where should I get my tax-free form authorised

  • If you have a connecting flight with a short stopover flight that leaves the EU within 24 hours after your departure from a French airport, French Customs will typically be able to validate your tax-free form.
  • If you are making an extended stopover enough to leave the airport or continuing your trip to another EU country before flying home, you will need to print the Airvat tax-free form in order to get a manual Customs stamp at your final EU departure airport.
  • However, if you are checking-in your shopping as hold luggage that would travel directly to the final destinations outside the EU, French Customs will validate your tax-free form.

When do I receive my refund

  • VAT refund will be paid after your tax-free form has been validated electronically by Customs or an image of the manually stamped form has been uploaded into the app.
  • You will receive a notification from us when the refund payment is on its way.

How do I receive my refund

  • Select your prefered refund method inside the app.
  • We support Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, WeChat Pay, and bank transfers.
  • Your refund method can be different to how you paid for the goods, however, the account details for the payment of the refund must be registered in your name and linked to your permanent non-EU residence address.
  • We do not offer cash refunds at the airport. All payments will be made electronically directly into your nominated account.
  • Your refund amount as stated on the tax form will be paid in EUR and converted by your receiving bank into the currency of your nominated account.
  • Airvat does not charge any hidden payment fees or mark-up the exchange rate.

Does Airvat charge any fees or commissions

  • Yes. We take a flat 20% fee from the VAT amount without any hidden charges or exchange rate mark-up.
  • Your tax-free form will state the refund amount. You can also view this information inside the app as you make purchases, or it can be calculated using our VAT refund calculator.

Any other questions?

Email us at info@airvat.com