How to Get Your VAT Refund from Luxury Shopping in Paris

When I took my first trip to France, I planned to do some luxury shopping in Paris. Since I initially had no idea about the VAT refund, I could have easily missed out on a sizable refund from my afternoon spending money on Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This post will break down all the important things I learned about how to get your VAT refund in France with no snags.

And if you enjoy this post, you’ll love my full Paris solo itinerary for women!

colorful leather handbags, black boots, and a pink and animal print scarf on display in a Parisian designer store.

What is the VAT refund in France?

Wondering what is VAT refund for tourists? VAT stands for value added tax and is similar to the sales tax we pay on purchases here in the United States. In Paris and other EU (European Union) countries, nonresident visitors are subject to this tax but can get it refunded for certain eligible items.

If you are buying designer pieces on your French vacation, you’ll want to make sure to get that refund. Currently the vat rate is 20%, which is nothing to sneeze at on luxury items. So for any of you dreaming about buying your first Chanel bag in Paris, that VAT return will be significant. Here’s how to make sure you get it!

Paris VAT Refund Qualifications

An item must be new and unused in order to be VAT refund eligible. This means you should avoid wearing those shiny new Italian leather shoes until you get back home. Here’s what I actually wore in Paris without busting out the brand new shoes or bag I bought.

Currently the minimum item price for an item to be eligible is 175 Euros, which you can easily spend on even a keychain at any high end shops in Paris. Note that refunds are given on merchandise but not services like transportation or lodging.

By the way, the hotel I stayed at in Paris was fabulous. Read my honest review of Hotel des Grands Boulevards!

How to Claim Your VAT Return

Different retailers have varying processes for value added tax refunds, which range from refunding your method of payment immediately after purchase to issuing you documents to fill out and submit for a refund later. In any case, you’ll need to have your items and documentation validated at the border or airport then submit them within three months to either secure your refund or avoid it being cancelled.

My experience was somewhere in between, with the merchant filling out all the paperwork for me at the time of purchase and providing instructions for me to follow when I got to the airport. Many luxury stores will try to make the process as painless as possible.

At the recommendation of my YSL shopper, I registered with Global Blue, which allows me to track my refund. Global Blue is also a third party VAT refund handler at CDG airport in Paris and Paris Gare de Nord train station and they gave me the option of getting cash on the spot or an ACH transfer back to my credit card.

Registration is free but there may be a small service fee for the immediate refund process. And you can can use Global Blue across retailers and even countries so I recommend it.

Here’s how I use a travel credit card to save on my adventures and see the world in style!

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Make your eligible purchase of new merchandise €175 or more on one receipt and collect the necessary forms from the cashier.
  2. Complete the forms, if necessary, and present along with your receipt and unused merchandise for inspection to an airport or border customs agent.
  3. Next, take the forms to the VAT Refund Service desk/kiosk to submit them and have your refund processed. If you’re pressed for time, you can instead mail the forms back within three months.
  4. Pat yourself on the back for saving money while shopping abroad.

Round out your Paris itinerary plan with a daytrip to Champagne, night at Crazy Horse cabaret, and visiting Goutte d’Or neighborhood, too!

Jazzmine taking a mirror selfie in a mimosa colored crossbody bag at YSL store in Paris.
Jazzmine trying on a pair of cream colored mink mule heels at YSL store in Paris.

Jazzmine trying on items at the Montaigne Saint Laurent store in Paris, France

Which designer brands are cheaper in Paris?

While planning an epic Parisian vacation I kept seeing the question is luxury shopping cheaper in Paris pop up and found from research and firsthand experience that it really can be. Let’s get into why.

Due to things like export tariffs, shipping costs, insurance, etc. most goods are less expensive and more accessible in and around their place of origin. So French brands like Balmain, Céline, Dior, Givenchy, and more can cost less not only in France but also other EU countries that are nearby or house designer manufacturing facilities.

This is why when I was shopping at the Saint Laurent flagship store in Paris, I not only found better prices but also more expansive selection than what I could get shopping online or in-store in the US!

And this was before I even factored in the VAT returns because, remember, I was completely unaware of the concept at first.

Another factor that can work in the favor of an American shopper is currency conversion. If you happen to visit Paris will the US dollar is stronger against the Euro, you might save even more!

Check out a video of my Paris luxury shopping experience at the Saint Laurent flagship store in my Paris vacation vlog.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get my refund after leaving Paris

If you retained your receipt(s) and got your VAT refund form stamped but did not submit it before departing, you can still mail it in within three months. Just review the information on the form.

Do you pay tax on VAT refund?

The answer is that it depends on how you itemize your expenses when you file your income tax return. There’s currently not great guidance on this from the IRS.

More Favorite Moments from Paris

I hope this Paris France VAT refund tourist guide is helpful for your next Parisian adventure. And sharing is caring so be sure to pin this guide for later and follow me over on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!

chic leather handbags and boots on display in a high-end shop with text overlay: how to get your VAT refund luxury shopping in Paris.
rows of folded Euros in different denominations with text overlay: how to get a VAT refund shopping in Paris.
Sunny view of the city of Paris including several buildings and the Eiffel Tower with text overlay: tips for luxury shopping in Paris.

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