Retail export scheme

How do refund agents operate the scheme?

A Value-Added Tax (VAT) refund agent provides a tourist or traveller with a refund of VAT incurred on purchases. Refunds are made only in accordance with the rules of the scheme.

The refund agent may act:

  • as the principal in relation to the supply of goods to the tourist or traveller
  • or
  • as an agent of the tourist or traveller.

The process by which the refund is provided will differ depending on whether the refund agent is a principal or an agent. 

The VAT refund agent acting as principal

In such cases, the refund agent makes a purchase of the goods from the retailer and immediately sells those goods to the tourist or traveller. Such refund agents will enter into agreements with the retailers to facilitate them acting as principals in this manner. As the agent in this scenario, you will refund the VAT to the tourist or traveller. You will process the claim for a refund of VAT under the same terms as would apply to a retailer. 

You should also advise the tourist or traveller of any fees you will charge. You should express your fees as a monetary amount, or as a percentage or a fraction of the total refund. This will include the fees that relate to procuring the refund on behalf of the tourist or traveller. The provision of this information as part of a sign-in process on your website fulfils this requirement.

You can issue a ‘card’ to the tourist or traveller for purchasing qualifying goods. The card should record the details required for the scheme. The card should be capable of producing details of all purchases for the purposes of certifying exports. However, any such card scheme must have prior approval from your Revenue office.

What information must you have to process a VAT refund?

You must have the following information before you can process a VAT refund:

  • evidence that the applicant for the refund is a tourist or traveller
  • complete documentation in relation to each supply of qualifying goods
  • evidence that the tourist or traveller has left the European Union (EU) with the goods. Please see section on Certification of Exports.

You must make the refund to the tourist or traveller not later than 25 working days from the time you receive the information listed above.

Your entitlement to apply the zero-rating to a sale only applies where all the conditions of the scheme are met.

VAT refund agent as an agent of the tourist or traveller?

The VAT refund agent is an agent of the tourist or traveller where engaged to obtain a refund of VAT on qualifying purchases, from the retailer, on behalf of the tourist or traveller. The agent must set out the full requirements necessary for the tourist or traveller to obtain a refund. 

What exchange rate should you use?

Where a refund is being made in a currency other than Euro, the rate of exchange you should use is either:

  • the official rate of exchange as published by the Central Bank of Ireland for the date on which the refund is given 
  • or
  • the official monthly average rate of exchange as published by the Central Bank of Ireland for the month in which the refund was given.

You may use other internationally recognised exchange rate sources, subject to agreement with your Revenue office.

Next: Certification of exports in the State