Retail export scheme

Who can use the scheme?

Tourists or travellers visiting the State from countries outside the European Union (EU) can avail of this scheme. This includes persons visiting from Great Britain, but does not include persons resident in Northern Ireland.

Who cannot use the scheme?

The following persons may not use the scheme:

  • any person resident in the State, in another EU Member State or in Northern Ireland
  • nationals of non-EU States resident in the State
  • Irish or EU citizens when leaving the State to take up residence outside of the EU.

How do you get a refund of Value-Added Tax (VAT)?

Revenue does not make refunds to tourists or travellers under the retail export scheme. It is the retailer or Value-Added Tax (VAT) refund agent who will make the VAT refund to you, on receipt of proof of export.

Before making a purchase, you should confirm with the retailer that they operate the scheme, as not all retailers do so. You should also clarify whether the retailer operates the scheme in their own right, or in conjunction with a VAT refund agent.

If you use a retailer who operates the scheme, you will receive an export voucher in respect of each purchase of qualifying goods. Vouchers, other than vouchers for high value goods, can be left in the Customs drop-box at the place of departure for certification. The certified voucher will then be returned to the retailer. The retailer will accept the certified voucher as proof of export and will then be in a position to process the claim for refund. That refund must be made to the tourist or traveller, by the retailer, within 25 days of receiving the certified voucher.

Residents of Great Britain will, in addition to the above, require evidence that the qualifying goods have been imported into Great Britain and that the import taxes and duties have been paid there where appropriate. In this regard, as the authorities in Great Britain operate a personal allowance in relation to liability for import taxes, evidence of import into Great Britain will not be requested by Revenue, where that personal allowance is not exceeded by the tourist or traveller.

When making a purchase you must prove to the retailer that you are a tourist or traveller by providing:

  • evidence of your place of residence
  • evidence of your inbound and outbound travel dates
  • a signed declaration confirming that you are a tourist or traveller and will export the goods under the terms of the scheme.

If you use a refund agent, you must follow their specific procedures at the time the qualifying goods are purchased. Other than in the case of high value goods, you should, as you exit the State, deposit your export voucher(s) with the agent. The refund agent will arrange to have the vouchers certified by Customs and will make the necessary refund to you within 25 working days of certification.

Some VAT refund agents use a card to capture details of each purchase. Such cards are swiped at the point of sale each time a tourist or traveller makes a qualifying purchase. You should follow the specific procedures as set out by the agent.

Notwithstanding the above, Customs Officers may check to ensure that the goods are being exported, so it is important that they are easily available for inspection, if required.

See section On what purchases can you reclaim VAT? for information on high value goods.

Next: On what purchases can you reclaim VAT?