Shopping top tip: VAT refunds on your Barcelona shopping

VAT refund

Whatever your nationality, if you live outside the European Union you can request a refund of the VAT paid on purchases made in Barcelona. As this can be 18-20% of the price it’s well worth going to the trouble!

Conditions for a VAT refund

A VAT refund is not automatic unfortunately, and you will have to satisfy certain condition in order to qualify:

  • You live outside the EU
  • Your purchases are worth more than €90.15
  • These purchases are items that you are bringing back to your country of residence. VAT refunds do not apply to hotel bills, restaurants, car hire and consumable items. Bizarrely, car accessories are also excluded.
  • Your purchases must have been made in shops that have signed a VAT exemption agreement. You can generally tell if they have a “Tax Free” logo in the window. Most shops offer this service but not all so pay attention.

tax free

  • Your purchases need to be presented at customs in their packaging when leaving Spain. So be careful not to put them in the hold!
  • For each purchase request a VAT exemption cheque . These are provided either by Global Blue or Premier Tax Free.
  • Your VAT exemption cheque should be less than 3 months old.

Where can you get your VAT refund?

At Barcelona’s central tourist office

Since the beginning of 2014 the VAT refund process has been made easier and you can be refunded before you leave. To do this, go to the tourist office in Plaça Catalunya.

  • The office is located at 17 Plaça Catalunya. It is open Monday to Sunday from 9:30am to 9:30pm except in December and January when they are open from 9am to 3pm. The office is closed the 1st of January and 25th of December.

There you can fill in the VAT exemption cheques with your details and present your passport and credit card. You will receive cash (in euros) for the VAT amount.

Be careful to meet the following criteria:

Cheques issued by Global Blue:

  • The cheque should be no more than 10 days old.
  • The amount should not exceed €500 per person per day
  • You will need a Visa/Mastercard credit card valid for four months following the date of the refund.
  • You need to leave the European Union no more than 21 days after the refund.

Cheques issued by Premier Tax Free:

  • The cheque should be no more than 14 days old.
  • The refund amount should not exceed €600 per cheque.
  • You will need a Visa/Mastercard credit card valid for 6 months following the date of the refund.
  • You need to leave the European Union no more than 21 days after the refund.

An imprint of your credit card will be made to avoid fraud. You will not be charged if you present your items at customs in the 20 days following the refund. However, the cash received in the VAT refund will appear on your account.

At Barcelona airport

  • Warning! If you are planning to request a VAT refund at Barcelona airport, arrive early. The process can sometimes be long.

You can get a VAT refund at the airport as long as you are taking a direct flight out of the European Union.

The process is as follows: you will need to go to the airport customs office to have your refund cheques validated. Then you present your purchases to the customs officials accompanied by the relevant cheques.

To receive your money, you have two options:

  • If you have Global Blue VAT exemption cheques, head to the Global Blue office on the 3rd floor of Terminal 1, after security.
  • If you have other cheques, go to the La Caixa office on the first floor of Terminal 1.

By post

If you are leaving Barcelona by bus, train, boat or car then you may have to send your cheques by post.

To do this, go to the customs office of the transport terminal from which you are leaving the EU. There you will have to present your purchases and your VAT exemption cheques to the customs officials to stamp them.

You then just have to place the cheques in the stamped envelopes provided, provide your bank account details and post the lot.

Refunds take longer by post and it usually takes around 3 months for your account to be credited. But it’s worth it, right?

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