I am a legendary handbag hunter. I find a bag I want and I go on the hunt to find it. Plus to make my life a little more challenging I have to find it under retail even if the search takes a year. So when my family decided to go to Europe I could not contain my glee! Immediately I started listing out all the bags and slgs (small leather goods) that I wanted to purchase from the various fashion houses. My family immediately questioned why I couldn’t just buy these goods in the US, so naturally I had to explain.
- High End Designer Goods in Europe Retail for Under Retail in the US– This is true of all designers that are based in Europe. So for example Louis Vuitton bags retail price is lower in France then in the US. Plus the country where the fashion house is based is generally the cheapest place to buy the goods in Europe. But word to the wise do not buy US based fashion brands in Europe. I was looking at Coach in Europe just to look and the prices were crazy!
- The Euro and The Dollar are Very Close in Value– When I was in Europe the Euro to Dollar was about 1 Euro to 1.10 Dollar, so the lower retail prices in Euro equated to a lower purchase price in Dollars. Of course this value fluctuates but in general the Dollar and the Euro have been much closer in value than a couple years ago.
- The VAT taxes– The tax amount for luxury goods in Europe is included in the price that you see on the price tag. So unlike the US you are not paying more on the good you purchase. Plus if you are not an EU citizen then you get back a percent of the VAT tax you pay. This percentage ranges based on the country. This website is incredibly helpful when looking at what percentage you will get back. (just in case the hyperlink doesn’t work- https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/vat-rates-in-europe).
- Bring your passport with you! To get your VAT tax exemption forms correctly filed out at the store you will need to show your passport to your sales person.
- Spend over the VAT amount! In order to get your VAT taxes back you need to make sure to spend over the minimum threshold. This does not have to be on one good just need to be on your total purchase. This amount varies by country.
- Get the VAT tax amount back on your credit card! You do have to wait a little longer to get the VAT tax amount back on your credit card but the amount you get back after fees is higher then when you go to the cash window at the airport.
- Get your refund at the last European country you are in! You cannot obtain your refund until you leave the EU.
- Allocate time at the airport! The VAT process to obtain your refund can be really hard or very easy. It all depends on the country, the refund company and the amount of people traveling. For example if you are using Global Blue its often just a scan of the documents in a machine and dropping them in a box. But there are other times where I have had to talk to an agent, show them my goods and have them hand stamp it. This all depends on where you buy your item from. In my experience I have had the easiest time with LV and the hardest with Gucci.
- Get your refund before you check your bags! As I explain below you might have to take your new purchase to the refund agent.
- Make sure your goods are packed on top of your luggage! When you pack make sure your new purchases are easily accessible! I have had to dig through luggage because the refund agent wanted to make sure that I had not used the bag and actually had the bag in my possession.
- Do not use your goods before you leave the country! If the refund agent asks to see your purchase they will expect to see a purchase that has not been used and is in its original packaging. While it is tempting to use your new purchase don’t because they can deny you the refund!