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2-Goods purchased in Italy and personally carried in the baggage outside the EU territory

The EU non-resident traveller may be granted either the direct relief or the following refund of VAT for goods purchased in Italy; in case of VAT relief, the purchase 
is made tax-free while in that of VAT refund, VAT must be advanced by the foreign traveller.

2.1 HOW TO GET VAT REFUND OR RELIEF

You can be granted VAT refund or relief provided that:

  • the foreign buyer is a EU non - resident traveller;
  • the goods are intended for personal or familiar use and are personally carried in the baggage;
  • the overall value of goods exceeds 154,94 Euro (VAT included);
  • the purchase is certified by an invoice containing the description of goods, the personal data of the traveller as well as the particulars of his passport or of any such equivalent document;
  • the goods leave the EU territory within three months after the end of that when the purchase was made;
  • the goods go through some special customs formalities;
  • the invoice is returned to the Italian seller within four months after the end of that when the purchase was made.

2.2 CUSTOMS FORMALITIES TO BE CARRIED OUT

The goods purchased and the relevant invoice must be shown at the Customs of exit from the EU territory.

The Customs office, after having ascertained that all the requirements are met endorses the invoice. This endorsement is essential to prove that the goods have effectively left the Community territory.

The competent Customs office where the invoice must be presented for the endorsement is the Customs of exit situated in the state where the EU non-resident traveller leaves the EU territory for his country of origin. If, for example, a EU non-resident traveller purchases goods in Italy and then goes to Austria, the competent Customs office where all the invoices must be presented for the endorsement is the Austrian Customs office.

However, where the passenger holds a single ticket and carries out a single check-in being issued a double boarding card – one for the first domestic flight and another for the following final non-EU destination (i.e. Bari-Rome-New York or Milan-Frankfurt-Tokyo) – he can get an endorsement on the invoice concerning the goods intended for personal or family use by the national customs office located at the departure airport.

Note that the goods must be shown at the customs office: if the traveller intends to carry them by plane, he must go to the Customs office to declare them before checking in the baggage.

Customs controls and the certification required to obtain VAT refund may require a long wait above all at the biggest airports or in concurrence with the departure of international flights going to certain third countries; therefore, in order to avoid unpleasant delays, the EU non-resident traveller shall be at the airport at least two hours before leaving time.

2.3 HOW TO RETURN THE INVOICE TO THE ITALIAN SELLER

As to VAT relief, the traveller, after having left the Community territory, must return to the Italian seller the original invoice regularly endorsed by the Customs office, within four months after the end of that when such a document was issued, thus ending a procedure which has allowed him to benefit from the beginning of VAT exemption.

Should the seller not receive in time such a documentation, he shall be hold responsible against the state for the payment of the overall amount of VAT initially deducted from the purchases of the EU non-resident traveller.

This is the reason why the Italian seller, as a precaution, normally prefers that the foreign traveller pays in advance the VAT included in the selling price, refunding it later.

In fact in this case the VAT advanced will be refunded provided that the EU non-resident traveller returns to the Italian seller the original invoice regularly endorsed by the Customs office within four months from the end of that when such a document was issued.

2.4 WHO CARRIES OUT VAT REFUND

The refund is made directly by the Italian seller according to the terms agreed with the buyer when the goods were purchased (for example, by credit into a bank account, credit card, cheque, etc.).

Alternatively, there are some TAX-FREE companies that can grant immediate VAT cash refund when the goods leave the Italian or Community territory, i.e. without the passenger to return the invoice to the seller: however you can use this procedure only at the most important airports or Customs borders.

More often, TAX-FREE companies provide only a service on behalf of the Italian sellers (more and more sellers join these companies) assuring a faster VAT refund: In this case, the invoices issued by the Italian sellers have the logo of the TAX-FREE company which they belong to with the address where the traveller must return the invoice regularly endorsed by the Customs of exit from the Community territory.

In both cases, however, the services supplied by TAX-FREE companies imply the payment of a sum which is directly deducted from the amount of VAT refunded to the traveller.

Should the foreign traveller have returned the invoice to the Italian seller or to the TAX-FREE companies authorized to the refund and, after a reasonable lapse of time, he does not get the refund, he shall contact again the Italian seller or the companies above, providing them with all the details contained in the invoice concerning the purchase of goods and the period when they were purchased in Italy.

In any case, VAT cannot be refunded directly by Customs offices; therefore, whatever notification the financial administration may receive will imply exclusively a control of the Italian seller by the competent bodies.