According to the Italian law, based on the Community provisions (Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 on the common system of value added tax), EU non-resident travellers may be granted VAT relief/refund for goods intended for personal or family use purchased in Italy.
This relief - not covering the services supplied (for example, by hotels, restaurants, taxis, agencies etc.) - is surely an advantage for the foreign travellers: in fact, it allows to save from a minimum of 4% up to a maximum of 22% of the selling price of the goods purchased.
However, the EU non-resident travellers can make use of this benefit provided that they meet all the requirements set forth by the Italian legislation.
According to Art. 38-quater of Presidential Decree 633/1972, the requisites to obtain the relief/refund are the following:
- the value of the goods purchased, stated in each single invoice, shall exceed 154,94 € (VAT included); the goods shall be for personal or family use;
- the invoice shall bear the data of the passport or other equivalent document proving that the traveller resides or has his/her domicile outside the EU;
- the goods shall leave the EU territory by the third month following the date of issue of the invoice, as proved by the “customs stamp”.
As a consequence of entering into force of the art. 4 bis of the national Legislative Decree n. 193/2016, from 1 September 2018, tax free invoices in Italy must be electronically transmitted by the national seller to OTELLO information system and their validation at the Italian Customs exit points is digitally carried out through OTELLO.
After the digital “customs stamp” is obtained, OTELLO will send a message to the retailer that all the requirements are met and, as a consequence, the retailer will reimburse the amount due, according to what agreed upon purchase, or will settle the tax relief.
Please note that, if the invoice is stamped by other EU countries, it needs to be brought to the shop retailer by the fourth month following that of the purchase.
TAX Refund - Special cases
For VAT refund or relief the purchased goods must always 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.
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.
- “Through check-in”
Passengers provided with only one air ticket and having two boarding cards (so-called “through check-in”), one for the first domestic or Union flight and the other one for the following non E.U. final destination (ex. Bari – Rome – New York or Milan – Frankfurt - Tokyo), may be granted the customs electronic endorsement needed to obtain VAT refund or relief, at the premises of the domestic customs office in the departure Airport (in the above-mentioned example Bari or Milan).
- "Not accompanied luggage"
VAT direct relief/refund may also be granted to goods which are not brought outside the E.U. customs territory in the personal luggage of travellers but which are forwarded to the foreign residence of the owner, as "not accompanied luggage". For instance, should the goods intended for personal or family use be so bulky or heavy as not to be able to be carried outside the Community Customs territory directly in the personal baggage (and also because it is too expensive), the EU non-resident traveller may have them shipped to his foreign address as not accompanied baggage, i.e. as “personal goods” which are not directly carried by the traveller but shipped to destination by airline. They can be collected at the oncoming goods section of the airport.
In this case the goods are shipped to destination by airline and are subject to an air-freight agreement becoming effective as of the issue by the air carrier of the so-called Air Way Bill (AWB).
For VAT refund or relief the exit customs office shall electronically endorse the commercial document provided that:
- the description of the goods in the AWB corresponds to that of the invoice issued by the seller;
- the name of the consignor of the goods corresponds to that of the consignee;
- the identification papers (passport or any equivalent document) of the foreign traveler indicated in the AWB match those reported in the invoice issued by the Italian seller.