Want to know how to get your VAT tax refund in Rome?
If you are not a resident of the EU (European Union) and spend at least 155 euros in one retail store on one day, you are eligible for a refund of part of the sales tax (called the VAT, or value added tax in Europe).
You don’t have to spend 155 euros on one item. As long as you spend 155 euros or more in one store on one day, you’re entitled to get part of that VAT back. This page tells you how to do it with the least hassle in Rome.
Here are the questions I hear most about getting your VAT refund in Rome:
How to be Eligible to Get the Tax Refund in Rome
Procedure While Shopping
Procedure at Customs at the Airport
All About Getting Your VAT refund (actually getting back the money)
I often have people show up at the hotel reception with a bag of shoes or clothes, or just a receipt, and ask, how do I get my tax back on this?
Sometimes, the person did not spend 155 Euros in one store, or, did not fill out any forms while in the store. In either case, there is no way to get the tax back at this point (on some occasions, the person has then gone back to the store on the same day to request the form. This is certainly worthwhile if you have spent enough money and will get a substantial amount back. A better plan would be to know before you shop, and fill out the form while in a given store.)
Bottom line is, to be eligible for the tax refund in Rome, you need to:
The VAT refund is never applicable to services you consume while in the EU. VAT on hotel rooms, meals, entry to museums, etc is 10% but you cannot get this back as you consume this while inside the EU.
Before you buy something in Rome, check if the shop participates in a tax-refund program. There is usually a sticker or sign posted in the shop window, or by the cash register, but sometimes it's not obvious. Just ask. You can be sure every major design label (Valentino, Prada, Gucci, etc.) participates.
As long as you spend 155€ or more in one shop in one day, in a store that offers the tax refund in Rome, you will be able to fill out the form. This is the first necessary step to getting your money back. It doesn't take long so just do it!
Not all shops participate in the tax refund in Rome program. It is up to the store manager/owner to sign up for it. Most of the shops in the center do participate, because it attracts foreign tourists like you. If you buy something in a shop that does not participate in a tax refund program, then you will not be able to get the tax back on what you purchase there.
There are three major companies that offer the tax refund in Rome. Some shops even offer a choice of which company to use. There may be different percentages of tax back, so ask.
The one with the most airport locations in Europe is Global Blue. If you have to get your refund in another EU airport, you will likely find Global Blue just about everywhere while the other two are not always available. Don't worry though. You can still get the tax back. See below.
NO. Do NOT do this.
If you get pick-pocketed or otherwise lose your passport, it’s a big headache. Leave your passport in your hotel room. In general, you should always carry some form of official ID. You can also carry a photocopy of your passport.
So, when you fill out the tax-back form and it asks for your passport number, what do you do?
You can either have that number with you, maybe stored in your phone or iPad; written on a card in your wallet; or in a photocopy of the passport.
Or you can NOT fill it out right then. The store does NOT need this information at all. Only Customs and eventually the officials in the tax-back office need it. So if you do not fill in the passport number IN THE STORE you can do it later. I always fill in the passport on my forms on my way to the airport.
The most important thing you must do in order to get your tax refund in Rome is to get the tax refund form stamped by Customs. If you don't do this, there is NO refund. The below will tell you the different procedures for getting your forms stamped:
This is my favorite scenario because it's the easiest (for getting a tax refund in Rome.)
I always put my tax-back items in my checked luggage. Then I can get everything done in one place.
Make sure you have the tax-refund form handy. Go to the airline check-in counter FIRST before you do anything else.
While you are checking in at the airline's counter, let the agent know that you have tax-back items in one (or more) of the suitcases. If you have more luggage to check, that doesn't contain any tax-back items, the agent can take it for you then, and check it.
But for the piece of luggage where the items are, they will make a luggage tag for you, and stick it to the wall behind them. They won't yet check that particular piece of luggage because you have to take it with you to Customs.
Once you have your boarding pass, proceed to the Customs office. There are Customs offices located in the Departures Areas of Terminals T1, T3 and T5 at Fiucimino airport. (T5 is where all the American carriers plus El Al fly out of.)
In Terminal 5, the Customs office is very clearly visible and very handily right next to all the check-in counters.
In Terminal 3, it's a room in the back of all the check-in counters, but quite easy to find. In Terminal 1, it's just a little booth, but it's right in the middle of all the check-in counters.
You have to show the Customs official your passport, your boarding pass, the tax-refund form filled out entirely with your passport number (there has to be a fiscal receipt attached to the form also, so do not lose that.)
Once all is in order (and really this is almost always very speedy), the Customs official will give you a stamp on the tax-refund form. Now you can get your money back!
First you have to head back to the check-in counter where the agent has kept your luggage tag. You should not have to wait in line. The agent will remember you, take your luggage, put the tag on it, and check it.
(In case you do your check in at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3, you can sometimes check the luggage directly at the Customs office. In this case, the airline agent checking you in will know the drill, and give you the luggage tag directly when you check in for your flight.)
If you decide to carry the item(s) with you, you will still have to show it/them to a Customs agent, but this time it will be inside the terminal.
So you first check in as above. Check your luggage normally, get your boarding pass and go through security.
Once you are in the international terminal (3 or 5), find the Customs counter. Show the Customs agent your boarding pass, passport, tax refund form, and the item(s) in question. When you carry it on the plane with you, they always look at it (as opposed to when you put it in checked luggage, where they almost never check.) You must make sure the item has not been used/worn.
The cash refund offices are right next to this counter. So once you get your stamp, you can just scoot over to the right counter and get your cash back.
If you are flying out of Fiumicino airport, but not yet leaving Europe (the EU), you will follow one of these two procedures to get your Customs stamp:
The following are all the ways to actually collect your refund (cash or credit card.) This assumes you have already gotten or will definitely get the Customs stamp on the tax-refund form.
I once went through the procedure of getting the tax refund in Rome (downtown.) However, other than that one time, I always get my tax back at the airport.
I don’t recommend doing your tax refund in Rome - why waste your precious sightseeing time in Rome doing this?
If you feel like getting the tax refund IN ROME it, it’s not that complicated. The offices are centrally located. You just have to find the correct office and go through the procedure (see next section.)
But you should know this does not save you much time at the airport at all because no matter where you get your tax refund, in Rome or at the airport, you still must go through Customs and get the forms stamped when you leave the EU. See below for both procedures.
If you want to get your tax refund in Rome, find the correct office belonging to the company of the tax-refund on your form. The form or envelope you have should have the addresses of the in-town locations.
Bring the form, your passport, and a credit card. You will not be able to receive a refund in town if you do not bring these three items. (You do not need to bring the items you purchased.)
They will give you the VAT refund in cash or on your credit card, but it's provisional. They will also take an imprint of your card. You will still need to send in the form, with the Customs stamp on it, once you have gotten this stamp at your departure airport (departing the EU.) See steps for this in the next section.
If you do not send in the form with the Customs stamp on it, the tax refund office will charge your credit card back for the money they gave you, plus a fee.
You can get your money back right at Fiumicino airport. This assumes that Fiumicino is the airport you use to leave the European Union.
If you are flying transit to another European city as your departure point, then you can only get the money back (sometimes cash but always credit), at the last European airport you fly out of.
You've checked your luggage, and you have your form(s) with the Customs stamp. Now you are read to get your money back.
In Terminal 5, I just walk across the hall from the Customs office directly to the cash back offices.
You need to go to the booth that matches the logo of the company that issues the tax-refund.
If your invoice was issued outside of Italy, then you would have gotten a Customs stamp. Otherwise you just give them the tax-free form directly. They also need to see your passport, but not your boarding pass.
They will ask if you want cash or credit, and if cash, how you want it. If you choose credit, they will simply take the form from you and mail it in. You will always get a receipt for your tax refund in Rome.
If you either don't have time to deal with the cash-back booths, or, you are flying out of Terminal 1, which does not have cash-refund offices, then you can just mail the form for your refund. In this case, the tax refund will go directly onto your credit card.
If you are flying out of Rome Fiumicino airport, but connecting through another European city before leaving the EU entirely, then you have two options for getting the Customs stamp, depending on where the items are packed:
If you are checking the item in your checked luggage, and checking your luggage through to your final destination, then you will get the Customs stamp in Rome. See steps above.
If you are taking the item on the plane with you in carry-on, then you will need to get the Customs stamp at the last airport before departing the EU. You will need to locate the Customs office in that airport, and go there with your boarding pass, passport, the tax-refund form, and the item(s) to show the agent.
Regardless of how you pack the item(s), and where you get the Customs stamp on the tax-refund form, if you want cash back, you will have to do this at the last airport before departing the EU.
And here's the thing: there is not always the possibility to get cash at airports in other European cities. This may be because the tax-refund company does not have an office there, but rather, offers their services through another company, like a currency exchange. You will get your refund processed but in any case it will be on your credit card.
Also, I've had the experience in other European cities like Amsterdam and Paris, when flying back to the US, that it takes me some time to change terminals, and I usually don't have that extra time to go running around looking for the cash refund offices, which may be really out of the way.
The amount of the tax you pay on goods in Italy is 22%.
However, you will not get that much back. You may get back anywhere from 10-16%. That's because there are "administrative fees", presumably some that the tax-refund company keeps, and then there is some that the store owner can opt to keep.
Most of the time, you will get back about 11-13% of the tax you spend. But even on a minimum purchase of 155 Euros, this is around 20 Euros. Why leave this money on the table? You are entitled to get it back!
When you get your tax refund in Rome, you can get it on your credit card or in cash.
Getting your refund on your credit card:
If you get the credit back on your credit card, know it can take 2-3 months before you see the credit on your statement. There will be no administrative fees, but you will get it back in Euros, converted to your own currency, so the amount may depend on the exchange rate. This issue is pretty negligible, so don't worry too much about it. A bigger issue is waiting for the refund to appear on your credit card statement. But if you visit the website of the refund company, you can usually track your refund.
I have never once had the refund go astray. When I've chosen to (or been required to) get my refund on my credit card, it's always arrived, even 3 months later.
Getting your refund in cash:
When I get my tax refund in Rome airport, I always get Euros cash. This is because the exchange rate to dollars is one of the worst there is. And, I will use the Euros again since I live in Rome.
If you don't think you will be coming back to Europe in the near future, and prefer the cash back in US Dollars, just know that if you get cash, the exchange rate is really bad. They have you over a barrel and you have no choice. This is why I get Euros (or opt for the credit back on my card.)
Almost all the cash-refund offices charge a small administrative fee for giving cash back, especially in airports not in Rome.
You may also be interested in:Rome Guide › Money in Rome › Tax Refund in Rome