August 23, 2023-updated
Want to know how to get your VAT tax refund in Rome?
When you're shopping in Rome, if you're not a resident of the European Union and spend at least 154.94 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).
This page explains how to get your refund in a way that isn't time consuming!
Enjoying tax free shopping in Rome is simple once you know what to do, but many stores do not automatically explain the VAT refund process to eligible customers.
On this page we'll cover:
Some Rome visitors do not bother going through the process of claiming their VAT refund, but for me, I think it's your money so why not take the time to get it back!
There are two key components to the tax free shopping eligibility, whether you are resident in a non EU country and the 154.94 euro spending limit (per store). I use 155 euros as the limit as an easy reference!
When we ran our B&B in Rome, I would often have people show up at our 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 a tax free form while in the store.
In either case, there is no way to get the tax back at this point, unless you try going back to the store the same day to request the VAT refund form. This is certainly worthwhile if you have spent enough money and will get a substantial amount back.
It is much better to know in advance what you need to get from the store to take advantage of the tax refund for tourists.
Bottom line, to be eligible for tax free shopping in Italy, you need to:
The tax free shopping agreement never applies to services you use while in 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 tax refunds 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 free shopping 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.
If you buy something in a shop that is not part of the VAT refunds scheme then you will not be able to get the tax back on what you purchase there.
There are three major companies that offer VAT refunds in Rome; Global Blue, Planet and Tax Refund.
Some shops offer a choice of which company to use - in this situation there may be different percentages of tax refund back, so do 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 - keep reading to find out how!
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.
However, a lot of the VAT refund system is now digital, so it is a requirement to show stores your passport or a copy when filling out the tax free form.
So for the purposes of getting your tax refund, you should carry a photocopy of your passport. I have mine scanned and available on my phone which is the easiest option.
If you do not have your passport or a copy in the store to fill out your tax free form, the store can (and often will) refuse to complete the VAT refunds process.
The below will tell you the different procedures for dealing with your tax refund form, and whether or not you have to get a Customs stamp.
This is my favorite scenario for getting a VAT refund because it's the easiest way to get your tax back.
I always put my tax free shopping in my checked luggage, especially perfumes or clothing. Then I can get everything done in one place - you still need to get your luggage checked.
Go to the airline check-in counter FIRST before you do anything else.
While you are checking in, let the agent know that you have tax free shopping items in one (or more) of your pieces of luggage. If you have luggage to check that doesn't contain any tax free items, the agent can take it for you then and check it as normal.
For the piece of luggage where the items are, they will make a luggage tag for you but keep it at the desk. They won't yet check that particular piece of luggage because you have to take it with you to the tax free refund desk/Customs.
If your goods were purchased in Italy, and your tax free form is from one of the three companies above such as Global Blue, then you will simply go to the VAT refund counter after checking in.
Bring the luggage that contains the items with you, on the very small chance they will ask you to get a Customs stamp.
Present your boarding pass and tax free form along with the sales receipt so they can process the refund.
This will either be a refund in cash or credit card.
You can then return to the check in desks for your airline, where they will complete the check in and take the luggage with the tax free items inside.
If you made your purchases in a different EU country and/or your tax free form is not from one of the three big companies, there is an extra step to follow.
After you have checked in and have your boarding pass, proceed to Customs.
In Terminal 3, it's a room at 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 VAT refund form and the sales receipt.
Once all is in order (and really this is almost always very speedy), the Customs official will stamp the tax free form. Now you can get your money back!
First 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.
You can sometimes check the luggage directly at Customs. In this case, the airline agent checking you in will know the drill, and give you the luggage tag when you check in for your flight.
If you decide to carry tax free items with you in hand luggage, you will still have to show it to a Customs agent, but this time it will be inside the terminal.
So you first check in as above. Check any hold luggage normally, get your boarding pass and go through security.
Once you are in the international terminal, find the Customs counter. Show the Customs agent your boarding pass, passport, VAT 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 money back.
If you are flying out of Fiumicino airport, but not yet leaving the EU, you will follow one of these two procedures to get your stamp:
The following are all the ways to actually collect your refund in cash or credit card:
I once went through the procedure of getting my refund in Rome but, other than that one time, I always get my tax back at the airport.
I don’t recommend doing your tax refund when in Rome - why waste your precious time doing this?
If you feel like getting the tax refund in the city, it’s not that complicated. The offices are centrally located. You just have to find the correct office.
But you should know this does not save you much time at the airport at all because no matter where you get your VAT refund, you still must go through Customs and get the forms stamped when you leave the EU.
If you want to claim your refund in Rome, find the office belonging to the company on your tax free form. The form or envelope should have the addresses of the in-town locations.
Bring the tax free form, your passport, and a credit card. You will not be able to receive a refund 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 credit card. You will still need to send in the tax free form, with the Customs stamp on it, once you have gotten this at your departure airport.
If you do not send in the form with the Customs stamp on it, the tax refund office will charge your credit card for the money they gave you, plus a fee.
Once you have followed the relevant procedures noted above when at the airport you have two options for getting your VAT refund for your tax free shopping:
If you want cash back, you will have to do this at the last airport before departing the EU.
But here's the thing: it's not always possible to get cash at airports in European cities.
It also takes longer, so if you have a connection to get to or are short on time it's generally easier to have the refund issued to a credit card.
The amount of the tax you pay on most goods in Italy is 22%.
However, you will not get that much back. You will get back anywhere from 11-15.5%, depending on how much you spent.
That's because there are administrative fees, some that the tax-refund company keeps, and 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 VAT refund you can get it on your credit card or in cash, which dictates the currency.
If you get the refund on your credit card, know it can take 2-3 months before you see this on your statement.
The amount will be in Euros, converted to your own currency, so the final amount will depend on the exchange rate.
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.
When I get my refund at the airport in Rome, I always get euros in cash. This is because the cash exchange rate from euro to dollar can be terrible, and I will use the euros.
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.
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