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Know How To Get VAT Refund In Italy, If It’s Possible

Knowing how to get VAT refund in Italy can be helpful because it is equivalent to sales tax in the U.S. and this guide will help you with the refund process.

How to get VAT refund in Italy - You Can’t

You Can’t Get A Refund on a Small IVA

What Is The Italian VAT?

A VAT (Value added tax) is equivalent to sales tax in the U.S. and it is the final cost paid by the private consumer, as opposed to a business. According to the Agenzia Entrate:

It is a consumption tax that applies to the supply of goods and services carried out in Italy by entrepreneurs, professionals, or artists and on imports carried out by anyone.”

In Italy, the acronym IVA (Imposta sul Valore Aggiunto) is the same as the VAT and you will see it listed on every receipt.

VAT Rate In Italy

In Italy the VAT rate is 22% but there are also reduced rates for several things, like 4% for listed food, drinks and agricultural products. Some goods and services are excluded, but typically are not of a concern to a traveler. For example: education, insurance services, specific financial services, supply, leasing of particular immovable property.

How it works is a VAT will be included in the price you pay for the goods you purchase. As a visitor to the EU who is returning home or going on to another non-EU country, you may be eligible to buy goods free of VAT in special shops.

How to get VAT refund in Italy - The IVA is on Every Receipt

The IVA is on Every Receipt

What Qualifies For VAT Refund In Italy?

Even though when you think about Duty Free shops in the airport, alcohol, perfume and expensive chocolates are typically what comes to my mind, getting a VAT refund and Duty-free are not the same thing. The goods that qualify for a refund need to be new and unused.

Countries generally exempt exports from VAT, so if you buy merchandise as a tourist, what you take home is considered an export. Because of this, you are entitled to a refund for the VAT/IVA portion of the price.

What isn’t qualified for a refund are things that you buy in Italy and consume while you are here. For example, when you stay in a hotel or eat a restaurant meal, those services are consumed locally rather than exported. As such, you are not entitled to VAT refunds on those purchases.

You need to consider what type of traveler you are. If you come to Italy and your goal is to see the sites, eat delicious food and enjoy inexpensive wine, don’t worry about the VAT/IVA. The refund you might get for the couple of items you bought probably isn’t worth the effort. If, however, you came to Rome or Milan to buy expensive shoes and clothes, leather goods or art, then you definitely should care about the VAT/IVA you are paying. It’s probably worth the effort in this case.

Can I Claim A VAT Refund In Italy?

If you are a visitor to Italy, or the EU in general and are about to leave the territory to go home or to some other place outside the EU, you may be able to buy goods free of VAT. If you are continuing your travels in the EU, you should wait until you are in the last countries you are visiting. Also, EU countries, including Italy, have a minimum threshold for claiming a refund, and that varies from country to country.

How to get VAT refund in Italy - Zero IVA on Bread

Zero IVA on Bread

As I mentioned above, things that you consume while in Italy don’t qualify and can’t be claimed for a refund. Also, remember that San Marino and Vatican City are different countries, so anything purchased there wouldn’t qualify for an Italian refund.

An example: Beppe is an Italian citizen but lives permanently in the U.S.. Once a year, he returns to Italy to feed his soul. Beppe is a ‘visitor’ and can apply for a refund on the basis of his U.S. Passport.

Is There A VAT Refund Claim Form?

This can be a pretty complicated process as I will describe below. Because of the complexity, there are companies that can provide you this service for a fee. If you are going to manage this process on your own, here is the best-case scenario:

How to get VAT refund in Italy - 4% IVA on Fruits and Vegetables

4% IVA on Fruits and Vegetables

  • When you are in the shop, ask the assistant if  they provide the tax-free service.
  • At the check-out, the assistant will ask you to provide proof that you are a visitor and you will need to show your U.S. passport.
  • You will need to fill in a form with the necessary details. You might be asked to show your ticket as proof you are leaving the EU within the required time.
  • In some cases, the shop itself will refund the IVA (VAT) to you. In other cases, the shop will use a third-party to coordinate the refund.
  • There will probably be an administrative fee. It is expected.
  • You will receive an invoice (fattura) for the goods. You must show the invoice (fattura), the refund form, the goods and any other necessary documents to the customs officers when you leave. The customs officers must stamp the form as proof of export. 
  • You then follow the steps explained in your refund document or by the shop assistant. 

Again, this process is assuming everything works well. If you want to outsource this process, for a fee, you can reach out to one of the tourism tax refund companies that can be found in the Rome airport. You can request the VAT refund form from one of the companies such as: Global BluePlanet or Tax Refunds for Tourists

Can I Get A VAT Refund From Italy Online?

Not if you are trying to claim the refund on your own. If you are using one of the companies I listed above, Global BluePlanet or Tax Refunds for Tourists all have websites that will help you submit the documents and track your claim online. There are more complex procedures for businesses, but my focus is only with the pleasure traveler to Italy.

Ways To Earn A VAT Refund

Knowing how to get VAT refund in Italy is important if you earned it by spending a lot of money, and here are a few articles that I think will help:

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