All goods purchased in Germany are subject to a value-added tax ("Mehrwertsteuer/MWST" or "Umsatzsteuer") of 19% (or 7% on certain goods). If you have no residence in a EU-country, you may be able to apply for a VAT refund for goods purchased in and exported to a country outside of the European Union within three months after the date of the purchase.
Many shops in Germany and the EU offer VAT refunds; facilitated by the company Global Refunds. These shops display the sign "TAX FREE for tourists". On a minimum purchase of 25,-€ clients who are not residents in the EU may receive a "TAX FREE Shopping Cheque". This shopping cheque must get validated by the customs office upon departure from the European Union. To receive your VAT refund, follow the instructions given on the tax free shopping cheque. Please note that Global Refund retains a service fee from your refund.
How to claim a VAT refund
- Tax refund forms ("Ausfuhrkassenzettel") can be purchased in stationery Shops.
- When you buy goods, inform the vendor that you are not an EU resident and that you intend to export the goods. Ask whether the company is ready to refund the VAT.
- Fill in the tax refund form and have the form signed and stamped by the vendor. Attach the original invoice to the form.
- Upon departure from Germany, show the tax refund form, the original invoice, your passport, and the purchased goods to the German customs office. The customs officer will confirm the export of the goods by stamping the tax refund form.
- After returning home, you can claim your tax refund by sending the form and the original invoice to the company from which you obtained the goods.
In exceptional cases: export certificate issued by a German Foreign Mission
The Consulates General in Toronto and Vancouver are able to certify the export of goods meant for personal use in justified exceptional cases only and if the following conditions apply:
- plausible written explanation as to why the export certificate could not be obtained at the customs office prior to departure in Germany (see form below),
- proof that you live in Canada and have no registered residence in Germany,
- the invoice states your residence outside of Germany,
- the goods have been purchased in Germany,
- the goods have been transported from Germany to Canada in your personal luggage,
- the goods have been exported within 3 months after purchase,
- all goods are in their original packaging resp. have the original tags attached, and all product numbers as well as Prices on the goods correspond to those on the invoice,
- all goods were purchased for personal use only.
If these conditions are met and the explanation as to why the export certificate could not be obtained at the customs office is considered sufficient to allow for an exception, the competent Consulate General can certify the export of goods for a VAT refund. Please bring the following documents and items to your appontment:
- completed application form (see below)
- your passport used during your trip to Germany
- airline ticket issued in your name as proof of the exact date you returned to Canada
- proof of residence in Canada (i.e. Canadian driver's licence)
- for German citizens: German passport or ID Card which does not state a place of residence in Germany
- goods purchased in Germany in their original packaging resp. with their original tags attached (all exported goods have to be presented!)
- original receipts including all corresponding forms issued by the seller.
Please note that no export certificate can be issued if any of the documents and items mentioned above cannot be presented in the required form.
A fee of approx. C$ 38 to C$ 42 (equivalent of 25.00 EUR depending on the current exchange rate) will be charged for each Tax Refund Form processed. This fee will not be reimbursed by the German tax authorities.