In the United Kingdom, value added tax (VAT) is payable on most purchases you make. As a non-European resident visiting the UK, you may be able to recover VAT paid on goods that you intend to take home with you when you leave the country. You will need to obtain certain documents and take the following steps in order to successfully reclaim VAT as a UK tourist.
Retain all proof of purchase. Cash register receipts are crucial when making a VAT refund in the UK because not only do they prove that purchases were made, but they also contain all the information required to obtain the appropriate refund. Ideally, the receipts should display the date of purchase, transaction or receipt number, details of goods purchased, total cost of goods and VAT rate, as well as the company's name, registered address and VAT registration number. Most retailers provide this information as standard on your receipt, so there will be no need to specifically request it.
Complete a VAT claim form. Standard VAT 407 refund forms can be obtained from most VAT offices, although companies operating the VAT Retail Export Scheme--a tax-free shopping scheme that allows you to reclaim VAT on goods bought and exported from the UK --also have their own versions of the forms. If purchasing from a participating retailer, you may ask for assistance in completing the form at the same time. The retail agent will need to see your proof of purchase before he can sign form to authenticate your claim. Additionally, you will be required to show him your passport as proof that you are entitled to reclaim VAT under this scheme. (See reference 1)
Recover VAT at point of exit. Once you are ready to leave the United Kingdom, you will need to present your VAT refund form along with your receipts to a customs officer at the port or airport. Before the officer can authorise a refund, he may need to inspect the goods being exported, so it is best to avoid checking in your baggage before you have seen UK customs. If you filled in the form yourself, you will also have to show your receipts. Once all the formalities are finished, you will be directed to VAT refund collection point, usually located in the departure lounge at most British airports, to exchange your stamped VAT form.
Under current European laws, VAT refunds can only be issued at the last point of exit. So, if you are travelling from the UK to the US via another country inside the European Community, you will be asked to wait until you are leaving that country before you can reclaim VAT. You cannot normally reclaim VAT if your final destintion is within the European Union.