How to Get Your VAT Refund in Turkey

Vat tax

Every year, Turkey’s tourists leave behind millions of dollars of VAT refunds. On the surface, the process seems simple. Bring your passport along on your shopping trip. Complete the necessary documents at the retailer. Track down the right folks at the airport when you leave. Go home with some extra cash, a few treasures and some wonderful shopping memories. Simple right?

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How to Get Your VAT Refund in Turkey
What is the VAT

Although Turkey is not a member of the EU (European Union) they do have a European VAT tax. The VAT tax (value added tax) is at 18%. And as a foreigner, you are not required to pay that on many goods that will leave the country. Basically, if you spend more than 118 TL ($19.24) in one shop you are eligible for a VAT refund. Many people don’t know, don’t care or don’t take the time to collect their refund.


What Merchandise is VAT Refund Applicable


First of all, you aren’t entitled to a VAT refund for services, hotels or meals. You can, however, get back most of the tax you spend on merchandise such as rugs, leather goods, and essential oils and spices.

Typically, you must ring up the minimum at a single retailer. That means you can not add up your purchases from various shops to reach the required amount. So if you are contemplating several large purchases, considering buying them at one store.


How to Claim VAT Free Status


You’ll definitely need your passport to start the refund process in the shop. Most tourist-oriented stores will have a VAT Refund sign in the window or by the cash register. If you don’t see one, you might want to ask if its important ant to you.

For any significant purchase, even at a boutique shop, it’s always worth asking about a VAT refund. It’s your money, so claim it. Trust me. This military spouse asks if there’s a military discount everywhere I go. A discount makes every purchase that much sweeter.


How to Claim VAT Free Status


When you make your purchase, have the merchant fill out the necessary refund document, often called a “tax-free form.” Make sure the paperwork is done before you leave the store so there’s nothing important missing. Attach your receipt to the form and put it in a safe place.


Beware of Added Service Fees


Some stores make it easy and file the paperwork for you. And in some cases, the merchant will reimburse the VAT refund directly to your credit card. Of course, both these services are available for a small fee.

You may also be able to take your paperwork to a nearby third-party agency to get an immediate refund. However, vendors will subtract a service charge for the hassle-free service. VAT tax eligible businesses are clearly marked and located in tourist-heavy areas.

And if the store ships your purchase to your home, you won’t be charged the value-added tax at all. However, shipping and US duty fees are expensive. You might want to compare shipping costs to your potential VAT refund. It may be cost effective pack your purchases inside your luggage.


Process Your Vat Refund at the Airport


Because Turkey is not in the EU, you must process your refund before leaving Turkey. You will need to find the local customs office. Be patient, it may take a while.

At customs, an export officer will stamp your documents. He may ask you to present your unused goods. They are looking to verify that you are, indeed, exporting your purchase. If you plan to stow it in your checked baggage, make sure you go to customs first.

Note if you purchase anything in the duty-free stores, they will deduct the VAT from your purchase on the spot.


VAT Refund Services, Mail-in or Credit Card Refunds


Once you get your form stamped by customs, you have to turn it in. If your purchases were bought from a merchant who works with a refund service such as Global Blue or Premier Tax-Free, find their offices inside the airport. Present your stamped document, and they’ll likely give you your refund in the local currency, minus a fee.

Ask for the address to mail your documents or credit the refund to your credit card. However, either process is likely to take two billing cycles or longer. In the end, only you can decide whether a VAT refund is worth your time and energy.


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