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A guide to offering tax-free shopping

Upsell to tourists by giving them the ability to effortlessly claim VAT refunds

Until recently, tourist VAT refunds have been the privy of central London’s luxury department stores. Thanks to tax digitalisation and technology companies, such as Airvat, every retailer can now instantly offer digital tax-free shopping by displaying a till sticker in their store.

Start giving away a “discount” equal to the 20% VAT rate to your international customers without any initial integration or ongoing admin for staff. Offering tax-free shopping to tourists is a great way to increase sales. Furthermore, the UK is soon expected to leave the Customs Union. This means, from January 2020, customers eligible for tax-free shopping will triple to 39 million accounting for £8 billion retail spending annually.

Previously, navigating tax-free shopping under the HMRC’s Retail Export Scheme was a complicated affair. It involved installing a separate ePOS to print a tax refund receipt, or keeping a stash of paper VAT407 forms to fill in manually. Additionally, retailers had to check customer eligibility as well as spend extra time processing paperwork and answering questions.

Airvat has automated the VAT refund procedure so that retailers can simply focus on selling, which is even more important during COVID-19 social distancing. VAT refunds are managed by customers on their mobile phones via the Airvat app, which also guides them step by step through the process. The retailer just needs to issue a till receipt.

Airvat’s software checks customer eligibility, generates a tax refund form, and manages refund payments electronically without any admin involvement from the retailer. The app additionally supports Chinese and Russian languages, and there is a customer service to deal with queries so that customers don’t have to call your store with questions.

The technology has definitely transformed the tax refund process, improving tourist shopping experience and cutting fees by around 50%.  Tourists can finally enjoy a cheaper and more convenient service from their mobile phone.


Discover how to start offering digital tax-free shopping in your store


Source: Airvat

Additional Guidance and Resources: 

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5-step guide to covid-secure opening

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