Claiming a VAT refund when you leave the UK
When people shop in the UK they pay VAT on most things they buy. However, there is a ‘VAT Retail Export Scheme’ that allows certain people to claim back the VAT they have paid on most of the goods they take out of the EU.
The scheme is also known as ‘Tax-Free Shopping’. Although you may mainly associate this scheme with visitors to the UK, EU residents that are leaving the EU for twelve months or more can also get a VAT refund on goods they buy before they go and take with them. It cannot be used for services. You must buy the goods from a shop that is part of the VAT Retail Export Scheme. These shops usually have a sign saying 'Tax-Free Shopping'.
There is more information on the scheme in the International Students section of this website.
You should also read HMRC Notice 704/1.
Note that the position may change, following the UK’s exit from the EU. You should keep an eye on GOV.UK for any updates.
Following the 2016 European Union (EU) membership referendum in the UK, on 29 March 2017 the UK provided notice to the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. At the time of writing (in March 2019), the date and terms of the UK’s departure from the EU have not yet been finalised. Therefore, please note that the guidance below reflects the law as it applies before the UK’s departure from the EU.