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.
The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020 and entered a transitional period, currently due to end on 31 December 2020, during which EU law continues to apply in the UK. The UK’s relationship with the EU beyond the end of the transitional period has not yet been finalised. Please note that the guidance below reflects the law as it applied before the UK’s departure from the EU, and as it will continue to apply throughout the transitional period.