How do refund agents operate the scheme?
A Value-Added Tax (VAT) refund agent provides a tourist or traveller with a refund of VAT incurred on purchases. Refunds are made only in accordance with the rules of the scheme.
The refund agent may act:
- as the principal in relation to the supply of goods to the tourist or traveller
- as an agent of the tourist or traveller.
The process by which the refund is provided will differ depending on whether the refund agent is a principal or an agent.
The VAT refund agent acting as principal
In such cases, the refund agent makes a purchase of the goods from the retailer and immediately sells those goods to the tourist or traveller. Such refund agents will enter into agreements with the retailers to facilitate them acting as principals in this manner. As the agent in this scenario, you will refund the VAT to the tourist or traveller. You will process the claim for a refund of VAT under the same terms as would apply to a retailer.
You should also advise the tourist or traveller of any fees you will charge. You should express your fees as a monetary amount, or as a percentage or a fraction of the total refund. This will include the fees that relate to procuring the refund on behalf of the tourist or traveller. The provision of this information as part of a sign-in process on your website fulfils this requirement.
You can issue a ‘card’ to the tourist or traveller for purchasing qualifying goods. The card should record the details required for the scheme. The card should be capable of producing details of all purchases for the purposes of certifying exports. However, any such card scheme must have prior approval from your Revenue office.
What information must you have to process a VAT refund?
You must have the following information before you can process a VAT refund:
- evidence that the applicant for the refund is a tourist or traveller
- complete documentation in relation to each supply of qualifying goods
- evidence that the tourist or traveller has left the European Union (EU) with the goods. Please see section on Certification of Exports.
You must make the refund to the tourist or traveller not later than 25 working days from the time you receive the information listed above.
Your entitlement to apply the zero-rating to a sale only applies where all the conditions of the scheme are met.
VAT refund agent as an agent of the tourist or traveller?
The VAT refund agent is an agent of the tourist or traveller where engaged to obtain a refund of VAT on qualifying purchases, from the retailer, on behalf of the tourist or traveller. The agent must set out the full requirements necessary for the tourist or traveller to obtain a refund.
What exchange rate should you use?
Where a refund is being made in a currency other than Euro, the rate of exchange you should use is either:
- the official rate of exchange as published by the Central Bank of Ireland for the date on which the refund is given
- the official monthly average rate of exchange as published by the Central Bank of Ireland for the month in which the refund was given.
You may use other internationally recognised exchange rate sources, subject to agreement with your Revenue office.
Certification of exports in the State
This section will explain:
- how the certification of exports occurs
- the role of Irish Customs
- certification by officials in the tourist’s or traveller’s country of residence.
How does certification of exports occur?
Certification is when your export voucher is stamped by a Customs official. The purpose of certification is to provide evidence, to a retailer or refund agent, that the goods have left the European Union (EU), in accordance with the terms of the Retail Export Scheme. This certification can be provided by Customs in this State, or by Customs Officers at the Member State of departure from the EU. In certain circumstances, certification can be provided from the country of residence of the tourist or traveller.
It is important to note that the certification is the basis for allowing the refund of Value-Added Tax (VAT) on the goods. It is also the basis for allowing fees payable in relation to any export services provided to be charged at the zero rate of VAT.
Certification by Irish Customs
A refund agent will present for certification documentation provided to them by the tourist or traveller for whom they act as agent. A tourist or traveller does not have to engage a refund agent. In such cases they should place the documentation in the Customs drop-box at departures, or, where the goods are of high value, present the relevant documentation to Customs on departure. See section ‘On what purchases can you reclaim VAT?’ for information on high value goods.
Irish Customs will certify goods purchased in the State even if the State is not the last point of departure from the EU. This is subject to evidence that:
- the tourist or traveller has a ticket for a destination outside the EU
- the ticket is valid not later than the end of the third month from the date on which the goods were purchased.
Customs may inspect the goods as part of certification. A tourist or traveller should be able to produce the goods to Customs, if requested to do so. If Customs officers are not satisfied regarding the validity of any voucher or receipt, it will be returned unstamped to the tourist or traveller.
When can the certification of exports occur outside of the State?
This section explains when the goods exported under the retail export scheme can be certified by:
- Customs at the final point of departure from the European Union (EU)
- officials in the tourist’s or traveller’s country of residence.
Certification by Customs at the final point of departure from the EU
A tourist or traveller may have goods certified at their final point of departure from the EU rather than the Member State in which the purchase was made. This is particularly relevant to persons on a multi-stop trip in the EU. The certifying Customs Officer must be satisfied that the tourist or traveller has complied with the conditions of the retail export scheme. This is necessary before a refund of Value-Added Tax (VAT) is allowed.
It is important to note that procedures may vary between EU Member States. A tourist or traveller may intend to have the goods certified in another EU Member State. If so, the tourist or traveller should check the requirements of that Customs administration regarding the tourist or traveller VAT refund scheme.
Certification by officials in the tourist’s or traveller’s country of residence
In certain circumstances a tourist or traveller may be unable to get certification of export from Customs on leaving the State. In such cases, the tourist or traveller may still obtain a refund. In order to obtain a refund, a person of similar standing in their own country can certify that the goods have been transported to that country. This facility, however, is not available in respect of refunds of VAT on high value goods. See section ‘On what purchases can you reclaim VAT?’ for information on high value goods.
Such persons include a:
- Customs official
- law-enforcement officer
- Notary Public
- Commissioner for Oaths.
The tourist or traveller should return this certification together with the receipt or voucher to their VAT refund agent or Irish retailer.
A refund agent or retailer requires prior agreement from their Revenue office to accept certification from the tourist’s or traveller’s country of residence as proof of export.