Refunds of VAT for UK businesses buying from other EU countries

How to reclaim VAT you’ve paid in another EU country if you’re registered for VAT in the UK.


You may have to pay VAT on goods and services bought for your business in another EU country. If you’re registered for VAT in the UK you can use the VAT refund scheme to reclaim the VAT you’ve paid in the EU country you’re claiming from if:

  • you are not, cannot be, or do not have to be VAT registered in that EU country
  • you do not have a place of business or other residence there
  • you do not make any supplies there, unless:
    • they’re transport services for the international carriage of goods
    • the person you’re supplying pays VAT on them

What can be refunded

You can get a refund for most goods and services you buy for your business, but:

  • what you can reclaim depends on the other EU country’s rules for claiming VAT
  • the rules for claiming input tax are slightly different in each EU country
  • each EU country has set a minimum amount of refund
  • if your business makes both taxable and exempt supplies, you may not be able to reclaim all of the VAT you’ve paid

What cannot be refunded

You cannot get a refund for:

  • goods you bring in from another EU country (these are called ‘acquisitions’)
  • goods or services you buy for resale

Goods you bring in from another EU country to use in your business will be ‘zero-rated’ (meaning no VAT is payable) if:

  • your EU VAT number is shown on the supplier’s invoice (for UK VAT-registered businesses, this is your UK VAT number)
  • the supplier has evidence to show that the goods have been sent

Importing goods from non-EU countries into an EU country other than the UK

Goods brought into an EU country other than the UK are imports and you may have to pay VAT on them. You can use the refund scheme to reclaim the VAT you’ve paid on these imports unless you either:

  • get some other VAT relief when you import the goods
  • have to register for VAT in the other EU country because of importing the goods

If you’re registered for VAT in the UK you cannot use the refund scheme to reclaim VAT paid on goods you import into the UK from outside the EU. But you can reclaim the VAT as input tax on your VAT Return. You’ll need the import VAT certificate, form C79, showing that you’ve paid the import VAT.

Making a claim

You claim using VAT online services. You must be registered to use these services. Registration can take up to 7 days so it’s best to register as soon as possible.

If you give an accountant or agent permission to act for you, they can make the claim but they’ll need to be registered to use VAT online services.

Claim amounts

The minimum amount you can claim varies between EU countries, but is generally:

  • €400 for claims of more than 3 months but less than a year
  • €50 for claims for a whole year or the period between your last claim and the end of the year

Time limits

You must claim by 30 September of the year following the one that you were charged the VAT in.

Your claim cannot be:

  • for more than a calendar year
  • less than 3 months, unless that’s all that’s left of the calendar year

You can claim for items missed on earlier claims if they relate to VAT you’ve paid in the calendar year you’re claiming for.

Claims currency

All amounts must be shown in the national currency of the member state where you’re claiming the refund from. If the euro is not the national currency and your invoices show euro amounts only, you must convert the euro figures into the national currency of the country you’re claiming from. You must use the exchange rate for the date of the invoices provided by the European Central Bank.

Evidence you need for claims

You do not need to send any paper invoices or other documents when you submit your claim. Some countries will ask you to scan invoices over certain amounts and attach these to your claim they’ll not normally ask you to do so for:

  • purchases or imports less than €1,000
  • fuel purchases less than €250

You must keep all of the original invoices and other documents supporting your claim as you may need them at a later date.

Timescales and payment

You submit your claim to HMRC who’ll acknowledge it and give you a reference number. It’s important to keep a record of the reference number as you may need it for follow up queries.

HMRC sends your claim to the tax authority of the country you’re making the VAT refund claim against. The tax authority responsible for making the refund is called the member state of refund (MSREF). Any queries about your claim must be made with the MSREF. HMRC cannot act or intervene for you.

Time since receiving your claim Action by the MSREF
Within 16 days An email confirming receipt of your claim is sent to you.
Within 4 months A decision is made on your claim. If a decision cannot be made more information can be requested from you. You must provide it within 1 month.
Within 4 months and 10 days Payment of the refund if no further information has been requested from you.
Within 8 months A final decision is made about your claim.
Within 8 months and 10 days Payment of the refund if further information has been requested from you and you provided it within 1 month.

If a refund is due and not paid within these timescales you’ll be entitled to interest on the amount of the refund. This will be calculated and paid by the MSREF.

Refunds will be paid by credit transfer, usually in the currency of the MSREF.

Refused claims

If your claim is refused you can appeal against the decision using the appeals process of the country you’ve claimed against. HMRC cannot help or intervene.

Incorrect or false claims

If your claim is not complete or accurate, you will have to repay overpaid amounts and may be charged a penalty. Refunds may no longer be paid to you.

Published 1 July 2014
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