Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper
*Updated April 2015
If you went shopping while on vacation, you might be eligible to apply to reclaim your GST/HST taxes paid overseas. While you may only be able to claim part of the taxes, and you will be required to retrieve certain forms from cashiers, it’s easy to get those dollars back. Find out the process on how to get tax back you paid on vacation with this guide:
If you’re visiting a country in the European Union:
Canadians visiting European Union countries are entitled to get a refund and reclaim taxes paid on goods purchased while in Europe: meaning, if you went shopping in France and paid tax on your purchases, you can apply to get that tax back if you produce the purchased items and the appropriate value-added-tax documents at international customs.
This extra tax that you can have returned is a VAT price, or value-added tax cost. If you do shop in a VAT-free shop, a sign in the window or near the cash register should establish it as such. When purchasing VAT-free goods, the traveller must intend to leave the European Union with those goods within 3 months of their purchase date.
Can I claim my hotel room stay in Europe?
No. You can claim anything you buy while visiting the European Union, except for:
- Services (ie. hotel rooms, transportation)
- Goods bought online
- Unmounted gemstones
- Consumable goods you’ve already started using, including drinks and food
- Goods that need an export license
- Goods to be exported as freight
- Any purchases (ie. clothing, footwear) you’ve started to wear before leaving the European Union
How do I get tax back after shopping?
When buying your goods in the European Union, provide proof that you are a visitor of the country to the store clerk. The clerk should have the appropriate forms for you to complete with proof of purchase and proof of visitor status.
Complete the VAT Return Form before departing for the airport to return to Canada. Visit customs before or after security – depending on the airport – to have your form stamped. To collect your VAT tax in the airport, visit a VAT refund desk or the appropriate dropbox. You will either be reimbursed at the refund desk, or if you opt to use an airport dropbox or mail your stamped VAT form to the merchant, you will be reimbursed by mail. Note that depending on the country, you may not be eligible to have your tax returned; European countries require different minimum expenditures to have this tax refunded, ranging from $30 to several hundred dollars, depending.
I’m visiting the United States. Can I claim taxes and get a refund?
The United States Government does not refund sales tax to Canadian visitors. Tax in American states is paid to the state, rather than the federal government, and therefore, it is not possible to get tax back paid on vacation. If you are planning on making a large purchase, such as a car, while in the United States, contacting the tax authority in the state of purchase regarding any possible claims is suggested.
I’ve heard about a Tourist Refund Scheme. What is it?
The Tourist Refund Scheme is the program that allows you to claim refunds on GST and wine equalisation tax (WEP) bought in Australia. Canadian visitors to Australia are eligible to get this tax back if the purchases they have made were within the 60 days prior to leaving Australia, and if the purchases from any one business are $300 or more. Services, gift cards, alcohol, tobacco products and goods that did not have GST paid on them are not eligible for this refund.