SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

SHOPPING

EXPLAINED: How British and other non-EU tourists can profit from tax-free shopping in Spain

British tourists travelling to Spain - when it has been possible - have been able to make the most of tax-free shopping since the UK formally left the EU at the beginning of 2021.

jewellery store in spain, vat tax refund for non-eu tourists
VAT refunds in Spain apply to apply to fashion items, cosmetics, jewellery, technology and some food and drink items.

There are a lot of changes to be aware of since the UK left the EU, covering everything from passports to Bovril, pets to phones, but there is one benefit to UK tourists in Spain.

Residents of England, Wales and Scotland can make the most of Tax Free Shopping in Spain and the rest of the EU – which means that they can save up to 21 percent of the cost of certain goods by claiming back VAT on their purchases.

It does not apply to services– you can’t get VAT back on your restaurant bills, car rental, theatre tickets, flights or train tickets. 

But it does apply to fashion items, cosmetics, jewellery, technology and some food and drink items. 

In 2018, the Spanish government removed the minimum spending amount of €90.16 that previously applied to Tax Free Shopping transactions made in Spain, a limit that still exists in most EU nations. 

In other words, whatever the value of the goods you purchase, you have the right to claim back the VAT (IVA in Spanish). 

Since January 2019, all retailers within the European Union including Spain’s are legally obliged to assist non-EU customers such as British, Chinese or American tourists in the process of claiming their VAT paid on purchases while visiting.

At the time of purchase, ask the retailer for a VAT refund form, which must be signed by both the retailer and you. If they don’t speak English, ask them for el formulario DIVA (the Spanish government’s tax-free form).

However if this is not on offer, non-EU residents can claim back VAT later, just make sure you keep the full receipt. 

Small retailers in Spain sometimes don’t have the time or resources to carry out the tax-free process, some even prefer to offer a discount to avoid the paperwork.

Whatever paperwork you have, make sure you go to the airport early with your purchased goods, passport and boarding pass to get your documents stamped by customs before your flight. 

Some Spanish airports also have machines which allow you to carry out the process yourself, although for this you will need the DIVA form. 

Once your form has been stamped you send it back to the retailer to claim your refund.

Alternatively, Global Blue also has refund offices in the following locations across Spain:

Algeciras, Alicante Airport, Andorra La Vella, Barcelona Airport, Downtown Barcelona, Benidorm Downtown, Ibiza Airport, Lloret de Mar, Mallorca Outlet, Madrid Downtown, Madrid Airport, Malaga Airport, Malaga Downtown, Marbella, Palma de Mallorca, Sevilla, Tarifa- Cádiz, Valencia Downtown and Viladecans Downtown.

Using a tax-free company will cost you some commission but it will make the process go smoother.

And there are also a number of apps that can make the process easier still, including Global Blue and another company called Zapptax, which also take scanned forms and inform the retailer. 

Deducting VAT from good purchased in the Canary Islands isn’t possible as the archipelago has its own system called IGIC.

woman shopping in spain
Whatever the value of the goods you purchase, you have the right to claim back the VAT. Photo: Arturo Rey/Pixabay

More specific information for British tourists in Spain

Now that the UK has left the EU, British tourists and visitors aged 16 and over, who have been in Spain for less than six months, are eligible to shop tax free in the EU, provided they:

  • Live in England, Scotland or Wales, and can prove it by showing their stamped UK passport (UK nationals who are resident in the EU present residency documents when entering, only tourists should get a stamp in their passport on entry and exit)
  • Meet the minimum spend criteria of the country in which the purchase is made; Spain doesn’t have a minimum amount anymore
  • Take the goods out of the EU (aka ‘back home’) within three months of purchase.
  • The goods should be for personal use or a gift

When you leave Spain to return to the UK, present your purchases and the form to customs for approval. It is important to note that items on which you are claiming a refund must be unused and in their original packaging.

Officials will stamp and return the two sheets of your VAT refund form to you. 

If you leave the EU by train – Get your VAT refund forms stamped by customs officials, either during your journey or at the border crossing station (at the EU exit point). 

If you leave the EU aboard ship or by road – You must have your VAT refund forms stamped by the customs office at the final port or road exit point in the European Union.

If you leave the EU from another Member State than Spain– After an inspection, the customs office of the final Member State you visit before you return to the UK will stamp and return your forms.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

BANKING

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.

READ MORE: 

Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account

SHOW COMMENTS