Jun 23 2009

Can Canadians claim tax refund from US shopping?

Published by at 8:28 pm under Cross border shopping,Vat Refund

I was asked the question:

Can Canadians claim back the tax they paid on clothing items…etc when cross boarder shopping? If so, how can I claim this?

The answer is “depending on the country and depending on the goods”.

For instance, if you’re cross-border shopping in UK, you can claim back the VAT (Value Added Tax) you paid in UK stores. There’s a HMRC offices handling VAT refund in major UK airports, e.g. Heathrow and Gatwick. You can claim VAT refund by bringing the receipts, your passport and the goods (to prove that you’re taking them out of the country). There is a leaflet you can get from HMRC at the airport.

Most other European countries offer similar VAT refund programs. South Africa also has a similar VAT refund program for tourists. Here’s a more complete list of countries which refund VAT to varying degrees.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom), Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and Switzerland.

The main idea behind VAT refund is that governments do not charge the tax on exports of goods to other countries. So naturally, you cannot claim back the VAT on goods and services you consumed within the foreign countries, e.g. gas, car rental, meals and hotel etc.. However, VAT refund may apply to some services used by business travelers.

One thing to watch out for in VAT refund is the minimum spend. Most countries specify a minimum amount you must spend in a specific shop or chain store to claim a refund. The minimum amount ranges from US$ 25 in Sweden to US$ 340 in Switzerland.  Because of this rule, mos tof my spending are not qualified for VAT refund.

Sadly, Uncle Sam does not offer any VAT or sales tax refund. Each state in US charges their own rate of sales tax. The tax is not refundable when you leave the country.


15 responses so far. Leave a comment

15 Responses to “Can Canadians claim tax refund from US shopping?”

  1. DonovanNo Gravataron 14 Oct 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Hi, actually you can claim back taxes paid in certain states. For example, north Dakota will refund taxes paid on goods purchased and not consumed during travel providing the taxable amount is greater than $25.


    BoBNo Gravatar Reply:

    Thanks for provide the information. I’ll update my post.


    KimmyNo Gravatar Reply:

    Do you know if Arizona offers the refund? or perhaps an exemption?


    JanetNo Gravatar Reply:

    Just wondering if you have heard anything yet on Arizona refund for taxes paid? While on holidays, just like north dakota?


    RochelleNo Gravatar Reply:

    Where do I find the forms for applying for North Dakota tax?


    TNo Gravatar Reply:

    Hi Rochelle,

    You can fill out the form online for North Dakota receipts. Just follow the qualifying invoices and purchases section for instructions.


    JeanNo Gravatar Reply:

    I am canadian and just bought a huge amount of stuff for my kids school. I have paid a lot of sales tax. Does anybody knows if we can claim back taxes (sales taxes on item purchases in the state of Washington)? if so where can i find an application.


  2. IreneNo Gravataron 06 Apr 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Just bought a RV in Florida and will pay sales tax. Keep hearing that as I am taking this vehicle to Canada, I can apply for the sales tax refund but can’t seem to fine out where and how. Any advice?


    carjulesNo Gravatar Reply:

    I also would like to find out if we can receive a sales tax refund from Florida.


  3. NickB @ UK Airport LoungeNo Gravataron 14 May 2010 at 4:35 am

    Isn’t there a flip side to this though? You can reclaim the tax, but then have to pay import tax when you get home. I know that the UK HMRC advise their counterparts in other countries, as there was a story about a year ago on a Bollywood star you bought his girlfirend a ring in the UK, claimed the VAT back then tried to walk through ‘nothing to declare’ in India and was busted.


  4. LolleyNo Gravataron 06 Jun 2010 at 1:13 am

    We just brought back an RV from Arizona and were not charged the tax at time of purchase – am looking at getting tax refund on the work done to our vehicle to enable it to be towed. We paid GST at the Canadian border but based on the US sale price and at the exchange rate the day we crossed not the day we bought (which was when Can dollar was higher than US in May!) go figure. Of course will have to pay PST when we insure with ICBC.


  5. MaggieNo Gravataron 02 Feb 2011 at 11:31 am

    Where can I download a form to get my taxes back from the U.S?


    TNo Gravatar Reply:

    I would guess that each state has it’s own ruling on allowable tax rebates. Maybe just do a search for the state name and the text tax return (example, north dakota tax refund)


  6. armidilloNo Gravataron 26 Mar 2011 at 10:56 am

    We bought an Odyssey in Tampa in 2008. The dealer originally wanted to charge us sales tax unless we put the van on a transport truck. At our urging they investigated the rules further. It turned out that, as long as they didn’t give us the title and instead Fedexed the title to US Customs at our border crossing, they didn’t have to charge us any sales tax.


  7. corinneNo Gravataron 18 May 2011 at 3:48 am

    does anyone know the website for california sales tax retuns for canadians? Thanks!!


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