Last Updated on May 1, 2022
This tax refund app streamlines the refund process
Since Brexit, when the UK left the European Union, travel to Europe entitles British visitors to a tax refund for the VAT paid out while shopping. This can be a time-consuming procedure both at the airport or train station followed by a long wait for the repayment to reach one’s bank account. Now a digital tax refund app, Wevat, is streamlining this process through the use of an app and guarantees a swift refund. Wevat was launched in 2019 and has been used in 88 countries. You can save up to 20% VAT back on your shopping during your trip. No need to wait until duty-free at the airport to do your shopping. You can shop throughout your holiday abroad and claim the VAT back using Wevat in France.
On a recent trip to Paris, I had the opportunity to test out the service. It has been a long time since I claimed a VAT refund so I was a bit rusty, but I did recall long queues at airports while customs officials checked every item against my receipts. On more than one occasion I thought I might miss my flight. So the ease of the Wevat system impressed me from the outset. Instructed to download the app before departure, I was able to get Wevat up and running from the comfort of home. The information on the app provided some very handy information about how to use the app when shopping. The instructions were so clear – and accompanied by a video – that I could follow it easily. The app also explains what items are allowed for tax-free refunds and what is not. The list is very clear. There is a very useful FAQ section on the app and it is well worth reading through this before departure as these questions and answers deal with most situations you may encounter. In order to use Wevat you have to upload your ID which is securely stored and this meant that I did not need to carry my passport around when shopping. I always prefer to leave my passport in the safe at the hotel so this is a good idea.
When I arrived at the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras station I was pleased to find that Wevat was advertised on the monitors around the departure hall. This gave me confidence in the system as being well established and functioning.
Once in Paris, I set out to visit a large department store where I planned to buy a few treats for myself. A few hours were easily lost browsing around the covetable collections of designer ware. Be aware that the minimum spend is 100 euros (including VAT) if you want to use the Wevat system. This is in total, not per item. The minimum spend is a requirement set by French customs. There is no maximum limit. When it comes to paying, the procedure is straightforward. One asks for ‘un facture’ which is an invoice which must include the name and address of Wevat. I must admit that I encountered some difficulties at this stage of proceedings. This seems to relate to the fact that large department stores have their own in-house tax refund systems. However, in France, it is the law that customers can choose which tax refund system they wish to use. So there is no need to be encouraged to use the in-house system. It may require a bit of gentle persuasion but it is illegal for the shop to refuse to issue the facture as requested.
Wevat is responsive to any problems shoppers encounter and can be contacted from the store via the live chat on the app. Wevat also provides a screen on the app that you can show to the sales staff if they are having difficulty understanding what it is that you want. Furthermore, should it be necessary, Wevat provides a screen that has your consumer rights available for the sales staff to read so they can be aware that they are legally obliged to give you the ‘facture’ you are requesting. What is really useful is that Wevat (known as Vatcat in France) is listed on the official government document that is included on the app and that you can show the sales assistant.
Once I obtained the necessary paperwork I took a photo with my phone using the in-app camera at the bottom of the home screen and thereby uploaded it to the Wevat app. After finishing all my shopping, immediately Wevat generated a barcode (to use on departure) and informed me that I would receive my refund after validating my barcode at the airport/ train station. I was told how much the refund would be and what commission Wevat would be taking. This process was all very transparent and quick. No need to waste time seeking out the in-house tax refund department to apply for a tax refund.
I was informed by Wevat that when I left France, I should have my purchases – unused – ready for inspection by customs officials if requested. When I got to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar back to London, I used the tax refund kiosk in the Eurostar departure lounge to scan the barcode I had generated within the Wevat app which is a digital tax refund form which stored all my previous purchases in the shop.
While in the Eurostar terminal I noticed that the old method was still in use for those not signed up for a digital tax refund system. This involved scanning the dozens of paper tax refund forms at the kiosk one by one (each purchase has a form), putting all receipts and forms in an envelope and posting them in a designated post box in the terminal. This gets sent to traditional tax refund companies where the paper forms and refund will be processed. This seems a rather laborious and time-consuming process in our digital age. I don’t know when last I used an envelope! Moreover, the traditional paper method requires that you spend a minimum of 100 EUR on each transaction in a store whereas Wevat only requires a spend of 100 EUR in total. This means that you can shop for smaller items across a range of stores of your choice.
The Wevat app is particularly user friendly for travellers leaving France from Gare du Nord and includes a visual guide (with photographs) about exactly what to look out for and what to do from the moment of arrival to the uploading of the barcode onto the digital monitor in the departure hall.
After two days I received the refund from Wevat in my bank account. This is far quicker than the few weeks it might take from the traditional paper method.
Having not given a thought to tax refunds when travelling abroad partly because Brexit took place during the Covid lockdowns and hence travel abroad was not an option, I now realise that I should use the Wevat app whenever I travel to France. Once uploaded it is always available to use and I certainly plan to do so when I take my summer vacation this year.