Let's talk VAT (value added tax). This little darling of a tax is added on to the price of most of the goods you purchase. This means, it is not cheaper here in Paris. You pay the exchange fee of nearly 20% and a VAT of 19%. But you can find bargains and...very special items. Two times a year, the government requires that there is a sale. Those months are January and July. You can save 30-505 or more. French residents line up outside their favorite stores to be first on those first days of the month. If you can't stand crowds, forget it. It is like Filenes basement sale on Bridal day. Watch out ...here I come.
Getting your VAT back. Here's where you have an advantage. If you spend 175e to 182e in a single store (department stores count folks), you're entitled to a refund. Note: This return is also called a TVA. But this refund is not automatic. To apply for a refund, you must the store clerk your passport to prove your eligibility. You're then given an export sales document (triplicate mind you) which you must sign. You'll also get an envelope addressed to the store.
Tax Free Shops
If you are shopping in a Tax-Free store, the shopping cheque will show the refund owed toyou when yo leave the country. Have this check stamped by a customs officer at the airport, take it to a Global refund counter and get an instant refund.
Department stores (Printemps and Lafayette, cater to foreign visitors. They ahve a special detaxe area where the clerks prepare the invoices for you. Just present your passport, present them to the Customs official and they stamp them. If you want immediate cash refund, pay 4.60e and you get the refun in euro immeditely. If you decide to wait, be prepare to wait for 2- 3 months. No sense in rushing things in France.
If you are claiming a tax refund, try to arrive at the airport as early as possible. It will take time.
Customs: If you are US citizens, you are allowed $800 worth of merchandise duty-free. You are charged a flat duty of 2% on the next $1000. DO NOT bring fresh meats or cheeses. Canned foods are allowed.
Big Name Department Stores:
If you like shopping, keep these stores in mind:
Au Printemps, 64 bd Haussmann,93;
BHU - 42 rue de Rivoli, 1er;
Galeries lafayette - 40 bd. Haussmann, 9e;
La Samaritaine - 19 rue de la Monnaie, 1er
Le Bon Marche - 24 rue de Sevres, 73
Le Drugstore - 133 av du Champs-Elysees, 8e
Monoprix - various locations all around France
Tati - 4 bd Rochechouart, 18e
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