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Italy, like most other European countries, imposes a value added tax (VAT or IVA) on most goods and services purchased in the country. In Italy, the value added tax is known as the Imposta sul Valore Aggiunto or IVA. This tax is normally included or built into the price of most goods and services. The general rate of tax is about 16% to 20% of the sale price.
Every non-EU citizen is entitled to a reimbursement of the VAT (IVA) tax when they purchased personal goods for more than Euro 180 in a single shop at once. The number and the type of goods is not binding. There are procedures to follow in order to get this reimbursement and they initially include receiving a special tax refund receipt (bill of entry) which should be kept together with the goods purchased. Ensure that the retailer stamps this bill of entry for validity puporses.
Tax Free Italy Stores
If a store has a "Euro Tax Free" sign on its window or door this means that the store participates in the "Tax Free Italy" program. When making a purchase at such a store, present your passport at the cash register and ask the store clerk to issue you a "Tax Free Shopping Cheque" together with a receipt for the goods. The store will charge you tax at the time of sale. However, the Tax Free Shopping Cheque will indicate the amount of VAT (IVA) refund that you are eligible to subsequently claim.
Non-EU travellers can claim for the reimbursement either at the Italian customs office or at the last EU Customs before their final destination outside EEC. Keep the goods bought ready together with the appropriate bill of entry for inspection by the cuctoms officer(s). Customs normally inspect the relevant merchandise before stamping the Tax Refund Forms: (a) therefore, if the relevant goods are contained in your unaccompanied baggage to be checked-in for a non-European destination, you should get the Customs receipt/inspection before check-in; (b) If the relevant merchandise is contained in your accompanied baggage, it is also possible to get the Customs receipt after passport control, upon inspection of the relevant goods contained in your hand carried baggage.
Then, you can obtain refund of the taxes of all the Tax Refund Forms stamped by Customs: (a) in cash, by addressing an ETS desk in the airport (beware to address the right one!); or (b) receiving by mail the tax equivalent amounts in Tax-free Shopping Cheques ; or (c) by transfers to your credit card account. A word to the wise about I.V.A. rebates: allow plenty of time at the airport to process your claim!
If you are purchasing goods in a store that does not participate in the "Tax-Free Italy" program, ask the store to issue you a special invoice known as a "fattura", which must be made out to you and which must include the phrase "Esente IVA ai sensi della legge 38 quarter". The fattura should also indicate with the amount of VAT ( IVA) included in the purchase price. The fattura and the goods must be presented to the Customs Office on your departure from Italy to be stamped. You must then mail the stamped fattura back to the store within 90 days from the purchase date. The store will then send you the IVA refund by return mail to whatever address you wish. And hope that the store will do this...
* Note this is by law possible but I do not know if it is time worth while.
Direct Shipped Merchandise:
If you request a store to ship merchandise directly to your address in your home country, your purchase is exempt of VAT (IVA) . In particular, the store will not charge you any tax at the point of purchase and will issue you a "Tax-Free Receipt", rather than a "Tax Free Shopping Cheque". **
** Note : Also this is by law possible but I do not know if all the stores will be willing to do this.
***. For more information visit Italian tax refund website.