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I'm thinking about visiting the UK and I'm wondering which things are affected by the VAT and which are not. Also as a non-UK resident is there a way to get a rebate/reimbursement on this tax?

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Some items are VAT Exempt or Reduced, but in short you will pay it on almost any all consumer goods.

Assuming you are a visitor to the UK from a non-EU nation then Her Majesty will refund you with the appropriate paperwork

  • Note that the refund is only for things you physically take away with you. (The precise rules are more complicated and detailed on the page linked in the answer) – Ganesh Sittampalam Jul 1 '10 at 20:52
  • Also note that VAT is included in shelf prices in shops etc., so you won't get to the checkout and be surprised by it, unlike in the US. – Vicky May 18 '16 at 9:02
  • You'll need to take your passport to the shop with you. – Chris Degnen Jan 30 '17 at 15:28
  • @ChrisDegnen I'm not sure where you got that idea from but it's really not right. You have to pay the full price to the shop including the VAT, then claim the VAT back if/when you export the item. A passport proves nothing about what you intend to do with the item. Are you perhaps thinking about the duty free shops in airports where you sometimes have to show a boarding card (proof of imminent travel) and passport (proof of identity to validate that the boarding card is yours) to take advantage of the duty free price? – Vicky Jan 30 '17 at 21:10
  • @Vicky You have to show them your passport in the shop so that they'll fill out and stamp the special (overseas) form/receipt that allows you to claim the VAT back at the airport or by post – Chris Degnen Jan 30 '17 at 21:32
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I'm thinking about visiting the UK and I'm wondering which things are affected by the VAT and which are not.

Most consumer goods are subject to VAT at the standard rate.

Most food sold in shops is zero-rated, with the exception of a handful of luxury foods. Food in cafes/restaurants and some takeaway food is subject to VAT at the standard rate.

Most paper books are zero rated (IIRC books that come with CDs are an exception).

Some services are exempt, insurance is a notable one, so are some transactions with charities.

Some small buisnesses and sole traders may not be VAT registered in which case there is no VAT for you to pay (but they can't reclaim VAT on the goods and services they buy).

(there is a distinction between zero-rated and exempt but it's not relavent to you as a customer).

Some goods have special rules, notably second hand goods.

Prices are normally given inclusive of VAT. The exception to this is suppliers who mostly deal in business to business transactions.

Also as a non-UK resident is there a way to get a rebate/reimbursement on this tax?

There is something called the "retail export scheme" which can get you a refund but there are a number of catches.

  • The item must be exported intact. If it's a consumable item and you consume it in whole or part while within the EU then you can't get a refund.
  • There is extra paperwork for the seller.
  • There is no requirement for sellers to participate in the scheme. Retailers of high-value goods likely to be purchased by tourists (cameras, laptops etc) likely will other retailers are much less likely to.
  • You get the refund from the seller or their agent, the government does not give direct refunds. The seller may or may not charge a fee for handling this.
  • You need to get a customs stamp on exit confirming that you are exporting the goods outside the EU. Customs may want to inspect the goods.

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