There’s another reason to experience the magic of a European Christmas market this year. Tourists are eligible for VAT (value-added tax) tax refunds on many purchases while traveling in Switzerland. After browsing the market for handcrafted gifts, decor to take back home, and more, hit the shops to purchase high-end items like designer fashions, jewelry, or a luxury watch for someone special.
Use our quick guide to find out more about tax-free shopping in Switzerland.
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How to Get a VAT Refund in Switzerland
When you go shopping in Switzerland, you pay a VAT charge. You can reclaim the VAT by asking the shop staff for a Tax-Free Form at the shops where you make your purchases. The form is basically a refund check. Carefully fill in all of the fields on the form. Only complete or correct information will ensure you get a VAT refund.
Global Blue members can scan their digital barcodes at check-out and your data will auto-fill on the Tax Free Form.
The goods you purchase must fit into your luggage and be transported within 30 days after the purchase date. Upon leaving the country and before check-in at the airport, land border, or port, present your Tax-Free Form along with your original receipts to Customs for a validation stamp.
All of your items must be unused and sealed. Have your flight or travel ticket, purchases, and passport ready for inspection. Make sure you allow plenty of time for the validation process before your departure.
Take your stamped Tax Free Form, credit card, and passport to the nearest Refund Office for an immediate refund on your credit card or cash back if you prefer.
You can also avoid the VAT by having the retailer mail your purchases to you but remember that the postal fees may reduce the amount of money you save.
Shoppers Eligible for VAT Refund
Eligible shoppers for a VAT refund must be over 18 and a permanent resident of another country.
Products Eligible for VAT Refund
Items that qualify for a VAT refund are usually higher-end items like fine clothing, jewelry, and other luxury items. Hotels and services such as spas and taxis are not eligible. Neither are fuel and goods with a VAT rate reduced to 2.5 percent.
Minimum Purchase Amount
The minimum purchase amount for a VAT refund is CHF 300.00.
VAT Rates in Switzerland
The standard VAT rate in Switzerland is 7.7 percent. It’s 2.5 percent for books, food, plants, and medicine.
Tax-Free Shopping in Zurich
Zurich Airport’s tax and duty-free shops have an extensive selection of products including cosmetics, perfumes, tobacco products, and spirits. Airside Center, in the heart of the airport, features over 60 stores for shopping and restaurants, bars, and lounges for dining and shopping.
Look for shops with Duty-Free signs and shop for fine clothing from brands such as Hermes, Burberry, and more. Find deals on fine jewelry, watches from all the match luxury watch brands, and other luxury goods.
Tax-Free Shopping in Geneva
Do your last-minute shopping at the Duty-Free stores in Geneva’s Airport and enjoy prices up to 30 percent cheaper than downtown on items such as cosmetics and skincare products, tobacco, wine, champagne, liquor, confections, and gifts to take back home.
Aelia Duty-Free has teamed up with the airport and Inflyer to create an app to allow international passengers traveling to and from the airport to shop conveniently and enjoy special offers, exclusive prices, and loyalty rewards. Ordering is fast and easy with collection and delivery on your departure day. Tobacco and spirits are excluded.
Tax-Free Shopping in Bern
In Bern, the capital of Switzerland, shop for luxury goods on the main shopping streets of Spitalgasse and Marktgasse. You’ll find goods that qualify for a VAT refund ranging from luxury watches to fine jewelry, wines, art, and high-end clothing.
Find luxury watches and jewelry at the famous Bucherer, Marktgasse, 2. Globus on Spitalgasse is a popular department store that sells, fashions, cosmetics, and home accessories. Loeb on Spitalgasse sells high-end fashions.
If you buy goods costing CHF 300 or more, pick up a Tax-Free Form at Globus Department Store and follow the steps above for how to get a VAT refund in Switzerland at the airport you depart from in Switzerland.
Tax-Free Shopping in Lucerne
Lucerne has a magnificent Bucherer outlet store with a huge collection of men’s and women’s luxury watches. Casagrande Gift Shop sells watches and collectibles such as unique Swiss army knives, music boxes, and Mondaine Railway clocks. Find exclusive home decor items and everything Irish, even whiskey, at Daly’s Irish Shop on Lowengraben 4.
Ask the sales staff for the proper VAT form.