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They say that shopping is better than therapy. If that is the case, Barcelona must be raking in awards for being the most therapeutic city in the world. On the one hand, Barcelona has been named as one of Europe’s best shopping cities by The Telegraph. On the other one, in 2018, Conde Nast also proclaimed Barcelona to be one of the Best Cities in Europe in their official Reader’s Choice Awards.
And here’s another reason for tourists and shoppers to flock to Barcelona:
Since July of last year (2018), shoppers no longer need to spend a minimum amount in order to claim a VAT refund. We take that as an official sign to ramp up the shopping in Barcelona! But before you hit the shops in Barcelona, here are some helpful tips on how you can claim your VAT (Value Added Tax).
We cannot blame you for getting carried away shopping in Barcelona, but do bear in mind that you must lodge your VAT refund before you depart Barcelona. There are two main ways to do this: You can get your tax refund through the retailer/store where you purchased your goods. In Barcelona, over 90% of shops and establishments are included in the Tax-Free system. These shops would normally have the Tax-Free logo, but even if you don’t see it outright, it is worth asking the retail staff if you can shop tax-free. Once you shop in an establishment that’s Tax-Free for visitors/tourists, you can request them for tax refund cheques. They will fill and seal them for you.
Fast forward to your day of departure from Barcelona: you must go to the airport tax refund point with these checks, your passport, receipt, and the purchased goods (they must be unused or unopened), and your boarding pass. The customs authorities will then stamp the cheques, and you would be able to collect your tax refund at any exchange house with the currency that you wish. The second way is to do this via financial services companies such as Global Blue or Planet Payment (formerly known as Premier Tax-Free). These companies will act as an agent and process the VAT refund for you, for a service fee.
To lessen the stress of traveling and departing Barcelona via El Prat airport, many people are opting to claim their tax refund before going to the airport. Premier Tax-Free, a financial services company specialised in multi-currency payments and management of VAT refunds for tourists, has recently been rebranded as Planet Payment. Here are the various ways you can shop tax-free in Barcelona with Planet Payment:
Tax is deducted before you pay. Planet Payment provides refund options for shoppers in-store. Prior to purchasing or browsing, determine if the brand/shop is a partner merchant with Planet Payment (here’s a list of their partner brands). You then pay the net amount of the item. A guarantee is taken on your credit card until the Tax-Free Form, which you must fill out and submit to customs prior to leaving Barcelona, has been validated.
You can also receive the VAT amount within 72 hours after you have completed the Tax-Free form. Again, a guarantee is taken on your credit card until the Tax-Free form has been validated by customs. Or you can go through it the standard way. You ask for a Tax-Free form from the retail staff, and once you have filled this out and submitted it to customs for validation and it is cleared, VAT is directly refunded to your credit card within 30 days. If you prefer to be reimbursed with cash, you can also do this in-store where your goods have been purchased. However, you must still provide a credit card to guarantee. Another option is to do it at a city-centre location. In Barcelona, there are 12 Planet Payment refund points.
In order to track your refund process, you can download the Planet Payment App. It’s also good to know that a digital validation kiosk called DIVA is available at Barcelona El Prat airport. When you arrive at the airport, go directly to the DIVA kiosk to validate your Tax-Free form. You have to bring your purchased goods, passport and receipts with you. Once validation is complete, you can claim back the VAT at refund points or by mail. If your purchase was made in a retail establishment using the DIVA system, a tax-free DIVA form will be issued. These forms can then be stamped digitally by the machines near the entrance of the Tax-Free offices.
Global Blue is a tourism shopping tax refund company. And similar to Planet Payment, Global Blue acts as an ‘agent’ that processes the VAT refund on your behalf. When you have requested a Tax-Free form from a retailer in Barcelona, Global Blue can process this on their behalf. The retailer authorises Global Blue to operate the Tax-Free Service on its behalf. In turn, Global Blue is required to refund the VAT to the traveler on behalf of the retailer.
Global Blue has an office in Barcelona’s El Prat Airport. It is open 24 hours and here are the Global Blue Offices in El Prat Barcelona Airport:
Customs: near check-in desk number 200
For refund: Global Blue offices located after the non-Schengen passport control and in the Schengen area, Sky Centre
Customs: on the left side of Terminal 2B
Refund: Global Blue Office, Terminal 2B, Floor 0, landslide (next to a pharmacy)
To facilitate your VAT refund process at the airport, you must first go to the customs desk and present your completed Tax-Free Form, passport, receipts, purchases and the unused and unopened purchase goods in order to get a stamp on your form.
You then proceed to the nearest Global Blue Office at El Prat Barcelona Airport. Present your stamped, completed Tax-Free form and your passport to receive the refund in cash or to your credit card. For those in a hurry (or if your flight is early in the morning or late evening), there is an option to send your Tax-Free forms via a Global Blue mailbox located nearby most customs offices. You must mail your completed and stamped Tax-Free form and receipts back to Global Blue for a refund to your credit card.
Whether you want to claim your Tax-Free refund before or after going to the airport, you must always present the following documents:
In order to be eligible to claim a tax-free return in Barcelona, you must meet the following requirements:
You must be a resident in a country outside the European Union, or at least have your residence in Canarias, Centa, or Melilla. You must take the purchased goods to your country of origin within 3 months of purchase.
You must have all the forms and documents required (see above list). It’s also important to know that VAT refund in Barcelona does not apply to restaurant or hotel bills or food items as these are not considered exportable but consumable goods.
With all the shopping you’ll be doing in Barcelona, be sure to check out the best way to get to and from Barcelona’s El Prat Airport to the city centre. You’ll want to have the most convenient means of transport carrying all those extra shopping bags. And if you need some stylish inspirations for Barcelona, check out our list of top Barcelona Instagrammers to follow this year.
The standard rate of sales tax in Spain is currently 21%. However, you do not get the full amount refunded. The refunded amount varies according to the actual amount that you spend.
As a general rule, you get a tax refund value of up to 15.7% on standard VAT items. Use this Global Blue Tax Calculator to calculate how much sales tax refund you may receive in Barcelona.
You only have 3 months from the date of purchase to get your Tax-Free forms stamped when you leave Barcelona. You will not get any refunds if your Tax-Free form is incomplete.
Fantastic news for Barcelona shoppers – since July of 2018, the Spanish Government has lifted the minimum spend requirement of 90.15€ that was used to apply to purchases made by foreign tourists and travelers in the country. This means that as long as tourists fulfill the requirements to claim a VAT refund, they have the right to claim a VAT refund for any value of their purchased goods.
Yes, take this as a sign to splurge in Barcelona!
Not everyone arrives and leave Barcelona by plane, so there are also options to get a VAT refund if you leave Barcelona via car, train or cruise. If you are not departing Barcelona through the airport, the VAT reclaim procedure can be quite different:
First, you must ask for a VAT reclaim envelope from a participating retailer / shop where you purchase your goods. You then collect VAT cheques from the shops.
Before leaving Barcelona, you have to visit the customs at the port terminal ,or wherever customs point is for your departure from Barcelona. You must present them your VAT cheques and they will stamp them for you. This must be done prior to your departure of Europe. When you return to your country, send the cheques back to the VAT claim office in the envelope that was given to you from the shops.
It will take approximately 3 months to process your claim and for you to receive your refund. If you are travelling by cruise, you can submit your tax-free forms at the customs in the port terminal. Most cruise lines however, will help facilitate your VAT refund on your behalf. For those leaving Barcelona by train, you can usually get the customs stamp at major train stations, or you can ask a customs officer who might board your train to help you out.
With so many options how to get your VAT refund, and with no more minimal amount to spend, there’s never been a better time to shop and explore Barcelona. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out why visitors love Barcelona so much, and it’s also essential to take breaks in-between shopping and enjoy the best spas around Barcelona.