VAT in France (TVA): Rates for French Goods and Services
You’ll only be dealing with value-added tax, or VAT, if your primary residence is outside of France, if you own a business in France, or if you’ve moved to France and are shipping some international goods into your new home.
Here’s what you need to know about French VAT and how to properly qualify for a refund.
What is value-added tax (VAT)?
What even is VAT? It’s an extra tax tacked on to the end of your purchases when buying goods in a foreign country as a tourist. Alternatively, you will likely get charged VAT if you’re shipping furniture or other goods from your home country into France.
What is a VAT refund?
It’s something that reimburses you for all the extra charges you paid on goods while in a foreign country.
What are the VAT rates in France?
The standard VAT rate in France is 20%. Food, admission to things such as cinemas or theme parks, hairdressers, clothing, leather goods, and linen are all subject to standard VAT rates.
The reduced VAT rates are 10%, 5.5% and 2.1%, depending on the goods and services. Things like transportation, cable, restaurants, and water supplies are a few examples.
What goods are eligible for a VAT refund?
Any goods that are of a tourist (or personal) nature are eligible. Goods of a commercial nature are not.
The following goods are not eligible:
- Manufactured tobacco
- Any products using petroleum
- Cultural goods
- Goods subject to specific procedures (such as those covered by the Washington Convention, dual-use goods, narcotics, etc.)
- Goods that are a means of private transport, along with supplies such as fuel
Some of these categories may be subject to exceptions. Contact your local French tax authority for more information.
Am I eligible for a VAT refund?
To be eligible, you must have been in France for less than six months, be at least 16 years of age and be a resident of a non-EU country at the time of purchasing your goods.
When buying goods, you must provide sufficient evidence of the above criteria (i.e., a passport or another type of ID).
The following individuals are not eligible for a VAT refund:
- Any residents of the following EU states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (including the Isle of Man)
- Any residents of the Principality of Monaco
- Any residents of the French overseas départements of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion
- If you are a student living in France or the EU for six months or more per year
- If you are returning to live in France or the EU
- If you are leaving the EU permanently, even if you are moving back to your home country
- If you are moving to a non-EU country or territory for work
- If you are employed by transportation companies (i.e. air travel, sea travel) and are travelling for work
- If you are a French social security beneficiary looking to refund or partially refund pharmaceutical products
- If you are a member of a diplomatic or consular mission, or an employee of an international organization that has been posted to France or the EU
Preparing your VAT refund
French VAT refund eligibility depends on a few factors. First, the goods that you purchased must be of a tourist, or personal, nature.
The purchases must have been bought in the same store, on the same day. The total amount of purchases (including tax) must be more than €175. The seller may have given you a VAT refund form, which would have been signed by both the seller and yourself.
Not all stores offer VAT refund forms, nor are they obligated to. Department and luxury goods stores will have the forms, but otherwise, look out for shops with the “Tax-Free” sticker on their doors or front desks.
You must have the form stamped before leaving France or the EU. Keep as many of your purchases in a carry-on in order to show the customs officers. They will review your VAT refund form and stamp it for you if everything looks good.
Mail the form back to the store within three months of purchasing the goods in order to receive your refund.
Customs will not stamp your refund form if you do not meet all of these conditions.You cannot qualify for a refund if you do not receive this customs stamp.
The goods must leave the relevant taxing authority (in other words, the country you bought them from) in order to be eligible for a VAT refund. The goods must be new and unused, so make sure not to use any of them until you’re safely back home.
Can my VAT refund form be refused by customs?
Yes, your refund form can be refused. Here are some possible reasons why:
- Your purchases are not of a personal or touristic nature
- You did not present the purchases on the form to the officer
- You did not get the form stamped within the three month period required
- The form is not signed
- The name on the form is not yours
- You do not have the proper supporting documents
- The form you were given by the retailer is not a proper form (either outdated or otherwise incorrect)
I am a business owner in France. How does VAT work for me?
You will need to pay VAT in France if:
- Your business supplies goods and/or services, or imports goods
- The person supplying you the goods and/or services or importing the goods is liable to VAT
- Goods and/or services must be considered an independent and usual financial activity
There are three types of “bands” when paying VAT along with your taxes in France.
The Exempt Band (franchise)
If your annual turnover does not exceed €82,800 (in sales) or €33,100* (service providers), you do not need to pay VAT. If you don’t, though, you can’t claim it back on business investments (i.e., claiming VAT to pay for new tables and chairs at a café).
The Simple Band (régime du réel simplifié)
If your annual turnover is between €82,800 and €788,000 (in sales) or between €33,100 and €238,000 (service providers), you will need to make two tax payments each financial year.
These fall in July (55% VAT payment from the previous financial year) and December (40% VAT payment).
The VAT for the whole financial year is calculated during tax season each year, and these two payments will be deducted from the total amount of tax owed.
The Normal Band (régime du réel normal)
If your annual turnover exceeds €788,000 (in sales) or €238,000 (service providers), you will need to pay your VAT monthly.