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HMRC internal manual

VAT Personal Exports: Retail Exports

HM Revenue & Customs
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Personal exports - retail exports: Basic principles of the scheme: Who can buy goods under the scheme?

The scheme is available for non-EC visitors and emigrating EC residents who have purchased goods in the UK and intend to leave the EC with the goods within 3 months from the end of the month in which the goods were purchased.

Travellers are required to demonstrate to the retailer that they are eligible to purchase goods under VAT retail export scheme.

Non-EC visitors Non-EC visitors (including non-EC members of crews of ships and aircraft) must demonstrate that they live outside the EC. Appropriate documentation to demonstrate eligibility includes: passport, national ID card, or driving licence.

Students and migrant workers Effective from 1 October 2004, overseas visitors entering the UK to study or work are only eligible to buy goods under the retail export scheme provided they intend to remain outside the EC for at least 12 months. Typically, this will be at the end of their studies or work contract. They must be able to prove their intention to remain outside the EC by producing, for example, a passport which includes a visa or entry permit indicating the length of stay permitted in the UK. Alternatively, the presence of a return ticket and/or a permanent UK address can be indicators that the person is not eligible.

Entitled EC residentsEC residents who intend to permanently leave the EC for a minimum period of 12 months are also entitled to purchase goods under VAT retail export scheme. Evidence to support an intention to remain outside the EC may consist of overseas work permit, approved visa application or residency permit.