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Digital tax-free shopping is here

By Retail Technology | Friday July 17 2020 | UPDATED 17.07.20

Retailers can attract more international customers by giving them the ability to effortlessly claim VAT refunds

Historically, tourist VAT refunds have been the privy of larger retailers and central London's luxury boutiques. However, the scheme is complicated to navigate and tourists often complain about the high commissions taken by the in-store tax refund operators, such as Global Blue or Planet Tax Free.

In May 2020, HMRC announced a public consultation with a view to modernise the Retail Export Scheme and align it with its “make tax digital” efforts.

Already, thanks to companies such as Airvat, who are following HMRC’s lead, every retailer can now instantly upsell to international customers by offering digital tax-free shopping.

Until recently, offering VAT refunds to international shoppers involved contracting with a refund operator, installing a separate ePOS for each till to print a tax refund receipt, or keeping a stash of paper VAT407 forms to fill in manually.

Then came customer eligibility checks prior to each purchase, in addition to the extra time spent issuing the paperwork and answering questions.

Total automation

However, Airvat’s platform has automated all of these so that retailers can just focus on selling, which is even more important with COVID-19 social distancing measures.

VAT refunds are managed by the customer on their mobile phones via the Airvat app, which also guides them step by step through the process. The retailer just needs to issue a till receipt.

Larger retailers can also take advantage of Airvat’s open API to customise the service.

Airvat’s software checks customer eligibility, generates a tax refund form, and manages refund payments electronically without any admin involvement from the retailer.

Shopping experience 

The app also supports Chinese and Russian languages, and there is a customer service to deal with queries so that customers don't have to call your store with questions.

The technology has transformed the tax refund process, improving tourist shopping experience and cutting fees by around 50%.

Tourists can finally enjoy a cheaper and more convenient service from their mobile phone.

Discover how to start offering digital tax-free shopping in your store 


sponsored by Airvat

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