In Germany the amount paid for merchandise includes 19 % value added tax (VAT). The VAT can be refunded if the merchandise is purchased and exported by a customer whose residence is outside the European Union. Please note that in order to qualify for tax-refund the merchandise has to be exported within three months of purchase.
Before you purchase any goods in Germany you should inform the retailer that you intend to export the goods to the United States of America. With your receipt you will receive a so-called “Ausfuhrbescheinigung” (export papers) or a Tax Free Shopping Check.
When leaving the European Union – through Germany only – the export papers or the Tax Free Shopping Check plus
- the original receipt of the store
- the purchased goods (unused/unworn in its original packaging and with price tag)
- and your passport showing residence outside the EU
have to be presented to the Customs Service at the airport (you must leave Germany on a non-stop flight to a country outside the EU). The export papers will be stamped after the goods have been examined. As you do have to show the goods please make sure that they are in your carry on (your suitcases will already have been checked in!).
After having returned to the USA the stamped invoice should be sent back to the store in Germany where the merchandise was purchased. For the Tax Free Shopping Check you may be able to obtain a cash refund if they have an office at the airport. Otherwise the check should be sent to the address on the back of the Tax Free Shopping Check where you will find detailed instructions for the refund.
Certification by German diplomatic or consular mission (exception)
In very rare exceptional cases a certification by a German diplomatic or consular mission is possible. A plausible explanation has to be given in writing why it was not possible to receive the export stamp at the port of departure from Germany.
The same procedure as at the customs service applies:
- original receipt
- export papers or Tax Free Shopping Check
- purchased goods (unused/unworn in its original packaging and with price tag)
- and your passport together with proof of residency
have to be presented to a consular officer for inspection.
Please note that the certification can only be issued for goods purchased in Germany (for goods purchased in other EU member states please consult the respective Embassy/ Consulate).
Make sure to present the goods to the correct German mission. There are nine German missions in the United States. Each of them covers a specific geographic area. To find out which one can assist you, please use our Consulate Finder.
Please note, that one of the criteria to receive the tax exemption is that the article(s) must be exported before the end of the third calendar month following the month of the purchase.
If the purchased goods are presented to the competent German foreign mission later than that, the time of export has to be substantiated through appropriate documentation (e.g. airline ticket, entry stamp in your passport).
There is a fee of 25 Euro for the seal on each individual export paper. The fee is payable either in cash (equivalent in US-$ according to the daily exchange rate) or by internationally accepted credit card (card will be charged in Euro, additional charges by the credit card company may apply).