How to get a VAT refund in Italy

How to get a VAT refund Italy when traveling and shopping in the EU?

If you’re visiting Europe, you can’t miss out on the shopping–Italy has some of the best boutiques in the world. What better occasion than a trip to Milan to treat yourself and finally buy that Prada bag you’ve been eyeing for a while?

And the good news is that, if you’re not a EU resident, you’re eligible for a VAT refund!

What is VAT?

VAT (value-added tax) is a consumption tax that is included in the price you pay when shopping in Europe. In Italy, it’s labelled IVA. VAT ranges from 5% to 25%, depending on the country and on the product, though 21% is the average.

Check out the VAT rates of all European countries.

When travelling back to the US, you can get that money back. But how?

Here we walk you through the process of getting a VAT refund Italy, step by step.

shop heron preston on italist

how to get a VAT refund italy

At the boutique

Make sure you have your passport with you when shopping, as you will need it to prove you reside outside of the EU, and keep an eye out for the blue and gray “Tax Free” square logo where you’re shopping.

At the boutique, you will pay the full, VAT-inclusive price, which is what you see on the price tag, though additional “sales tax” will not be charged, like it is in the U.S. The price you see is the price you pay.

Before you make your purchase, ask the shop assistant whether they provide the paperwork for VAT refunds. Ask also whether they take an administrative fee for this service.

The shop assistant will ask you for proof that you are a visitor to the EU (your passport), and they will ask you to fill out the VAT refund form.

how to get a VAT refund italy

After you’ve made your purchase, make sure you keep your receipt and the form you’ve filled out. You will need to show them to the custom officers at the airport to get your refund.

In order to be eligible for a VAT refund, the items must be in brand-new and unused condition–unfortunately, this means you won’t be able to sport your new bag on your vacation, but the refund will be worth it.

At the airport

Get to the airport earlier than usual, as the process might take a while. Bring your VAT forms, your receipts, and, of course, your purchases.

Head to the customs office. They will check your goods, your documents, and stamp your VAT forms. 

Once you’ve got your VAT forms stamped, you should be able to get your refund straight away. Head to the tax refund operator’s desks—companies like Innova Tax Free, Global Blue, and Planet Payment. You will need to show them your paperwork, and pay a small commission fee. You can then choose whether you want your immediate refund in cash or via credit card.

how to get a VAT refund italy

If the airport doesn’t offer this service, you’ll need to mail the VAT forms to the address given in the shop, and wait to hear back.

You might have to pay duties upon re-entry to your home country.

Our Experience

In our experience, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. You don’t get all the VAT back but just a portion, typically 12 to 14%, as the processor takes a small percentage at the airport.
  2. At the airport you need to find the machine to scan your invoices, which can be very difficult depending on how large the airport is.
  3. Only the items purchased in the country you are leaving can be verified. If you have travelled elsewhere in the EU before leaving, those purchases are not eligible as you depart.
  4. Once you have the approved receipts, you must visit the global blue desk (another line) to finalise the process 
  5. Any not-approved receipts must be taken to the border authority, along with all the goods in your hand.

As you can see, there are many steps involved with the VAT refunds process, which is why so many choose to skip it altogether, or shop on italist, which streamlines the entire process.

how to get a VAT refund italy

Shopping in Italy via italist

Getting a VAT refund Italy can be a lengthy and complicated process, and it can take away from the fun of travelling.

Which is why, on italist, we take care of all the details for you and bring you just the best, at the best price, with new arrivals added every day!

italist is just like a shopping trip to Italy…but way less expensive and time consuming.

We partner with over 250 Italian boutiques and offer you more than 200,000 authentic luxury and designer goods from more than 1,400 brands at your fingertips—and at 40% less than you’d pay elsewhere, on average. We take care of the VAT process for you, so you don’t have to worry about paperwork or keeping your receipts.

how to get a vat refund italy

Within minutes, and from the comfort of your couch, you’ve accomplished what could have otherwise taken hours or even days. 

Once you’ve placed your order, the partner boutique that’s supplying your item will pack and prepare it for shipment. italist then handles the import/export procedures and oversees each detail as your item travels from the boutique in Italy to your doorstep. Every italist order ships free and express, so you get to enjoy your picks in 2-4 business days.

shop prada on italist

About the Author

Diego Abba is the CEO of, an LA-based luxury goods platform. With extensive leadership experience, Diego has held roles at gaming companies Sleepy Giant as CEO and Activision/Blizzard as VP of Finance. He’s also advised clients in media, technology, and private equity while at Bain & Company. Diego’s expertise spans regions, industries, and functions, with notable speaking engagements as an expert on e-commerce, retail trends, and digital communication. He holds an MBA from Cornell University and is fluent in French and Italian. Find him on LinkedIn.