VAT Retail Export Scheme
Certain places we regard as part of "home", such as the
Channel Islands, do not raise VAT on purchases. Residents of these places
who purchase goods here for installation there, are entitled to have their VAT
refunded. This also applies to countries outside the EU. In order
for this to happen, a procedure must be followed very strictly (this applies to
private individuals buying goods for their own use, businesses must use a
different procedure). The purchaser must be here in person. We will
raise an invoice, including VAT, with the words "Retail Export Scheme" on it,
and give you a form VAT407, which must be completed here. You must provide
proof of your address in the VAT free area, with a passport, driving licence, ID
card or similar. You pay us the value of the invoice including the VAT,
and collect your goods. At the port of departure, the goods are made
available for inspection, a cheery customs officer takes the form 407, stamps it
and returns it to us. We then refund the VAT, usually by crediting the
card used originally. If you plan to use this scheme, let us know in
advance so we can make sure we have some forms available.
What happens in practice when leaving for the Channel
Islands is that there is no customs officer present. The form is placed in
a box in the customs shed, and processed later. Put the form in an
envelope together with another stamped envelope with our address on it. If
you remind us at the time of purchase we will give you this. I would also
recommend making a photocopy of the form before leaving it.
The following is the experience of Anthony Stagg, one of
our customers from Guernsey:
Sorry for not coming back sooner.
OK how the system seems to work. The south coast Customs is now unified into one
department. This means that the staff can be working in any port – Portsmouth,
Weymouth, Poole, Dover etc. They are thinly stretched and as far as I can tell,
(based on Poole) have no time or interest in actually checking the goods on the
way out of the country. This is despite what the form 704 said.
When I spoke to them as I left the country, they said the 704 had to be put in a
post box in the Customs shed. This is as you leave the docks and are heading for
the boat. It was a green box attached to the shed. You couldn’t do it until you
were leaving as Customs wanted to ensure you actually were leaving the country
with the goods.
Then, in theory, all Customs can do is stamp it and return the form to the
retailer. This shouldn’t take too long in theory but they reckoned 4 weeks
minimum. The forms are processed in their admin centre, which is based in Dover
(this is, as I said, for all south coast ports). However the staff who actually
man the ports are based in Plymouth.
There is no monitoring system internally inside Customs to allow anyone to see
where the forms are. It is fairly pointless ringing any of the helplines as they
only trot out the same old comments. There is no point in trying to ring the
port you left to see what happened to you form as it will probably not be
manned, and besides, as the staff are rotated, even if you were to speak to
someone, they wouldn’t be able to tell you anything. I did speak to Dover,
without realising they did the processing, but they didn’t really understand
what I was on about and put me through to another office. When I did lots of
ringing around, it took 6 or 7 phone calls and about an hour to achieve nothing.
My recommendation is to leave it 4 – 5 weeks. That seems to be their recommended
service minimum. Make sure the form goes in the right box at Customs and forget
about it. Then, if nothing has come through (at the retailer’s end), then try
calling Plymouth Customs.
This page is the important one as it gives you the complaint procedure, which is
something I used when I was getting nowhere. I got results within hours after
saying I wanted to make a compliant.
The general Plymouth contact details are below.
Phew! I hope this helps. Thanks again for all your help and the quick repayment
of the VAT!
Thanks for this information, Anthony.
Note that this procedure is not available to people living
in France, Spain, or any other EU country which charges VAT.
Please also note that we cannot refund VAT until we
receive the stamped form back from Customs. There is nothing we can do to
hasten the process, and it is up to you to resolve any issues with them!
For a more complete understanding of this procedure see the C&E website at