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Getting your value-added tax back after shopping can be a pain. Here’s what to do when…

...there are no officials around to stamp your form.

You need to prove that you took the goods out of the country. But if you’re driving or taking the train, you may not encounter a customs agent. France, for example, will consider your application if you get it stamped at the French embassy or consulate at home (bring purchases with you). Submit that, proof of residence, a copy of your plane ticket, and an explanation within six months.

...you forget (or don’t have time) to get the form stamped.

While we can’t officially recommend it, if you’re returning within the export window (often three months), there’s nothing to stop you from bringing everything back.

...your refund doesn’t arrive.

Ann Druery, a U.K.-based advisor who specializes in VAT, says to make inquiries after two months. If your refund was processed by a third-party service like Global Blue or Travelex, try its online tracker. If you think a merchant is ripping you off, your credit card company may be able to help.

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