Taxes

Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a tax included in the price of your ticket. The U.K.’s APD fees, currently among the highest in the world, are divided into two bands: short-haul destinations under 2,000 miles, £13 per person in economy, £26 in all first and business class, and £78 (private jets with fewer than 19 seats); long-haul destinations over 2,000 miles (including the United States), £78 economy, £172 first and business class, and £515 (private jets with fewer than 19 seats).

The British sales tax (Value Added Tax, or V.A.T.) is 20%. The tax is almost always included in quoted prices in shops, hotels, and restaurants. The most common exception is at high-end hotels, where prices often exclude V.A.T. Outside of hotels and rental-car agencies, which have specific additional taxes, there’s no other sales tax in England.

Refunds apply for V.A.T. only on goods being taken out of Britain. Many large stores provide a voluntary V.A.T.–refund service, but only if you request it. You must ask the store to complete Form V.A.T. 407, to be given to customs at departure along with a V.A.T. Tax Free Shopping scheme invoice. If no customs official is on duty, there will be a customs post box where you can leave your forms. Fill in the form at the shop, have the salesperson sign it, have it stamped by customs when you leave the country, then mail the stamped form to the shop or to a commercial refund company. Alternatively, you may be able to take the form to an airport refund-service counter after you're through passport control for an on-the-spot refund. There is an extra fee for this service, and lines tend to be long.

You can only get V.A.T. refunds on goods bought in the last three months.

Global Blue is a Europe-wide service with 270,000 affiliated stores. It has refund counters in the United Kingdom at Heathrow and Gatwick, at Harrods, in The City, Victoria, and Bloomsbury, and in the Westfield Shopping Centre. Outside London, counters are in Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford, and at Manchester airport. Its refund form, called a Tax Free Check, is the most common across the European continent. The service issues refunds in the form of cash, check, or credit-card adjustment. The latter is useful for small purchases as the cost of cashing a foreign-currency check may exceed the amount of the refund.

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