How to claim VAT Refund in Turkey / Tax Free Shopping

When you go abroad for a vacation or for any other reason, more often than not, you find yourself shopping over there. You are already on a budget so if you can get some of the money you spent back, then there is nothing better than that. Many countries including Turkey offer a service to refund the value added tax (VAT) i.e. tax free shopping to foreigners for certain goods purchased from their country.

How it happens

Basically you purchase from any affiliated shop and when you are leaving the country you get back the tax that you paid in the shop. When you get the tax back that means you are shopping tax free. Turkey is one of the country that does it and the procedure is fairly simple if you know it.

How to claim VAT refund in Turkey or in other words Tax Free Shopping

There are basically three steps to claim your VAT (Value Added Tax) Refund in Turkey, but before we dive into that we need to know certain things regarding claiming the Tax Refund.

Istiklal Caddesi (Istiklal Street), Hub of Shopping in Istanbul, Turkey - Claim VAT Refund
Istiklal Caddesi, one of the most busiest shopping streets in the heart of Istanbul, Turkey.

Eligibility for Tax Free Shopping

Any person who has permanent residence outside Turkey and has not spent the last six months in Turkey is eligible to shop tax free on affiliated shops.

Not all shops are tax free but only the ones that are participating in the tax free program.

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Value Added Tax (VAT) Rates

Depending on the goods you are purchasing there are two rates of taxes:

For Accessories, Electronics, Watches, Sunglasses, Cosmetics, Porcelain, Ceramics and Homeware the rate is set to be 18% whereas, if you shop for goods such as Textiles and Clothes, Leather Goods, Carpets, Shoes, Bags, Optics, or books then the tax rate is 8%.

There is a requirement for minimum amount of purchase from any affiliated shop to be tax free. It is 118 TL for 18% Tax and 108 TL for 8% Tax.

Three Step Procedure

Now we come to the procedure on how to claim your VAT Refund in Turkey. There are basically three steps to do this:

UPDATE: The Procedure is the same after Covid-19 Lock Down

1. Shop from any Affiliated Shop and at the counter ask to shop tax free

  • Do some shopping from any affiliated store and at the counter when you are paying your bill, tell them that you want to shop tax free.
  • They will ask for your passport to proceed further. Give them your passport ( a picture of your passport on your phone is fine) so they will fill out a form and give you the bill along with the tax free form filled with your passport details and amount of tax to be refunded in an envelope.
  • Pay them the whole amount, Tax will be refunded from the airport. Keep that bill and form safely as that will be used later.
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2. Get your forms stamped at Customs Office

Within 90 days of shopping you need to get your tax free forms that you received from the shops to be stamped from the customs office. You can do this at the airports. Without the customs stamp you will not get your tax refunded. Procedure for getting customs stamp is as follows.

  • Go to the Airport, at the check in counter when you getting your boarding pass, ask them that you want to show your shopping to the customs office so that you can get your tax refunded.
  • Counter Person will put all the necessary tags on your luggage but will not send the luggage through the belt to the plane yet but will return the luggage back to you. Make sure all the luggage tags are put on by the counter person. If the person at the counter is not understanding the procedure then show them the envelope that has the procedure written on it. You will get these envelopes along with the tax free forms from all the shops.

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  • Next, Take the luggage to the customs counter. Customs Counters are different for Turkish Airline Flights and other flights. Counter Numbers are mentioned on the tax free envelope and are very easy to find.
  • Customs counter will want to see your shopping. Show them the goods that you purchased. Once the customs office confirms the goods are there, they will ask for your boarding pass and your passport to verify the details. Once that is done they will stamp all your tax free forms.
  • Customs office will then put your luggage on the luggage belt so that they can go to the respective plane. That is why luggage tags from the check-in counter are very important.
  • You will need to take the now stamped tax forms with you to the departure lounge.

Word of Advice:

If you have more than one luggage bag then try and pack all your shopping into one bag before coming to the airport, that way you will not have to open all the bags and re-pack again.

Word of Caution:

Once your luggage is sent to the plane you cannot get your tax free forms stamped from the customs and hence will not be able to get the refund, so make sure that you get it stamped first. Also, make sure you go to the airport with time to spare as some times there is a queue and it might take some time.

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3. Get your Refund from Tax Refund Counter from Departure Lounge

After immigration when you reach the departure lounge look for the tax refund counter.

  • Go there and show all your tax free forms.
  • Upon Verifying they will ask you how do you want your refund. You can choose to get it in Cash or get the amount transferred to your credit card. If you choose cash you have the option of getting the refund either in US Dollars, Euro or Turkish Lira.
  • As per your instructions they will give you the refund amount.

Thats it! you are done. All your shopping is now tax free. The procedure is really simple if you follow it properly. I have gone through the process successfully myself and found no complications at all.

Airports where you can avail this facility:

Following International airports in Turkey offer the VAT tax refund service:

  • New Istanbul Airport
  • Sabiha Gokcen International Airport Istanbul
  • Antalya Airport Terminal 1 and Terminal 2
  • Ankara Esenboga Airport
  • Isparta Airport
  • Mugla – Bodrum Airport
  • Mugla – Dalaman Airport

Apart from these airport offices, there are a few other offices that are located within the cities that offer the same service. Details can be found here.

Most countries that offer Tax Free Shopping have almost similar if not the same procedure. Let me know if you got your tax refunded or if you encountered any problem by commenting below.

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1 Comment

Faryal · June 7, 2019 at 9:50 am

Good article! Planning my turkey trip this july and will keep this in mind

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