If you are a temporary visitor in Croatia, you may be entitled to a VAT refund at the end of your stay prior to departure. Before we dive into how you get back your VAT, let’s go over some basics.
What is VAT?
VAT stands for “Value Added Tax”. It is a tax calculated by a set percentage, which varies by country, that is added to most purchases. In some cases, a country may have a colloquial name for VAT. In Croatia, VAT is called “PDV”, which stands for ”porez na dodanu vrijednost”. You can read all about Croatia’s PDV system here.
In Croatia, the PDV tax is 25% on every item you purchase with minute exceptions. To have the value-added tax refunded at the end of your visit to Croatia, there are certain formalities you must go through first.
Who can request a refund of VAT?
Only non-EU nationals can request a refund of value added tax upon exiting the European Union. For a purchase to qualify, you must spend more than 740 kuna on a single invoice, which is approximately 100EUR and 117USD (at the time of this post).
What do I need to do at the time of purchase?
Given that your purchase is above the limit, this is what you need to do at the time of purchase:
- Make sure you are shopping in a store that offers the possibility of a refund. Most tourist, department stores, and high-end shops offer VAT refund, which is usually indicated by a sign in the window or near the cash register. If you are unsure, ask the merchant.
- Have your passport ready. Let the cashier know that you want a VAT refund. You’ll be asked to present your passport when you make the purchase in order to start the refund process.
- Make sure you get the refund form. When you make your purchase, the merchant will fill out the refund document, often called a tax-free form. Fill out the paperwork correctly and attach it to your receipt.
The precise details of getting your money back will depend on how a particular shop organizes its refund process. Usually, in Croatia, you need to get the documents (forms and receipts) stamped at the border (Customs Desk) when leaving the EU. Ask the customs desk for further instructions.
You need these three things to start the refund process:
- Your unused purchase (proof of export)
- Receipt (original invoice)
- VAT paperwork (PDV form completed at the shop)
What else should I know?
To be abundantly clear, you present and stamp the documents only at the last stop when exiting the EU, regardless of where you made your purchases. So if you bought a cravat in Croatia, a pair of leather boots in Italy and a vest in Slovenia, but your departure from the EU is in France, then get your documents stamped at the airport in Paris. Also, please note that if there are different currencies (kuna, euros) you are obligated to pay the conversion fee.
At your point of departure, find the local Customs Office, they are usually positioned before airport security. In train stations, ports or border crossings, finding the customs desk may take a while, but it’s necessary if you want to get a VAT refund.
The purchases must be unused, accessible and in the original packaging.
What happens at the Customs Office?
At the Customs Office, an export officer will, first of all, stamp your documents. You present the purchased item as proof.
The refund will be in cash, in the currency of the country you made the purchase. They have high exchange rates, so change the refund in other exchange places if you can. Other refund services may require you to mail the documents, which usually takes a lot of time.
When it comes to VAT refunds, be prepared, informed and patient. Sometimes, even with the prepared documents and unused purchases, the situation can take an unexpected turn. Make sure that you’re concentrated and focused on the solution, not the problem. If you don’t get the refund, you can always complain to the company where you bought the item, because ultimately they’re responsible for the refund.
Is there an easier way?
If you made a purchase in a store that works with Global Blue or Premier Tax Free, they take care of this entire process for you. Find their offices at the airport. These services charge a fee, usually a set percentage of your refund (about 4 percent), but save you further hassle and delay.
To avoid VAT entirely, shop at stores with VAT-free goods. Those shops usually have a sign ’VAT free’, ‘tax-free’ or sometimes the sign will be in the local language. In Croatia ‘’Bez PDV’’ means “without VAT”.
You can learn more about VAT refunds for international travelers here, which is published by the Croatian Ministry of Finance Tax Administration.