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I received an email from a reader who had  recently travelled to Europe and bought a number of reasonably expensive items on his journey. His trip concentrated on Portugal and Spain for the most part.

Late, and in a rush to catch his plane he did not have time to meet with the people at the airport who could get his paperwork stamped, in order to facilitate a easy VAT refund.

Upon his return he wondered if he could still get back his qualifying refunds.

Not all readers are even aware visitors can apply to get back the monies they paid on their purchases on the value-added tax portion, or VAT as it is referred to most commonly.

Since the VAT can be as high as 25 per cent, it is definitely something travellers should be paying attention to, since it is not at all  hard to apply for, and receive the claim while you are in the country.

In Europe especially retail outlets will promote sales by informing you verbally or with signs that read “Tax-Free Shopping” or “Premier Tax Free” in their display windows as well as in store.

While it is easiest to access the program while you are in Europe, you can in fact mail your receipts to a refund service after you get home. Each retailer can work with the refund service of its choice, of which there are many. So the challenge of making the claim after you have returned to Canada is finding out exactly who each merchant’s service was and then ensuring you mail all the information accurately to the correct address.

But once you know this, you can get the refund credited to your credit card so it comes to you in Canadian currency.

To my understanding, the biggest refund service in Europe is called Global Blue, which represents almost three million merchants in more than 20 countries.

The biggest refund services have locations at major airports. It is better going early to ensure you have plenty of time to complete the required forms and have access to help from the refund agents at the service desk.

As you can see it is worth the time for readers to pay attention to the VAT program. It is a shame to lose it… especially if you made purchases of any significant value.

I talk a lot about this issue with people who come into the Journeys travel store at Donald at Wardlaw in Winnipeg, or who email questions on line as they are buying products like security wallets, luggage, or travel clothing.

It never ceases to surprise me that most people seem not to be aware of this opportunity.

By preparing yourself to save all appropriate receipts it becomes top of mind in every store in which you may be shopping for gifts for others, or yourself.

At 25% this can represent serious savings.

For other similar travel tips check our previous Ask Journeys columns on our website or listen to last weeks and other previous Journeys Travel Shows, our weekly radio travel hour which we host live on CJOB every Sunday at noon Central Time

Let me know how you make out on your next trip and as always

Safe Journeys

Ron Pradinuk