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Tax refund in Switzerland

Conditions for tax exemption

Supplies of goods rendered to tourists (people domiciled abroad) are exempt from tax only if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The retail price of the goods must be at least CHF 300 (incl. VAT). However, the retail price excluding VAT has to be indicated in the export document.

  • The buyer (= tourist/customer) may not be domiciled on Swiss territory (art. 3 indent VAT Act). In contrast, it is irrelevant whether the buyer is a Swiss or foreign national.

  • The goods must be intended for the personal use of the buyer or as gifts.

  • The goods must be exported to a foreign customs territory by the buyer within 30 days of receipt.

  • Proof of exportation can be provided either with a confirmed export document (art. 3-5) or with an unconfirmed export document together with an import assessment issued by a foreign customs authority (art. 6).

  • The export document must be drawn up in the name of the buyer and may contain solely goods supplied to this person. Joint declarations with goods for various buyers are not permitted. 

If one or more of the conditions above are not met, the tax-free scheme is not applicable.

Self-drafted export documents

Suppliers (= sellers) can also draft their own export documents. These must contain the following points:

  1. Title "Export document in tourist traffic"

  2. Name and location of the supplier (seller) as used for business purposes, as well as the supplier's VAT number (new UID format or former 6-digit format)

  3. Name and address of the buyer (tourist/customer)

  4. Number of the buyer's official identity document, and type of document in question

  5. Date of delivery of the goods

  6. Precise description of the goods and selling price (excluding VAT)

  7. Field for the signatures of the supplier and buyer

  8. Comment regarding the accuracy of the data and knowledge of the prerequisites for tax exemption. In this regard, the FTA recommends the following wording: 
    "The undersigned confirm the accuracy of the data and declare that they are familiar with the prerequisites for tax exemption."

  9. Field for providing official confirmation

vat refund ZH Airport

VAT Tax refund - Zurich Airport

Tax refund geneva

VAT Tax refund - Geneva Airport

Confirmation of exportation by a Swiss customs office

When leaving Swiss territory, the buyer must present the goods and the completed export document at a Swiss customs office without being requested to do so. The customs office sends the confirmed export document to the supplier if it is provided with a self-addressed stamped envelope. 

The supplier or buyer is responsible for taking the steps necessary to obtain confirmation of the export document. The Federal Customs Administration (FCA) is not obliged to notify persons leaving Switzerland about the export confirmation required by the supplier for tax exemption. 

If no customs officers are present at the Swiss customs office at the time of departure, confirmation of exportation can be provided solely by a recognised office abroad. Export documents that are placed in the declaration box at the Swiss customs office will be returned by the FCA to the supplier unstamped. Exportation therefore cannot be proved in this way.

Confirmation of exportation by a recognised office abroad

If the confirmation of exportation is not provided by the FCA at the time of departure, the buyer has the following evidence options:

  • The export can be confirmed on the export document by a recognised office abroad. Afterwards, the buyer sends the document to the supplier.

  • The buyer sends the unconfirmed export document to the supplier, together with the original or copy of the import assessment issued by a foreign customs authority. 

Recognised offices abroad are foreign customs authorities and Swiss embassies or consulates in the country where the buyer is domiciled.

Only those import assessments that are written in a Swiss national language or in English will be accepted. If the confirmation is in another language, a certified translation into one of those languages has to be enclosed.

Special rules for tourist groups

For the purpose of easier understanding, only the term "tourist group" will be used for "foreign guided tourist group" in the explanations below. 

The supplier can apply the provisions mentioned above for tourist groups or, alternatively, apply the special rules for tourist groups (Art. 7). These special rules offer the supplier the possibility of selling goods to members of guided tourist groups directly without VAT within Switzerland. In this case, it is not necessary to leave the country via a Swiss customs office or subsequently obtain confirmation from a recognised office abroad. The right to carry out checks within the scope of the customs authority's usual inspections in the cross-border movement of goods and persons remains reserved. 

The prerequisites for tax-free deliveries by the supplier to members of tourist groups are set out in the authorisation application form (form no. 1238). If the FTA grants authorisation, the seller can apply the special rules.

1238_01 - Application requesting authorisation for the supplier (seller) to apply the special rules for tourist groups (tax exemption at source) (PDF, 46 kB, 06.10.2015)

Forms

Form no. 11.49 and form no. 11.49 [A] remain valid, but they are no longer printed. In their place, the FTA has drafted a sample export document, which can be downloaded from its website.

Export document in tourist traffic (PDF, 38 kB, 02.10.2015)

Facts about Switzerland

Population                         8'500'000

Capital                                Bern

Largest City                       Zurich

Calling Code                      +41 

Time Zone                          GMT + 1

Currency accepted            CHF - Swiss Franc 

Official Language              German

                                              French

                                              Italian

                                              Romansh

Places to see - Travel and Activities

  • Zurich Old Town

  • Mt. Pilatus

  • Bernese Highland

  • Lausanne

  • Grindelwald

  • Matterhorn

  • Mt. Titlis

  • Davos

  • Stanserhorn

Getting around -  All about Transportation in Switzerland and how to use it

Online Train and Tram Tickets Shop
Switzerland Guide App
app store
google play

The Zurich Card

For 24 CHF provides you with free Public transportation in the City, including Trip to Airport, for 24 Hours. Includes Access and Discounts at Museums, Restaurants and various Tourist Attraction

How to get from Zurich Airport to Zurich.

Zurich Airport is only 10 km (6 miles) away from the city center, so it is quick and easy to travel there after your plane has landed. There are various ways of traveling from the airport to Zurich.

How to Travel from Zurich to Interlaken

The best way to reach Interlaken from Zurich, and eventually Vacation Hits Lauterbrunnen and Jungfrau Mountain, is by Train.

More Destinations

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