VAT it back!



People don’t believe me when I say I take an empty suitcase with me when I go to the UK.  UAE is not cheap or good for shopping. Back home there are constant sales and we also get our VAT back as non-residents #win.

Admittedly it took me a few years to realise that as a resident of the UAE, I could claim my VAT back in the UK and Europe. After several years of claiming back, I am now an expert at it and highly recommend doing it.

So if you live outside Europe this is what you do to claim your VAT back.

1. Go to the store. Buy loads.

2. At the till say “I want to claim my VAT back”.

Do it before they start scanning the items and most probably again 3 more times if you are in a high street store.  Don’t both in Selfridges, and Marks and Spencer’s. See below.

3a. Classy Designer store – they will ask you to complete yours details on a form. They will take those details and print a VAT receipt for you with all your details completed on it, so all you need to do is sign the VAT receipt.

3b. Selfridges – you collect all the receipts you get around the store and then go to the VAT department (basement near kitchen department in Oxford Street). When your number is called, go to a desk, complete a form with your details and the lovely Selfridges people will print a VAT receipt for you with your details completed. You just need to sign the receipt. Selfridges keep your details, so you just need to show your passport when shopping there again.

3c. Normal high street store – most probably the sales person will be unhelpful and say either they don’t do it or you haven’t spent enough. Both reasons are normally rubbish and they just can’t be bothered to get the VAT receipt or don’t know how to do it. Ask them to check with their manager. Most tills now ask automatically if the sales person wants to print the VAT receipt (hence why you have to tell them several times before the end of the transaction).  If not, they have to manually completed a long form with the details and will ask you to complete details as well. (Hence why they try to get out of giving you the receipt).

3d. Primark – You need to go to customer service or if in Marble Arch the specific VAT department to get the receipt. Just show them your receipts and they will print or manually complete the VAT receipt. It will be a manual receipt if you are in a small town Primarni.

3e. Marks and Spencer is the same as Selfridges – collect the receipts from all the stores (except food) and then go to one to get the receipt from the customer service department. Go to a big store like Marble Arch to get your VAT receipt as they have the automatic receipt printing machine. In some other stores they complete the form manually (so behind).

Note: In some stores such as House of Fraser, they will ask if you want your VAT back immediately in cash. If you say yes, you have to pay additional admin fees so the amount given back to you is far less. I would recommend saying no and filling in the forms to get the refund on your credit card.

4. Make sure that the sales person signs the VAT receipt and stamps it. You cannot get your money back if they don’t sign it.

5. Make sure you take your passport or ID showing you live outside UK/EU with you. A lot of shops ask for it as proof that you are not a resident in the UK and EU,  and show them your current visa page (the sales people can get very confused and argumentative if they see you with an EU passport). Passport is therefore the best bet.

Apple will not give you a VAT receipt at all without the passport being shown. They are beyond difficult.  And they forget to sign the form so be careful with them.

6. If it’s not a classy store, you need to complete the VAT receipts before you leave for the airport. Put in name, address in country of residence, date of birth, arrival and departure date, etc.

Make a note of the tax receipt number and tax company (Premier, Global Blue, etc).

7. Put in your credit card number, so you get the VAT refund straight to your card. It means your VAT return helps to part-pay the bills and also reduces the amount of admin fees you pay.

If you ask for cash you have to a) pay extra admin fees (you have to pay one set of admin fees) and b) claim cash at airport where there will most probably be a long queue.

8. To be organised, put all VAT receipts for Premier tax in one envelope, Global Blue in another, etc. There are about four tax companies.

9. Take your VAT receipts in their specific envelopes and your actual sales receipts (hold them separately) to the airport.

10. Before you check in, find the VAT office/counter. There will be signs for it.  I repeat do it before you check in.

11. Give the the customs people your VAT receipts and passport. They will also ask where the goods are so have your luggage near you. They may ask for the sales receipts if they are on a jobs-worth mission.

The customs people will stamp the VAT receipts and then return them to you. You need to put the VAT receipts only in their specific envelope and then mail the envelopes (it’s free to mail). There are normally letterboxes in the departure area or give them to the family/friends to post them immediately for you.

12. You need to get to the airport earlier than you would normally, to do the VAT stamping.

It can take a while if it’s a busy time of the day and if you are flying from Heathrow.

If its Gatwick North Terminal (for Emirates) it takes 5 minutes.

Other airports maybe quick, but Heathrow is never quick (except during the Olympics when they just took the receipts without asking any questions at all!!).

13. Check in, do the duty free (might as well continue with your tax saving shopping).

14. Fly home (unfortunately not in Concorde) :(.



15. Check credit card bills after about a week and you will see the refunds. If you don’t get the refunds within 3 weeks contact the tax company to check the status of your refund. Global Blue are on twitter so you can tweet them.

16. If you go to different EU countries, make sure you go to the VAT counter at the airport/train station from the country you are leaving to get the stamp. You can mail the envelope from your final destination with the other receipts.

So for example, the other year I went to London, Copenhagen (for 4 amazing days), back to London and then to Dubai. I obtained VAT receipts in Copenhagen (they are very organised and helpful there) and had the receipts stamped at Copenhagen airport before I flew back to the UK. I stated my date of departure on the receipts as the date of when I would be leaving Europe (not Copenhagen).  The receipt was included in the envelope with the other Global Blue ones from the UK and mailed.

Of course the procedures can change, stores might be become more tech savvy, etc. If there are changes, please let me know so I can update the above advice.

If you have had any experiences with claiming your VAT back let us know.

Hope this was helpful.


Update: You can also claim your VAT back when in Lebanon. Information on how to claim back can be found here. Remember to take a copy of your passport with you to include with your receipts sent to the tax refund company.


2013 – bye bye


2013 sucked in many ways with tension, stress and other things but it’s also been great as I started Decluttr Me, moved into my lovely apartment, went on lots of holidays in the Middle East, became spot free and got Oreo.

Still no man in my life who doesn’t irritate the hell out of me but I’m sure one day one man will turn up who is not a freakazoid.

Thanks if you were involved in the goods times, you have been blocked if you were involved in the bad times. Roll on 2014.

Working from Home

Last week was my final week as a Solicitor. Did I feel good?


After 12 years  it felt brilliant to finally stop being an in-house lawyer and start running my own business – a decluttering service business (see It also feels good to say I am an entrepreneur, owner and even Managing Director (as it states on the trade licence and my business cards – slightly knobbish I know but hey it was offered to me). I am excited, scared and thinking as I type of how to get more clients.

I have faith that this is a great idea but it is a new concept in the UAE and it is a service that people have to get used to. Also you have the trepidation from potential clients to let you into their house and clutter. No one would want a stranger into your house to see the clutter and tell you that you need to change your space. There may be images of me coming in and just throwing everything away into a big bin bag, but the reality is different. Decluttr Me is about organizing your belongings into a neat easily accessible manner for future use. The bin bags will be used mainly for out of date food and torn underwear.

After years of helping corporations, I now have a chance to help people in a way that can change their lives even if it is in a small way. Also the items that are cleared away will be sold and their proceeds donated to worthwhile charities, or if they are not sellable items, provided to clothes banks for recyclable use.  I am still undecided on which main charities to assist. I would like to help a woman’s charity in the UAE and a charity in Kenya (where my family are originally from). I have been in touch with Dar Al Ber Woman Affairs Dept and hope to liaise with them for Decluttr Me and also to volunteer as well.  If you have contacts with worthwhile charities in both countries please let me know.

Starting this week as a full time business owner, I have been working in my apartment in my home office, which I formed over the last few weeks (see the picture with kitty included, the kitty does not want to leave my office…ever).

131002 Home office and oreo

I had been warned by friends, who are freelancers, of the perils of working alone and they weren’t wrong. The issues I have faced so far include:

–  Munching on chocolates, cookies (from Ben’s cookies – bloody tempting), salt n’ vinegar crisps;

– Making lots of cups of tea (not normal for me) and a big cooked lunch;

–  My two lovely cats sitting on my chair, desk, keyboard, blocking the screen and generally getting in the way;

–  No one to talk to except the cats

–  Distractions of new TV to watch – I had to start this home office the week of new TV coming out. The Ultimate Airport Dubai was very good by the way.

–  The balcony is a few feet away to have various breaks;

–  Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook easily distract me, but to be fair they are mainly accessed for Decluttr purposes (honest!).

Working at home you have to be strict with yourself. I am continuing to wake up at 7am every morning, however I will start dressing up as if I am going out to work, as wearing my slob clothes doesn’t inspire the work juices. I also have to stop the snack food and breaks.  My friend wisely advised that you need a break and not to work 7 days a week. I hope to follow that advise and also not work in the evening as well. I do need a distraction from myself every so often so my social media viewings will be allowed.

I also think that it is a good idea to get out even if it’s to a coffee shop to work for a bit. There are places I have read where freelancers and entrepreneurs hang out during the day. I have been to one or two places and the clientele have annoyed me with their superiority complexes. The corporate side of me is not a fan of bs chat and behavior so it will be hard for me to summon the willpower to go to these “hubs”. I should try them out as they might not be that bad now…

One or two places I will be trying include the Archive in Safe Park, which was expensive but had great coffee and atmosphere, Bastakiya (as it is my favourite place in Dubai) and the coffee shops in Motor City (as MC is near me). I will be giving my review of these places and business hubs so that other newbie freelancers and entrepreneurs have an idea of where to go when they want to work outside home.

For now, I have to take a break from working and watch TV.

New Start

I have decided to jump off the diving board and start a new venture. Decluttering.

If you know me, you will know that i’m an anal clean freak who likes to organise and clear up whereever i go. I have been known to go to friend’s houses and start cleaning up their mess while they chat.  I have decided to use these extraordinary skills to good use to help people in the UAE clear up their wardrobes, papers, anything and everything.

It’s still early days but over the next few weeks I will be testing the waters and seeing what you lot think of my crazy idea. Is it sane to step out of my corporate world box and do something so crazily anal?  Will I have any clients? Will I drive my twitter followers nuts with discussions on organising and IKEA boxes? All will be revealed.

I did amend this blog last night but on hindsight i have decided to start a new one just for the new venture.

For now let me know what you think of the name “Shelo’s Closet”. Catchy, twee or downright excellent? Also if you want to give helpful advice for a new start-up lady, it would be appreciated. 🙂