If you by stuff while travelling abroad (more specifically to European and some Asiatic countries) you may be paying more than you need to! This is because in such countries there are some taxes that tourists do not need to pay but they are included in the product price anyway.
Bellow I show the basic steps to make sure you'll get a tax refund:
- Find a participant store
- Buy and pay (of course) your stuff
- Tell the clerk that you want to get a tax-refund (at this point he/she will fill a form with information regarding your purchases / you)
- At the airport do the procedure to get your refund.
Also, keep in mind that the following description is based on my own experience (mostly travelling to Germany) and it may be different in other countries (although I believe that they are either pretty similar if not the same in all countries).
So, when you get ready to return:
- At the check-in post inform the clerk that you have a tax-refund to claim. She/he should follow the usual procedure but instead of dispatching your bags immediately it will be handed back to you (with the baggage identification stickers on it).
- Now you need to go tho the customs where a custom official will check your purchases, receipts and stamp the form filled at the store. At this moment your bags will be dispatched.
- With your form stamped go to the "tax-free" post (usually within the board area, i.e, after the security checks) and present the just stamped form and your passport.
- Get some of your hard earned money back.
Regarding refund methods I have used two different ones: i) cash, ii) credit in a credit card; sometimes the tax-refund clerk asks you which method do you want, sometimes he/she will pick one for you :)
One mistake I've made at least twice was to forget that in some flight connections you don't take your bags back at the intermediate airport. For instance in one of my travels I was returning from Germany to Brasil but my flight had a connection in France, i.e, I'd fly from Germany -> France -> Brasil. Since the instructions are to follow this procedure when you are leaving EU I planed to do this in France, but wait, I did not got my bags back in France, so no refund for me this time. In this case I should have done the process in Germany.
BTW: Last time I got back 13 euros which represents more or less 10% of my expenses (this value may vary for each country of course).
Hope this help others....