Tourist Tip #56 / VAT Refunds

As a tourist, you’re entitled to cash back from the taxman; just remember to take care of a little paperwork.

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Israel's value added tax stands at 17 percent, but if you're a tourist, don't sweat it -- when you return to the airport for your departing flight, you can get the tax refunded on many big-ticket purchases by following several simple stemps.

Only purchases of more than $100, made at participating stores, are eligible. Before plunking down your cash, look for the "tax refund for tourists" sticker on the store's front door.

A standard receipt is not enough to ensure your refund, so even if the store's employee tells you otherwise, insist they write you out a special tax-refund invoice, also known as a Change Place tax refund form. The form must be pre-printed with the store's name. If an employee tries to make an excuse as to why they can't provide you with the special form, you can use it as an opportunity to bargain for a lower price or take it as a sign that you should shop elsewhere.

To get your money back, visit the tax refund booth at the Ben-Gurion Airport departure hall in Terminal 3. You will need to present both the receipts themselves as well as the items in question, so make sure to pack your new purchases in your carry-on baggage so you'll have it on hand.

Be aware that your refund is subject to a service commission, and it can fluctuate depending on the current exchange rate of your home currency and whether or not the money is returned to a credit card. Check with the teller to see how you can incur the lowest possible charge.

Finally, remember that you’ll need to show your tourist visa to claim your refund. If you prefer not to have your passport stamped when entering Israel, make sure you hang on to the piece of paper stamped by the border agent instead.

When shopping for baubles in Israel, remember that tourists can often get a refund on the value added tax.Credit: Bloomberg