Your stay in Belgium is coming to an end. You have shopped until you dropped and will soon be able to claim your VAT back on all these brand new goods you bought. Your ZappTax tax-free forms are in your email box, ready to be validated at Customs. But wait… How does it work? Here’s a complete guide on how to validate your Belgian tax-free forms at Customs!
What is Customs validation?
Customs validation is the last step of the tax-free shopping process. That is the moment when authorities verify that you have actually bought the goods in Belgium and that you will “consume” them in your country of residence (which MUST be outside the EU). Concretely, you need to validate your tax-free forms at Customs.
Reminder: a tax-free form is a document issued by either a merchant or a certified tax-refund operator (like ZappTax) and that lists all the items you want to claim a VAT refund on. It can be delivered in printed or digital formats. Each tax-free form is unique and must be validated by Customs before you leave the EU. If your form is not validated, the goods will be considered as not having left the EU and, thus, will not be eligible for a tax refund.
⚠️ Please make sure you have enough time to go to the Customs office to get your tax-free form validated before leaving the EU – we don’t want your trip to be disturbed!
To help you go through the Customs validation process as smoothly as possible, we gathered everything you must know in this article.
What do I need to have at hand at the time of Customs validation?
- Your passport.
- If you are an EU national (i.e. if you hold a passport from an EU country): a proof of residence (consular card, resident permit, work permit, green card, etc.).
- All your tax-free forms (in digital version on your smartphone and/or printed).
- The invoices we sent you by email alongside your tax-free forms (in case a Customs officer asks you to show proof that you purchased those goods).
- The goods themselves (in case a Customs officer wants to check them).
⚠️ According to Customs regulations, Customs officers are authorized to check the goods listed on your form. So keep them at hand in case you need to get them out.
How to validate my tax-free forms issued in Belgium?
There are several ways to validate a tax-free form issued in Belgium, depending on whether you are leaving the EU directly from Belgium (Brussels airport, Brussels-Midi/Zuid/South Eurostar train station, etc.) or not.
If you are leaving from Belgium, you do not need to print the ZappTax tax-free forms that we send you by email. You just need to go to the Customs office before check-in, mention to the officer that your forms were issued electronically and show him your passport. The officer will validate your forms electronically.
This digital process was launched by Belgian authorities in July 2020 and is still in its pilot phase. The service will be further improved and in the near future, you will be able to simply scan your passport (instead of your tax-free form) at self-serving terminals located nearby the Customs desk. You will not have to queue at the desk any longer. We will inform you as soon as these terminals are operational.
Note: this electronic validation process is only applicable in Belgium for tax-free forms that were issued in Belgium, either by a Belgian merchant or by a tax-free operator like ZappTax. If you leave the EU from Belgium but carry tax-free forms issued in other EU countries, these forms must be validated manually (i.e. by stamp) by a Belgian Customs officer.
If you are not leaving the EU from Belgium but from another EU country (like for example from Charles de Gaulle airport, from the Paris-Nord Eurostar train station, from Schiphol airport or by crossing the French-Swiss border by car), you MUST print your forms before leaving.
At your exit point, go to the nearby Customs office and show your printed documents to the Customs agent who will validate your tax-free forms with a physical stamp.
Note: Customs authorities in any of the 27 EU member states are mandated to validate tax-free forms issued in any of the other 26 EU member states.
If your form is validated electronically, you don’t need to do anything more. We will automatically receive an electronic confirmation from Customs and we will process your refund, most of the time within 24 hours, using your preferred refund method - be sure to fill your refund details in the ZappTax app before leaving the EU if you want a fast refund.
If your form is validated manually (i.e. with a physical stamp), you must upload a picture of your stamped tax-free form on the app.
Note: if you leave from Brussels airport and want to carry some of your goods in hand luggage, Customs may request you to validate the form related to those goods after security (whereas goods carried in hold luggage require Customs validation before checking in your luggage so before security). In such cases, we advise you to request from us the edition of separate tax-free forms for goods that you will carry in hand luggages and for goods that you will carry in hold luggage.
⚠️ REMEMBER: NO TAX-FREE FORM VALIDATION, NO VAT REFUND!
What if the Customs office at my exit point is closed or if I run into another issue?
The local Customs office could be closed if you happen to leave very early in the morning or late in the evening.
At Brussels airport, please note that if the main Customs office in the departure hall is closed, there is another Customs office in the arrival hall (next to the revolving doors where arrival passengers walk out of the security zone). That office is open 24/7.
In any case, if you don’t manage to get your forms validated, please contact us immediately (ideally before exiting the EU) by mail at email@example.com, phone (+32 2 880 59 12) or through the in-app chat so that we can advise you on the best way to still get your forms validated.
Tax-free shopping is a great opportunity but you need all the proper information to do it right. At ZappTax, our goal is to provide you with the best tax-free shopping experience. With our app, we try to make the whole process as hassle-free as can be! If you want to know more, check our website or visit our FAQ page. And do not hesitate to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for any inquiries!