You are about to leave Spain and will go back to your country of residence soon. Before leaving the EU, there is one last thing you need to do in order to claim your VAT refund: validate your tax-free forms at Customs! How does it work? We explain everything in detail in this article. Keep reading!
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 Spain 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 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!
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. Keep them at hand in your luggage in case you need to get them out.
How to validate my tax-free forms issued in Spain?
Spain has one of the easiest processes to validate tax-free forms. You just need to scan your form barcode at a DIVA interactive terminal.
DIVA stands for “Devolución de IVA a viajeros”, which can be translated in English by “VAT refund to travelers”. First implemented in 2016, DIVA terminals are located at multiple Spanish EU exit points like international airports, seaports and land borders. We list the places where you can find DIVA terminals later in this article.
If there is no DIVA terminal at your EU exit point or if the terminal is out of service, you must go to the nearby Customs office, where your document will be validated directly by a Customs officer.
Note: this electronic validation process is only applicable in Spain for tax-free forms that were issued in Spain, either by a Spanish merchant or by a tax-free operator like ZappTax. If you leave from Spain but carry tax-free forms issued in other EU countries, these forms must be validated manually (i.e. by stamp) by a Spanish Customs officer.
⚠️ REMEMBER: NO TAX-FREE FORM VALIDATION, NO VAT REFUND!
How to use a DIVA terminal?
It’s very easy.
- First, you need to find the DIVA terminal at your point of departure (see the exact locations in the list below).
- Follow the instructions on the screen and scan the barcode of your tax-free form using the optical reader.
- Once your document has been scanned, a green text will appear on the screen with the message “The DIVA form has been stamped”. This electronic approval is your Customs validation. ZappTax will automatically receive an electronic confirmation that your form has been validated by Customs.
- If the screen message states “The DIVA form cannot be validated”, you must follow the instructions shown on screen and present your forms at a Customs office nearby.
If your form is validated electronically, you don’t need to do anything more. Once we receive the automatic message from Customs confirming the validation of your tax-free form, 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.
Where can I find DIVA terminals to validate my tax-free form?
DIVA terminals are usually located close to Customs offices at the Spanish exit points. You will find a list below, organised by means of transportation: plane, car, boat.
⚠️ Please note: if an exit point does not have a DIVA terminal, you can still validate your tax-free form there! You should then locate the nearby Customs desk and ask the officer to validate your form manually by use of a physical stamp.
I am leaving Spain by plane ✈️
Spain’s 16 major international airports that have DIVA terminals:
- Alicante Airport
- Almería International Airport
- Asturias Airport
- Barcelona Airport (Terminals 1 and 2)
- Fuerteventura Airport
- Gran Canaria Airport
- Ibiza Airport
- Jerez de la Frontera Airport
- Lanzarote Airport
- La Palma Airport
- Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (Terminals 1, 4 and 4 Satélite)
- Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport
- Seville Airport
- Tenerife North Airport
- Tenerife South Airport
- Valencia Airport
There are also DIVA terminals available at the following airports: Zaragoza, Pamplona, Santiago, Lleida, La Caruna, Salamanca, Valladolid, Vigo and Murcia.
I am leaving Spain by car 🚗
- Central Customs Office: Avinguda Fiter i Rossell 2, AD700 Escaldes - Engordany, Andorra
- DCNJ Porta: Border Pas de la Casa, AD200 Pas De La Casa, Andorra
- Customs Office Sant Julià de Lòria: RIU Runer Border, AD600 Sant Julià de Lòria, Andorra
Cadiz La Linea:
- One DIVA terminal
I am leaving Spain by boat ⛴️
Spain has 13 major seaports where DIVA terminals are located:
- Alicante Port
- Almería Port
- Cadiz Port
- Cartagena Port
- Fuerteventura Port
- Granada Motril Port
- Lanzarote Port
- La Palma Port
- Malaga Port
- Tarragona Port
- Tenerife Port
- Valencia Port
- Vigo Port
How do I validate my forms issued in Spain if I leave the EU from another country than Spain?
If you are not leaving the EU from Spain but from another EU country (like for example an airport in France or by crossing the French-Swiss border by car), you MUST first 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 manually (i.e. with a physical stamp), you must upload a picture of your stamped tax-free form on the app.
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.
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 (+34 910 607 358) 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 info to do it right. At ZappTax, our goal is to provide you with the best tax-free shopping experience. Our app tries 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. Do not hesitate to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for specific questions!