Jimmy Choo Cruise! Brits flock to European hotspots to buy designer goods, then recoup a fifth of the cost through a tax loophole

  • The trips were dubbed ‘Jimmy Choos cruises’ after the ‘booze cruises’ in Calais
  • VAT refund has only been available to UK tourists since Britain left the EU
  • British travelers already accounted for more than €1 out of €20 claimed

A growing number of British holidaymakers on shopping sprees in European cities are claiming millions of pounds in VAT through a tax loophole.

They can recover up to a fifth of the cost of their purchases within days of returning home.

Thierry Andretta, chief executive of high-end fashion company Mulberry, told the Mail on Sunday he had met travelers on the return trip to the UK laden with luxury shops worth thousands of pounds.

He said shoppers were candid that the money refunded from the rebate was enough to cover transportation, food and accommodation costs.

The trips were dubbed “Jimmy Choos cruises” after the “booze cruises” in Calais in the 1970s and 1980s, when Britons flocked to France to buy duty-free wine, beer and spirits.

Growing number of UK holidaymakers on shopping sprees in European cities are claiming millions of pounds in VAT through tax loophole

The VAT refund is available to international travelers visiting Europe – but has only been available to UK tourists on the continent since Britain left the EU.

The bulk of transactions come from spendthrift shoppers from the Middle East, China and the United States – but Global Blue, the Swiss tourism purchase tax refund company that handles refunds, said UK travelers already represented more than €1 out of €20 claimed. .

Derrick Hardman, managing director of Global Blue in the UK, Ireland and Finland, said: “We are seeing UK residents starting to take advantage of this.

“People weren’t really aware before, but I think over the summer months it will become more prevalent as people realize what’s going on. There are major retailers in Europe targeting UK travellers.

Retailers announce the savings to travelers at airports in Spain and Italy. France is also a hot spot.

A banner at an Italian airport read: “No more reasons to smile – UK customers can get their taxes back.”

They can recover up to a fifth of the cost of their purchases within days of returning home.

They can recover up to a fifth of the cost of their purchases within days of returning home.

In Spain, department store giant El Corte Ingles is offering a 10% voucher on top of the savings to British tourists arriving in Madrid and Barcelona. He said the savings on purchases over €154.95 would exceed 25%.

UK travelers are required to declare any goods purchased overseas to UK Border Control. 20% VAT is applied on goods over £135.

But Mr Andretta said the savings from shopping in Europe can still be substantial. He estimated that the cost of many French and Italian luxury items was around 15% higher in London, where retailers must absorb the substantial cost of Europe’s highest commercial rates and exorbitant rents in prices.

“More and more, I see people making the most of it. You see them coming back from Paris and obviously they’ve been shopping over the weekend,” he said.

A banner at an Italian airport read: ¿No more reasons to smile ¿ UK customers can get their taxes back ¿

A banner at an Italian airport read: ‘No more reasons to smile – UK customers can get their taxes back’

He claimed UK shops were in short supply after Chancellor Rishi Sunak closed a similar loophole for international tourists visiting here, adding: ‘It’s frustrating because we’re missing the opportunity.

He said mainland stores “appreciate this and we don’t”.

There is already evidence that some high-spending foreign visitors settle in Paris and Milan.

Mr Hardman said it had led to ‘business cannibalisation’ in the UK, adding: ‘It’s a shame the government has taken this down.’

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