Home Advice Do I really need to show my boarding pass at airport shops?

Do I really need to show my boarding pass at airport shops?

by Tash 19th April 2016
airport boarding pass

Last summer The Independent broke a story about an airport VAT scam that sent holidaymakers into a spin.

Breaking news

It revealed the real reason we’re asked for our boarding passes when shopping at the airport. Shops use the information to avoid paying 20% VAT on everything they sell to customers travelling outside of the EU.

The problem? The majority of these shops were passing little, if any, of the savings on to customers, instead using them to boost profits of airport stores.

The reaction

Naturally, airport customers reacted very strongly over this, with many refusing to show their boarding pass at airport shops and the retail watchdog urged Government to bring in new laws to end the VAT rip-off.

What does it mean for me?

Here are the basics you need to know to avoid getting ripped off the next time you’re shopping at the airport.

Items that should be reduced if a boarding pass is requested

Anything that carries VAT, including everything from sweets, soft drinks, snacks, water and crisps, to sun cream lotions, cosmetics and perfumes.

Items that can’t be reduced at airport shops

Anything that doesn’t carry VAT, including books, newspapers and magazines.

Are shops passing on the full savings on duty-free goods?

Harrods is one of the only shops to sell all of its products at VAT-free prices in airports, with Dixons offering small reductions and most, including Boots, charging the same as they do on the high street.

If a product is genuinely duty free, there should be two separate prices on display. 

Is it a legal requirement to show my boarding pass when shopping at the airport?

Yes – if you are buying anything in a duty free shop.

Because duty/ VAT has been suspended in these shops, the Government needs evidence of destination for all goods sold. Your boarding pass shows whether you are travelling inside or outside of the EU, so it knows whether and how much VAT you should be charged.

No – if you are buying goods in a tax-free shop, like WH Smith, Boots and Dixons.

Have you been asked for your boarding pass at airport shops and refused to hand it over? What was the reaction? Share your stories in the comments below.

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