Tourists visiting Russia will finally be given an opportunity to get VAT back from purchases made in the country.
The tax-free Russia scheme will start from 2012, and the money will be returned after crossing the border, Mark Prior company executive Valentina Yenina told RIA Novosti.
Tax free in Russia
“Tax-free is a product that will allow foreign buyers who come to Russia to have the right to receive VAT back. Introducing the system in Russia will allow the number of tourists interested in buying in Russia to increase,” she noted.
The process will start when making a purchase in specially selected shops marked with a sign on the door. The buyer and the shop assistant will fill in a form – a passenger customs declaration – the main document required to receive money back.
It will need to be kept together with the receipt until the buyer arrives at the airport. In the airport there will be a stand “Mark Prior tax free,” where the tourist will be able to fill in documents for the return of the VAT.
When passing through customs, the documents will be stamped. Then they will need to be put sealed in an envelope and placed in a Mark Prior box. The money will then be sent to the client’s postal address as a cheque or on their bank account within three months. The client can follow the money on the company’s website.
“The project supposes not only the participation of shops, but also airport and payment systems. Shops participating in the program will be marked with a special sign for tourists to let them know that this is a place where they can arrange a tax return,” Yenina said.
The project will start in Moscow and St. Petersburg and Sochi will join later.
“We expect to reach a decent volume in a year,” said Tax Free Russia project manager Olga Maksimova, RIA Novosti reported.
Maksimova added that it was more difficult to agree with large shops that have more divisions and complicated accounts.
Just what the tourists need
About 6.2 million tourists visit Russia every year. The average size of their purchases is about 300 euros per tourist, organizers say.
The minimum receipt to participate will be 10,000 rubles and Mark Prior’s commission will be 2 percent. The rest of the VAT (18 percent for normal goods, 10 percent for children’s goods), will be returned. In time the minimum receipt amount may be lowered.
In Russia, the list of eligible goods is much longer than in most European countries, including clothes, shoes, electronics, souvenirs and food.
“The majority of goods bought in Russia are souvenirs and art objects. It can be expensive things, but now tourists cannot return their VAT. For example, Orenburg scarves, popular with tourists, can cost from 18,000 rubles. Tourists buying jewellery, diamonds, and amber are also interested in getting the tax back. I am sure that every third or fifth tourist will be filling in the tax-free forms,” Yenina said.
The system, however, will not affect Belarus and Kazakhstan nationals, as the two countries are in a customs union with Russia.