Boots to stop charging VAT at airports

Boots has announced that it will provide VAT refunds in respect of goods bought in its airport stores.

This is following a revelation back in 2015, when airline passengers found they had been overcharged.

The controversy began when it was revealed that a number of airside retailers, including Boots, had been claiming millions of pounds in VAT refunds from passengers travelling outside the EU, who they identified by asking to see their boarding passes.

Flyers got wind of the practice and began to refuse to provide their boarding passes. This prompted the former Chancellor George Osborne to announce that some airport retailers were keeping up to an estimated 50p of every £1 of potential VAT savings, which should have gone to the passengers. Now Boots has begun to make the refunds, following in the footsteps of WH Smith, which began giving money back to customers last year.

The rules state that airport customers flying outside the EU or to the Chanel Islands, Gibraltar, or the Canary Islands can claim back VAT on any goods that carry VAT and are priced higher than £5 in Boots or £6 in WHSmith. These passengers will have to show their boarding passes however, to prove that they are flying outside the EU.

According to a spokesman for Boots, the £5 price point was chosen because it is the price at which customers will receive a “meaningful saving”. He added that the retailer had been carrying out a “comprehensive review of VAT relief concessions” in its airside outlets to find the “right solution to meet customers’ needs”.

WHSmith also carried out “extensive customer research” and came up with the £6 price point. Dixons, the technology retailer, has yet to offer refunds but said its customers benefit from savings through the lower prices it offers.

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