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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Get 21% off the next time you go shopping!

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Get 21% off the next time you go shopping!



 
Why 21% off....because we are military people stationed in Belgium, or so my husband is.  This is one privilege for us over here (in Germany it is 19%)....see how high the salex tax is over here in Europe?!  We would croak if that ever happened in the US!  Here's how to get that tax money back.  In Germany, the process was easier...you purchased these VAT (value added tax) forms and handed them out like candy at ANY store where you bought a good or service.  My threshold for doing that was if I spent anything over 50 euro...period....it was then worth my time and the money I spent on my VAT form to get some chump change back (and more if I spent more).  Here in Belgium, not everything is tax-exempt and the process involves jumping through more hoops.

Why is our process so different from Germany?  I always like to joke it is because the guy who negotiated the Belgian part of the SOFA after the war was not as diligent as the guy who negotiated our SOFA in Germany...that's the only way I can explain getting a raw deal over here in Belgium!  Unless you are buying furniture, electronics and whatever items the VAT folks wave their magic wand over, you don't get tax relief and your 21% back.  
Like I said, anything over 50 euro (even here) is worth my while, so here's how to go about getting your money back.

After you make your purchase, take your receipt and head over to the store's customer service desk.  Have at least an idea of what goods are covered by VAT by checking with the SHAPE VAT office.  It is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 0900-1200 and Thursday from 0900-1300.

Step by step (using IKEA as an example):



  • The customer service desk is located to the right after the cash registers if you go to the Anderlecht IKEA outlet.  You'll see a ticketing machine instead of standing in line.  Push the button that says B - "Fakture".  When your number pops up on the display, head over to that counter.



  • Hand over your receipt and ask for a "Fakture" and saying "diplomatic forms" helps too (cause tourists can get tax back too once they get home).  I'm not familiar with that process, but there are many websites out there that detail how to get your tax money back.



  • They will get on their computer and type in your name and address.  IMPORTANT:  the Fakture MUST be in the sponsor's name (don't give them your name).  If you come to the VAT office with the receipt in your name, they will turn you away, and you'll have to go back to the store and get another receipt.



  • They will print out a Fakture and hand it to you.



  • Be sure to ask for the self addressed IKEA envelope with the "Demande de Remboursement" sheet inside (a colorful red form).

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  • On the colorful red form, you will fill out your bank information.  Unlike Germany, where you will immediately get your cash back, in Belgium, you will see the tax amount show up on your bank statement one to two months later.  That's how you know you have been reimbursed.  Hang onto this form for now after you fill it out.



  • Go to the VAT office on SHAPE in the main inprocessing building.  Show them your fakture, and they will check mark which items qualify....like I said, the magic wand gets waved.



  • If you are American, go to the little white building behind the inprocessing building (where you get your passports renewed, etc), and they will fill out another computer printed form for you and stamp it and note the number of items that qualify for tax-free.  Other country members, go to your own country's processing office on SHAPE.



  • Take all the papers back to the VAT office.  They will in turn fill out some more information and give you a stack of papers.



  • Make copies of all the papers for your records in case something gets lost!



  • Put the originals of all the forms, including your "Demande de Remboursement" into the provided IKEA envelope.

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  • Go to the Belgian post office (one in the HQ building and there is another one in the GB Supermarket...also off post obviously).  Mail in your packet and wait....and then wait some more...



  • Keep checking your bank account statements (or access online) to see if it got deposited.  If three months or so go by, and you get no money, stop by the VAT office to check it out.



  • Does anyone else want to share their VAT experience (Germany or Belgium or perhaps how they do it in the UK and Italy....if they have it?....also, as a tourist?).

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