Malpensa announces instant VAT refunds

Milan’s Malpensa airport has launched an instant cash-back facility for departing travellers to reclaim the Value-Added Tax (IVA in Italian) on their purchases made in Italy.

Introduced in time for the millions of visitors expected in the city for Expo 2015, the new system, called O.T.E.L.L.O is at present available in Europe only in Helsinki and Paris airports. It will later be launched in other Italian airports, too. A translation of the rules into Chinese is planned for the Malpensa website.

Otello is designed to eliminate queues at the customs office to request authorisation for the refund, which traditionally was paid out after checks and lengthy delays.

malpensa duty-free

People living or domiciled outside the European Union do not have to pay sales tax on many purchases in Italy (see list below). As IVA on many goods in Italy (especially those in the luxury class) is 22 per cent this is a considerable saving for departing passengers.

Totally digital, Otello has been designed to connect the store with the tax refund agencies and the customs service.

There are at present four tax refund agencies with desks at Malpensa: Global Blue, Tax Refund, Premier Tax Free and Forexchange. These desks can provide instant refund, either in cash on onto the traveller’s credit card, for purchases in stores which are members of one of these circuits. For purchases in other outlets, either not members of a refund circuit or members of one not represented at the airport, the traveller should first show the invoice to the customs desk, where a “visa” will be issued to present to the refund agency.

Malpensa hosts one of the EU’s largest shopping areas, with over 40 shops and including a 2,000 sqm duty-free store.

The conditions required for a foreign purchaser to receive a refund are:

  • residence or domicile outside the European Union;
  • purchase of goods intended for personal/household use;
  • total value in excess of €154.94 (VAT included) per invoice;
  • invoice (product description, traveller's personal details and passenger's passport details);
  • goods must be transported outside the territory of the European Union within three months from the date of purchase;
  • invoice must be returned to the Italian vendor within four months from the date of purchase (responsibility of the tax refund agency).

Items eligible for a VAT refund include:

  • clothing, footwear, leather goods and accessories;
  • small pieces of furniture, furnishing and household objects;
  • sporting goods;
  • gold articles and jewellery;
  • toys;
  • musical instruments and accessories;
  • computers and accessories;
  • telephony and radio-television equipment;

For more details see the Malpensa website.