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Monday, July 9, 2012

Tipping in French Restaurants and Asking for French Sales Tax to be Returned.

All taxes and service charges are included in the price on the menu
Non-European citizens are entitled to the return of taxes on gifts, clothes and commercial purchases made in France.

Behind the French Menu.
Bryan G. Newman
Updated 2017

Outside the joys that a wonderful meal can bring there are additional pleasant surprises when dining in France. 

Photograph courtesy of caribb.

Restaurants in France include all service charges and taxes in the prices shown on the menu; that is true for the restaurant on the corner and a three star Michelin award-winning restaurant.  A French diner who has enjoyed an excellent meal and great service may round the total on the bill upwards; so maybe, at most, an extra 3-5% will be left as a thank you, no more. After an enjoyable but poorly served meal, nothing needs to be left. If you really do wish to leave a sign of appreciation, then at the very most that is 5%. In a cafe leave the small change, no more is expected.
 You may see these abbreviations on your menu:

TTC  SC or T.T.C. S.C.  or Toutes TVA  Comprise, Service Comprise  Service, the tip, and  VAT, the added value tax,  are all included. The price noted will be the price that you are asked to pay, no additional taxes or service charges.  Taxes and service charges could reach over 20% of the bill if they are not included. This is not something special. Whether or not the initials above are on the menu by law all tips, taxes and service charges are included.
Very occasionally, an unethical waiter or Maître D’ may try and create a situation where you, a tourist, believe  that a tip is expected. Remember, you do not need to pay more than the prices on  the  menu. You do not have to be embarrassed about it; no French diner would be. You are NOT expected to pay any more than the price indicated.   

Taxes in French stores. The European VAT, value added tax.

The vast majority of French shops, certainly in areas frequented by tourists, have arrangements where a large percentage of the taxes spent on clothes or gifts, the VAT, Value added Tax, can be returned to visitors from outside the European Union.  In shops look for signs  advising visitors that the VAT tax, in French the T.V.A, can be reclaimed. If no signs are visible ask directly.

TVA, T.V.A. or Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée - VAT or Value added tax.  This form of tax is used in all European countries and the rate varies from country to country. In France, the VAT rate is 19.6% for most purchases. For those who make a purchase of over 176 Euros in a single shop in a single day some 60% of that tax is refundable, as long as those purchases are properly documented. 

If you are considering buying gifts in France, it can pay to make all the purchases in a single store on the same day. Before leaving home click for a list of department stores or other stores in the city or town that you will be visiting.  Look at their websites; many large department stores and other stores offer additional discounts of 10% to tourists all year round; then you may double-dip.  If you visit France when the sales are on you may well find, as I have done, that the accumulated sale discount, tourist discount and returned taxes can reach 30-40% of the price in the window; check. 

Tax returns do not include, unfortunately, your hotel bill, rental car or restaurant bills. For other purchases will find that most of the stores in areas that tourists frequent are used to non-European visitors and have all the necessary paperwork.  Without the correct paperwork, nothing will be returned!  Check with the store that they have official permission to offer this service before you buy. You will need to have your passport with you to register and UK nationals are not included as they are still members of the EU.

Photograph courtesy of Gerard Sttolk

VAT tax returns for business expenses in France
 Most Non-Europeans residents and companies can receive rebates on their business expenses that include the VAT; that can be 19.6% of trade show expenses and related expenses.  You will need to keep your invoices and other paperwork, as these are refunds you claim after your return home. Before you leave for Europe check with your accountant or travel advisor what paperwork you will need to keep, and where to send it afterwards.  However, as for tourists the taxes on travel expenses, car hire and hotel charges are not refundable.
Photograph courtesy of Thomas Claveirole.

1 comment:

  1. "Taxes and service charges could reach over 20% of the bill if they are not included. "

    It has been illegal for years not to include service and tax. Long ago, restaurants could choose between printing service included (sc) and service not included (snc). That is no longer true.