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US Resident shopping in France


seekwul
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You should be able to reclaim the full amount of VAT if the dealer does not rely on Global Blue (or similar) but is willing to do the tax refund directly. Some do, others don't. It's worth asking beforehand. AFAIC, I also live in Switzerland and only buy new equipment from dealers who process the refund themselves (my favourite one is in London), with no third-party commission. Pretty simple: get your customs stamp at the airport when leaving the country, mail the form in the pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelope provided by the dealer,  wait for the dealer to credit back the full VAT amount on your card, done.

Regarding tax-free shops, I have often found that (a) they don't have what you want when you are there (although you can sometimes call a couple of days before your departure  and they may get it for you) and (b) they tend to increase the supposedly tax-free price to "slightly below" the local high-street price. But I haven't visited all the tax-free shops in the world...

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I've bought used photo gear from European shops and had it shipped to the US, paying no VAT and no customs duty.  The shops offering new Leica cameras, in my experience, require insurance and fairly expensive shipping costs, which has eliminated the savings.  I was successful once in getting a 21 SX from Ffordes new, when I was in the UK, with a full return of the VAT when I mailed them the export form that I got on my departure from the EU, two airports later.  My impression is that the VAT return counters in airports only return about half of the VAT that you have paid.  VAT (for us consumers) is just a complicated way to collect 17-20% sales tax, and sales tax in the US is typically only 6 to 10%, charged when the goods are collected at the store, but often not charged when the goods are shipped out of state.  (Amazon charges destination sales tax, B&H does not, my friendly Internet store, Popflash does not.) 

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what a wonderful thred.  

I hope that seekwul at the end of his story can tell us exactly (in Dollars and Cents) how much money he saved and how much of his health he left in CDG in Paris or elsewhere. And if it was worth it.  When I think of the descripion above of how simple it works in France and even better in Milan. . . Good bless you.

My personal experience is: While I was working I used my time for making money. As a matter of fact you will be standing in CDG looking for that marvelous counter that saves you such a lot of that money (Détaxe" (VAT refund) counters). After you have finally found out where to go you will realise that the counter is closed (you are in France, don‘t forget). Instead there is a „very easy“ way to fill in a form there at an unattended desk (at CDG) but unfortunately there is a queue of about 30 people wanting to do same. Until you are in posion one you flight has gone. And then you stand there feeling a big (very big) fool. Then you start to think in terms of portions of coffe that you might be saving. If you don’t drink a coffe in the mornings for lets say . . etc. Life is so funny. And then you will be able to tell everyone what great DEAL you made. Note that in Europe the word „DEAL“ . . . Sorry about that last phrase.

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18 hours ago, seekwul said:

 

If the camera still comes with the Passport warranty, I assume I'll be covered if I have a problem back home - correct ?

 

Technically the last of the Passport warranties on Leica cameras ended in April 2016 for UK customers.  These covered accidental damage and were not issued by Leica directly.   The Leica warranty, however, is international and does not cover accidents.  (The Leica S has its own optional  Protection Plan.).

Passports on Leica cameras sold in the US ended in 2008, but still exist on lenses AFAIK.  I carry personal insurance for everything outside the warranty.

Jeff

Edited by Jeff S
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Guest Nowhereman

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2 hours ago, Ecar said:

You should be able to reclaim the full amount of VAT if the dealer does not rely on Global Blue (or similar) but is willing to do the tax refund directly. Some do, others don't. It's worth asking beforehand...

Good point. My experience with one of the Leica Stores is Paris is that they handle the refund themselves — the envelope with the VAT refund form is addressed to them — and I've had the full 19% refund on the Leica bodies I've bought there.

On the queues at the VAT refund customs counters at CDG Airport, I never had to wait for as long as 30 minutes — about 10 years ago, I once had to wait 15 minutes which, granted, seemed like forever. But the process has been streamlined and in the last few years the process takes only a few minutes, and I've never found the counter closed.

Someone above stated that the customs officials are bound to look at every item you've bought. Again, that has not been my experience: generally, I've been asked to show them only the most expensive items and sometimes they just stamp the form without looking at the items: when I bought my M10 in 2017 the customs official did not ask to see it.

On buying online and having the item shipped, the shipping cost from France is expensive: a friend paid about $300 for shipping an MM, but he needed it at a time when he couldn't find one in the States. On the other hand, shipping cost from the UK is reasonable. However, once I had to pay a $75 handling charge by UPS: it was billed to me and not the shipper. If UPS still has this charge, it's worthwhile to see whether the seller can use another courier company. 

The saving in USD, if any, will also vary according to the exchange rate at the time. When I bought my M8.2 from the UK there had just been a huge drop in the value of GBP, from $2.00 to $1.50 per GBP — that result in a huge saving because at the time I bought Leica had not yet increased the UK price for the new exchange rate.

Edited by Nowhereman
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My trip is the end of December, but I'll definitely let everyone know how it works out. Thanks for all the advice. Still on the fence M10 vs M10-P anyway.

 

From what it seems, I can pickup an M10-P from one of the Leica stores in Paris for 7650,00 €. They can process a full VAT refund (with between 10 and 30 minutes waiting at CDG) which will bring it down to 6196,00 €, which is $7016 today. B&H has it for $7995 today, so that's a fairly substantial savings $979 or roughly 12%.

My other option appears to be ordering it online from somewhere in the EU. Leica Amsterdam has the camera for 6305,80 € and will ship for 100 €. That works out to $7253.19. Still a savings, but not as great. 

I guess it works out to whether or not the CDG VAT situation is worth the $237 difference to me. But, seeing as how I'm traveling with my wife and kids, I'm pretty sure I'm going to wind up at the VAT desk anyway 😉 I'll see if I can source one from Vienna or Berlin or similar. 

 

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Guest Nowhereman

It's worthwhile to see what the price would be online in the UK as well, because the difference in the GDP vs the € exchange rate could be substantial. I've had great service form Harrison Camera. Unless, it turns out to be much cheaper from the UK — and you need to check on the UPS situation — in your circumstances I would buy it in Paris and bring it back myself.

Edited by Nowhereman
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I'd find someone who'd ship it cheaper than €100. 

Leica Vienna has a silver one for €6250 shipped and net of vat.

I'm sure you'll find it cheaper and including shipping elsewhere. 

Why risk tight time lines at the airport, lost paperwork, busy customs offices, buy it now and have it shipped so as you have it in your hand for the trip to europe.

 

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Thank you everyone for the advice - in the end I was able to find it at the Leica Store in Berlin. Least expensive option shipped, net of VAT. 

I'll be able to charge the battery before we get to Paris; and can read the manual while I'm waiting in line at Customs for VAT back on whatever my wife and kids shop for. 😉

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just an update - ordered online last week from a reputable seller, figuring it would be an easier process than buying in person in Europe and navigating the VAT back process. Never included UPS in my figuring... and now my camera appears to in some weird UPS limbo. It was 10 KM from my house but has been "in transit" for 6 days (this is after being cleared by US Customs). UPS customer support is nearly useless. Win some and lose some I guess.

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On 11/11/2018 at 1:17 PM, seekwul said:

Thanks for the tip. It seems that VAT is 19% but I will only be able to reclaim 12%. At 12%, it’s roughly the same as the USA price (maybe $100 cheaper). So in the end this may not be worth it. Maybe.

 

 

CORRECT!

It is better to buy in USA.

Albert

😁😁

Edited by albertknappmd
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Sorry, I do not think it's better to buy in the USA, at least currently.

 

Leica Miami M10-P price - $7995 USD, no tax if shipped to NYC, probably no shipping - although legally you are still responsible for the sales tax.

Leica Berlin M10-P price - 7.500,00 € - (but that includes tax), no tax if shipped to NYC,  200 € shipping. VAT is 19%, so that's 6075 € + 200 € = 6275 € + minimal import duties.

At 1.13 € to $1, that works out to $7090.75 from Leica Berlin. $900 savings, no tax, still perfectly legal.

 

Edited by seekwul
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I see I'm too late to the party, but the US Passport Warranty only applies to Leica USA items and is a better warranty than the euro one since it includes accidental damage.  So are you going to declare your new M10 with US customs upon your return? If you are doing it correctly according to US law that will cost you 10% payable at US customs port of entry.

 

My 2 cents-just buy it in the US.

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4 minutes ago, algrove said:

I see I'm too late to the party, but the US Passport Warranty only applies to Leica USA items and is a better warranty than the euro one since it includes accidental damage.  So are you going to declare your new M10 with US customs upon your return? If you are doing it correctly according to US law that will cost you 10% payable at US customs port of entry.

 

My 2 cents-just buy it in the US.

Passport warranty for Leica cameras in the US was discontinued in January, 2008.  It now only applies to lenses AFAIK.  UK had the last remaining camera Passport, but it was discontinued, I think in April, 2016.

Jeff

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Now if you ever want to declare with US customs for travel ouside the US (which I always do for "other" customs inspectors in the world and in the event of theft-proof of ownership), you might have trouble convincing the US customs agent that it is a US camera or perjure yourself on the form. They can check via serial number to see if it was a US camera, so have your importation paperwork handy. Also when you sell it you will have to disclose it was a gray market camera. As you must know Leica guys are very strict about their used purchases.

 

Food for thought. 

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On ‎11‎/‎24‎/‎2018 at 10:41 PM, seekwul said:

Sorry, I do not think it's better to buy in the USA, at least currently.

 

Leica Miami M10-P price - $7995 USD, no tax if shipped to NYC, probably no shipping - although legally you are still responsible for the sales tax.

Leica Berlin M10-P price - 7.500,00 € - (but that includes tax), no tax if shipped to NYC,  200 € shipping. VAT is 19%, so that's 6075 € + 200 € = 6275 € + minimal import duties.

At 1.13 € to $1, that works out to $7090.75 from Leica Berlin. $900 savings, no tax, still perfectly legal.

 

...and USD 6,256 here in Hong Kong via independent dealers

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