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Duty-free and VAT

What do I need to shop duty-free?
If you are flying from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, you can make duty-free purchases in the shopping centre after going through passport control. At the airport you can still buy at duty-free prices, bringing you significant savings. To make duty-free purchases, you will need to present a boarding card.

Hasn’t duty-free shopping been abolished?
Government regulations were changed in 1999 and true duty-free shopping was abolished for travellers within the EU. Passengers travelling to destinations outside the EU could and still can make duty-free purchases however.

In order to prevent passengers having to pay different prices depending on their destination, the retailers at the airport have agreed to harmonise the prices for EU and non-EU destinations. The VAT amount that consumers travelling within the EU would normally pay on products is now borne by the retailers themselves. This enables prices to be kept lower, and allows all departing passengers at Schiphol to shop at duty-free prices.

Why does the retailer ask to see my boarding card?
The retailer has a legal obligation to register the difference between taxable and duty-free sales. This difference is based on the passenger’s destination: within or outside the EU. Moreover, the retailer needs to be certain that the purchaser is actually a passenger, and not someone working at Schiphol since Schiphol employees are not eligible for these duty-free benefits.

Are there any exceptions?
Two different prices are charged for tobacco: for destinations within the EU (same as local prices) and for destinations outside the EU (duty-free and thus cheaper). That’s because the EU doesn’t allow price reductions for tobacco. There are also a few categories that are not subject to the normal regulations, such as books, magazines, flowers and flower bulbs, which are all taxable – even for passengers travelling to destinations outside the EU.

Do I really still save money?
Because VAT is paid by the retailers, the consumer can still enjoy the same benefits. Moreover, the shops at Schiphol also present special offers on their whole product range, meaning that products are generally 30% cheaper than in local shops. And the wide product range is another advantage. At Schiphol you’ll find leading brands as well as specialty stores carrying special beverages and delicatessen items, all under one roof.

What am I allowed to bring from non-EU countries?
Are you returning to the Netherlands from a country outside the European Union? In that case you are always subject to the regulations governing the (limited duty-free) import of goods from non-EU countries. So always bear in mind the specific import regulations of your destination country, also when returning to the Netherlands. Customs at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol can provide you with further information: www.douane.nl.

What am I allowed to take to my destination?
Please inform yourself in advance about what local legislation allows you to take to your destination country. Customs (www.douane.nl) can assist you here, or you can consult websites of the destination countries.

The European Union
The following countries are members of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus (the Greek part), the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (incl. Northern Ireland). Exceptions apply to the Channel Islands and the Canary Islands: if you are flying to these destinations you are allowed to buy beverages and tobacco duty-free.

Outside the European Union
Are you returning to the Netherlands from a country outside the European Union? In that case you are always subject to the regulations governing the (limited duty-free) import of goods from non-EU countries. So always bear in mind the specific import regulations of your destination country, also when returning to the Netherlands. Customs at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol can provide you with further information.