Why airport shops really want to see your boarding pass

Retailers accused of pocketing savings from tax-free goods

Updated: 
Tax free sign at airport

British airport shops have been accused of demanding to see air passengers' boarding passes so they can avoid paying tax on products and are pocketing the savings rather than pass them on to consumers.

Retailers can claim back VAT of 20 per cent on goods sold to travellers flying outside the EU if they produce evidence such as a scan of boarding pass. It is not a legal requirement for customers to present their boarding passes, the report by the Independent revealed.

See also: Ryanair bans duty free alcohol on UK flights to Ibiza​

Speaking to the newspaper, consumer affairs experts Paul Lewis said: "I think the problem here is that the retailers are not being straight with the public.

"What of course they should be doing is passing on the savings that they make to the passengers who are travelling outside Europe."

In Boots, where a bottle of Nivea Sun Spray costs £8, the retailer can reclaim £1.60 from HMRC if it is sold to a customer flying outside the EU.

An HMRC spokeswoman told AOL Money: "Airport tax or duty free shops may treat the sale of goods to passengers intending to take them to non-EU destinations as zero-rated exports, provided they retain suitable evidence such as by scanning the boarding card.

"There is nothing in VAT law to require the production of a boarding pass to purchase goods in airport shops, but without such evidence the supply cannot be zero-rated as an export.

"HMRC cannot comment on the commercial pricing policies of individual retailers nor about when their staff ask to see boarding passes."

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