JOFTAA provided this useful information 10 years, 7 months ago:

Get VAT Forms -- Save BIG $$ On German Tax

Note: Effective August 1, 2014, the price of VAT forms has changed, as well as UTAP. Each VAT form will be $5. No discount for multiple form purchase. The price of UTAP is going up to $99, and the price to purchase a VAT for for items that cost 2500€ or more, is $65.

At the time of this writing, you can get up to ten VAT forms per family. Each VAT form will cost you $4. The price goes down to $3 when you buy 6 or more. As you return used VAT forms to the VAT office, you may have them replaced with new forms. If you lose a form, it will not be replaced for several years. You may pickup and return your VAT forms to any convenient office. You do not have to pickup and return the forms at the same office.

What the VAT form does is save you from having to pay the 19% tax (7% for some items) on your purchases for places that accept the VAT forms.

Here is just one example. I took my dog and cat for boarding for a week. The bill for a week came to €160.00. Of that €160, €35 (about) was tax. I gave one of my VAT forms to the kennel and they removed the VAT from my bill.

In the end, I saved €25. At the current rate of exchange, that is US$35 (about). My savings was about $25-$35 when the price of the VAT form is taken into consideration.

You may have up to ten VAT forms at a time, and you can only get more when you turn in used VAT forms.

Be sure you know the policy of the establishment where you want to use the VAT form. Some places only take the form if you present it up front. Once a transaction is done, you cannot present a form.

The VAT office can give you more details.

Here is a list of VAT offices. Call to find out if you can get the forms there, hours, and ask about how they work.
The details of the VAT forms can change after this post, so you want to be sure to have current information.

Pulaski - Building 2899

Ramstein - Building 2118

Kleber - Building 3205

Landstuhl - Building 3810 (It's inside the library, make a left and through the double doors!)

Miesau - Building 1204

Note: Be sure to call before you go to make sure the hours and location have not changed.

10 years, 2 months ago

Visitors can also get their VAT taxes back, if somebody might visit you and buys stuff that he takes back home. Am not sure about the `how to` but some bureaucratic person in some VAT office might know about it.

10 years, 2 months ago

Quote by Native:
Visitors can also get their VAT taxes back, if somebody might visit you and buys stuff that he takes back home. Am not sure about the `how to` but some bureaucratic person in some VAT office might know about it.

Or, a simple Google search can yield great results.

The following can be found here, along with more info.

Value-Added Tax (VAT) Refunds in the EU

Every year, tourists visiting Europe leave behind millions of dollars of refundable sales taxes. While for some, the headache of collecting the refund is not worth the few dollars at stake, if you do any serious shopping, it's hard cash -- free and easy.

The process isn't difficult; you just have to get the necessary documents from the retailer, carry your purchase with you, and track down the right folks at the airport, port, or border when you leave. These days you've got to check in early at the airport; this will give you something to do while you're hanging around.

Ideally -- if you're charming, lucky, and have your passport handy -- you can talk a merchant into taking the tax off the price right there at the store. But even so, you'll still need to get the proper documents stamped when you depart Europe.

The standard European Union Value-Added Tax ranges from 15 to 25 percent per country, averaging about 20 percent overall. Rates change, so you'll want to check with merchants when you're there.

Unlike business travelers, tourists aren't entitled to refunds on the tax they spend on hotels and meals. Still, you can get back most of the tax you paid on merchandise such as clothes, cuckoos, and crystal.

Almost all European countries except Ireland require a minimum purchase for a refund, ranging from about $30 to several hundred dollars (Ireland has no minimum). You typically have to ring up the minimum at one retailer -- you can't add up your purchases from various shops to reach the required amount -- so you benefit from finding one spot where you can buy big. If you'll be on the road for a long time, shop near the end of your trip. You need to collect your refund within three months of your purchase.

Assuming you meet these criteria and you're still game, here's the drill. The details vary per country, but you follow the same basic steps.

Shop at stores that know the ropes. Retailers choose whether to participate in the VAT-refund scheme. Most tourist-oriented stores do; often you'll see a sign in the window or by the cash register (if not, ask). It'd be a shame to spend big bucks at a place and not have a chance of getting a refund. You'll also want to know whether the merchant handles refunds directly (which means a potentially bigger refund for you, but more hassle) or uses a service (quicker and easier, but the provider of this service takes a cut).

Get the documents. When you make your purchase, have the merchant fill out the necessary refund document, called a "cheque." You'll need to present your passport. Make sure the paperwork is done before you leave the store so there's nothing important missing. If they leave any blanks for you to fill out, be sure you understand what goes where. Attach your receipt to the form and stash it in a safe place..

What if the store ships your purchase to your home? You can still collect a refund, but the process varies by country. In Italy, the shipper gets your customs stamp for you and sends you the documents. In Germany, you take the documents home and then get a stamp at a German consulate or embassy once you receive the goods. Ask at the shop where you make your purchase how it works in their country.

Know where to get your refund. If you buy merchandise in a European Union country and you're bringing the goods home with you, process your documents at your last stop in the EU, regardless of where you made your purchases. So if you buy sweaters in Denmark, pants in France, and shoes in Italy, and you're flying home from Greece, get your documents stamped in Athens. Be aware that if the currencies are different in the country where you made your purchase and where you process your refund -- say, pounds and euros -- you may have to pay an extra conversion fee. And don't forget -- Switzerland, Norway, Croatia, and Turkey are not in the EU, so if you buy in one of those countries, get your documents stamped before you leave that particular country.

Bring your goods -- unused -- to the airport or border crossing. You're not supposed to use your purchased goods before you present them at customs. Some retailers, particularly those in Scandinavia, will staple and seal the shopping bag to keep people from cheating. If you show up at customs wearing your new shoes, officials might look the other way -- or deny you a refund.

Arrive early. You'll have to wait in a special line at customs and then, if you're collecting your refund right away, at the refund office. In smaller airports, ports, and less-trafficked border crossings, finding the right customs agent can be tough. If you run out of time and have to leave without the stamp, you're probably out of luck. A few countries allow you to try to recover the refund through the embassy in your home country. Regardless, it's a lot of trouble.

Get your documents stamped. The customs export officer will stamp your documents after you present your purchased goods to verify that you are, indeed, exporting your purchase (try to keep the goods in your carry-on). Some officials will stamp your documents even if you haven't got your purchase with you, but others are stricter. If you bought something potentially dangerous (such as a set of knives in Spain) that you probably wouldn't even be allowed to carry on a plane, chase down a customs official to have a look before you check your bag.

Collect the cash -- sooner or later. Once you get your form stamped by customs, you'll need to return it to the retailer or its representative at the airport, port, or border crossing. Many merchants work with a service such as Global Refund or Premier Tax Free, which have offices where you present your stamped document. They'll extract about 4 percent for their services, but it can be worth it -- often they'll give you your refund in your currency of choice, right then and there. Otherwise, they'll credit the refund to your credit card (within one or two billing cycles). If the retailer handles VAT refunds directly, it's up to you to contact the merchant for your refund. You can mail the documents from home, or quicker, from your point of departure (using a stamped, addressed envelope you've prepared or one that's been provided by the merchant) -- and then wait. It could take months. If the refund check comes in a foreign currency, you may have to pay $30 or so to get your bank to cash it.

Don't count on it. My readers have reported that, even when following all of the instructions carefully, sometimes the VAT refund just doesn't pan out. (For example, they have all the paperwork ready when they get to the airport -- but can't find the customs official to process it.) These problems seem most prevalent in Italy. Your best odds are for buying from a merchant who knows how to deal with the red tape for you -- but even that is not infallible.

Only you can decide whether VAT refunds are worth the trouble. As for me, my favorite trip souvenirs are my photos, journal, and memories. These are priceless -- and exempt from taxes and red tape.
There is also information available from the European Commission Taxation and Customs Union website as well as some more guidance on how to get your refund here.

VAT Rates and Minimum Purchases Required to Qualify for Refunds

See this graphic

10 years, 2 months ago

U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet

Heating fuel, water and electricity are more expensive in Germany than stateside. Rent and utilities are paid in local currency, the Euro, which means costs vary based on the US dollar to Euro daily exchange rate. Each German community runs their own utility companies so you will have to contact your landlord or the Housing Office to be directed to the appropriate office.

German utilities usually bill differently than stateside utilities. You may pay every other month or even quarterly. In addition, bills will not fluctuate from month to month: you pay a flat amount each billing cycle.

When you first move in, this flat rate is based on the usage of the prior tenant. After you have been in the quarters for a year, the rate is adjusted based on your average usage. At this time, if you haven't paid enough for the year, you receive a year-end settlement bill. These can be quite large, so if your utility bills are not equal to your utility allowance, you are strongly encouraged to save the difference and not get caught off guard at the end of the year.

You will not pay most bills at the utility company; you pay them through your bank or at a German post office (Deutsche Post). Consider attending the Family Support Center's "German Bills Made Easy" class to get a better understanding of your bills.

Also, unlike the United States, there are additional services and costs associated with renting a home in Germany. Some of the items are: Snow removal, chimney sweep, sewage disposal, stairwell cleaning and stairwell and basement lighting.

If you live in a house that uses heating oil, the oil is usually paid in a lump sum when the tank is filled. You should have money from your utility allowance set aside for this cost as well. Your landlord should be able to give you an estimate of the cost to fill the tank.

Utility costs vary due to size and age of your home, number of occupants and personal habits. Average monthly costs are listed below.
Electricity Euro 100
Gas (Heat) Euro 200
Oil (Heat) Euro 200
Water Euro 40 per person

You should take advantage of the Value-added Tax (VAT) program in order to avoid the 19% local German tax.

Utility Tax Avoidance Plan (UTAP)
UTAP is a walk-in service that helps you reduce utility costs by providing tax relief for 19 percent electricity, 19 percent gas and seven percent water. A $51.00 administrative fee is charged upon registration. The sponsor must register or provide a power of attorney. If you move after you've registered, you must update your account. Go through the Value Added Tax (VAT) office on base (located in Bldg. 2118).

Please call for an appointment, and be sure to bring a copy of your contract and a copy of your orders with you. Call the VAT office for more information at DSN 480-5309.

9 years, 10 months ago

The following links are to the Ramstein VAT website:

VAT Form Information

UTAP Overview

Illegal VAT Uses

VAT Forms and Publications

One interesting note for DoD Civilian Employees, the one time fee for the UTAP Program is not reimbursable.

Interesting, as it would seem that by enrolling in this program, you would be saving the government money if you are using LQA.

8 years, 6 months ago

Did you know that you can order VAT forms online? Yes!! Here is the loooong email address.

7 years, 9 months ago

Here's an update to the UTAP fee: it is now $77, when I checked as of February 2013.

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