VAT refunds and English-speaking staff: How Calais wine warehouses plan to lure back Brits

VAT refunds and English-speaking staff: How Calais wine warehouses plan to lure back Brits
Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP
Britain’s departure from the European Union in January made the famous - or notorious - cross-Channel booze cruise a thing of the past, but some Calais businesses are reinventing the experience for the more discerning wine-buyer.

Limits on bringing alcohol into the UK from France came into force at the end of the transition period on January 1st 2021, although it’s fair to say they didn’t get a huge amount of publicity amid all the other Brexit changed, not to mention the fact that hardly anyone could travel at that time as the borders were heavily restricted.

But as travel opens up again and the UK is set to further relax its rules for October 4th, Brits may again be thinking of stocking up on French wine.

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While the booze-cruises of old are out, there are still reasonable allowances to pick up your favourite French booze.

The allowance per person for taking alcohol back to the UK from EU nations including France are: 

  • Beer – 42 litres;
  • Wine (not sparkling) – 18 litres (or 24 standard size bottles)

You can also take back to the UK either:

  • Spirits and other liquors over 22% alcohol – four litres;

Or

  • Fortified wine (port, sherry), sparkling wine and alcoholic drinks up to 22% alcohol – nine litres.

This last allowance can be split, allowing British travellers to take, for example, two litres of spirits and four-and-a-half litres of fortified wine.

The allowance is per person over the age of 18, so a couple travelling travelling by car could take up to 36 litres of wine (or 48 standard size bottles).

The lower limits puts, Calais shop owners believe, a premium on quality over quantity, allowing Britons with a nose for fine wine the chance to pick up some top-quality French wines at lower prices.

Furthermore, British visitors can reclaim VAT paid on goods – including alcohol – bought in participating shops in France.

You can find out how to complete the process here, but certain Calais stores have moved to allow travellers to claim VAT refunds almost immediately.

Jérôme Pont, of Calais Vins, explained how the system works:  “It was not the answer, to just give a Gallic Shrug to the new realities of Brexit. We are here to help our customers. 

“So now we can give them a tax-free voucher that allows them to reclaim the VAT as soon as they embark in Calais, thanks to our partnership with Global Blue and Skiptax. 

“There is also around 15 percent VAT that can be reclaimed on purchases from Calais Vins. 

“We forged these partnerships to enable our customers to reclaim VAT on boarding at the Eurotunnel and ferry terminals in Calais. By simply scanning a barcode at the kiosks at the Calais port terminals, the refund process is activated. 

“Or if using Skiptax, travellers just need to download an app and follow the simple instructions.”

Refunds using the app will be made within 48 hours.

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He added: “All my staff speak English. We know the tastes of our British  customers and are able to advise them according to their desires, and also to propose food  and wine pairings.

“We well know  the tastes of our British clientele, and here they will find some very coveted ‘appellations’:  Fleurie, Médoc, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Meursault, Chinon, Chablis, Pomerol . . . the list is endless.”


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