All taxes must be included in posted prices in France. The initials TTC (toutes taxes comprises—taxes included) sometimes appear on price lists but taxes are included whether they are or not. By law, restaurant and hotel prices must also include the tax, and hotels charge a daily habitation tax that usually runs between €1.20 to €2.30 per day (depending on the size of the room you are in).

A number of shops participating in the Tax-Free Shopping program (you'll see a sticker in the shop window) offer V.A.T. refunds to foreign shoppers—under very limited circumstances. To qualify for the refund, you must be a national of a non-EU country, at least 15 years old at the time of purchase, and visiting France for less than six months. If you qualify, you are entitled to an export discount of up to 20%, depending on the item purchased, and only on purchases of at least €175 in a single store.

French retailers are required to provide a computer-generated refund form to travelers, in a system called PABLO. Instead of submitting your form at the customs window, you must now scan your receipts at one of the blue PABLO self-service machines located in airports. As of this writing, there were no PABLO machines at train stations, so if you're leaving France by the rails you'll want to stop off at the airport on your way.

If you leave France without getting your V.A.T refunded, getting the rebate is even more complicated. You'll have to present your receipt and the merchandise at the French consulate in the U.S. in order to obtain a "visa," which you'll then have to submit by mail within six months of the purchase date. The process can take quite a while, and it's not guaranteed to be approved. It's simpler to use the PABLO machines.

V.A.T. Refunds

V.A.T. Refund Information (