Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a tax included in the price of your ticket. The U.K.’s APD fees, currently the highest in the world, are divided into four bands: short-haul destinations under 2,000 miles, £13 per person in economy, £26 and £52 in all first and business class; medium-haul destinations under 4,000 miles (including the United States), £69 economy, £138 and £276 first and business class; long-haul destinations under 6,000 miles, £85 economy, £170 and £340 first and business class; ultra-long-haul destinations over 6,000 miles, £97 economy, £194 and £388 first and business class.
The British sales tax (Value Added Tax, or V.A.T.) is 20%. The tax is almost always included in quoted prices in shops, hotels, and restaurants. The most common exception is at high-end hotels, where prices often exclude V.A.T. Outside of hotels and rental-car agencies, which have specific additional taxes, there’s no other sales tax in England.
Refunds apply for V.A.T. only on goods being taken out of Britain. Many large stores provide a V.A.T.–refund service, but only if you request it. You must ask the store to complete Form V.A.T. 407, to be given to customs at departure along with a V.A.T. Tax Free Shopping scheme invoice. Fill in the form at the shop, have the salesperson sign it, have it stamped by customs when you leave the country, then mail the stamped form to the shop or to a commercial refund company. Alternatively, you may be able to take the form to an airport refund-service counter after you're through passport control for an on-the-spot refund. There is an extra fee for this service, and lines tend to be long.
Global Blue is a Europe-wide service with 270,000 affiliated stores. It has refund counters in the U.K. at Heathrow and Gatwick, as well as on Oxford Street and in the Westfield Shopping Centre. Its refund form, called a Tax Free Check, is the most common across the European continent. The service issues refunds in the form of cash, check, or credit-card adjustment. The latter is useful for small purchases as the cost of cashing a foreign-currency check may exceed the amount of the refund.
Global Blue. Global Blue 866/706–6090; 800/3211–1111; www.globalblue.com.
HM Revenue and Customs. HM Revenue and Customs 0292/501261; 0300/200–3700; www.gov.uk/tax-on-shopping.