Worse, for those that do have their paperwork in order, they find out at the airport that VAT refunds are not handled by Customs. It’s contracted out to a third party which, of course, needs to pay for its premises and staff and to make a profit. Therefore the amount which is actually refunded is less than the VAT paid. For those with only “normal” receipts, the result is to be sent away. This is ironic in the extreme because those “normal” receipts are accepted by HM Revenue and Customs for VAT claims by VAT registered businesses.
Some people blame Travelex for this mess and for the cost but that is entirely unfair: Travelex simply apply the rules set by Customs and the lead reclaim agencies such as “Global Refund” – who also have their noses in the trough.
The UK is by no means the only country to have retailer registration nor is it the only one to have a convoluted system. But as a highly developed first world country, it is embarrassingly old fashioned and time consuming, to say nothing of unduly discriminatory against those who shop outside the prime tourist districts of large cities.