Advantages of digitized sales slips in the export industry
Published on 4 June 2019
As the top tourist destination in the world, France attracts its fair share of foreign buyers each year, all of whom benefit from VAT exemptions for their personal purchases. To keep things duty-free, however, merchants must issue French export sales slips (BVEs), which have been required to be electronic since January 1, 2014. Want to learn how export sales slips digitalization works through the PABLO system and what digitization means for merchants? In this article, we’ll walk you through the procedure of making duty-free sales to tourists.
The fundamentals of duty-free export sales
Duty-free export has been present in France for several years now, and it is quite advantageous for stores that sell big label products to foreigners, particularly luxury goods.
Any purchase eligible for duty-free export must first be subject to an export sales slip that serves as an invoice, simplified exportation declaration, and contract. BVEs issued by a merchant let residents of a non-EU third-party country perform the procedures necessary to benefit from a VAT exemption:
- either at the time of purchase, with the sale taking place tax-free,
- or after purchase, with VAT being reimbursed thereafter.
At the time of purchase, sellers must inform their customers of the procedure, indicate a precise VAT amount for reimbursement and ensure that customers meet the exemption conditions.
Conditions to receive a VAT exemption
Who is eligible?
In order for buyers to be eligible for VAT exemption, they must be individuals over 16 years of age. They also need to reside outside of the European Union, be visiting France for fewer than six months, and must leave the European continent within three months of purchase. At the time of sale, buyers must be able to prove to a merchant that they meet these conditions.
The following cases are not eligible for exemption:
- Residents of a European Union member country or members of a diplomatic, consular, or international organization mission who are working in France or the EU;
- Students and interns who live for more than six months per year in France or in an EU country;
- Those who have returned to France or the EU as residents or who are leaving the European Union permanently;
- Those registered with the French centralized payer healthcare system who are requesting an exemption for pharmaceutical products that are likely to be reimbursed.
Goods subject to duty-free purchase cannot be sent by a forwarder, nor can they be sent in a diplomatic bag. They must be brought by visitors in person and transported in their luggage.
In addition to merchandise that is intended for commercial supply, the following goods are not included in the procedure:
- Oil products
- Manufactured tobacco
- Cultural goods
- Private transportation means
- Arms and ammunition
- Merchandise subject to specific authorizations and inspections
Eligible purchases: minimum required amount
Purchases must be made via retail and the amount must be greater than €175 incl. tax. Sales made in-store on a single day must be listed on the same slip.
A closer look at the PABLO system
What exactly is PABLO?
The PABLO system was implemented to meet export sales slip digitization requirements in effect since January 1, 2014. In French, PABLO is an acronym that stands for “optically scanned sales slip clearance program.” It is a free online service that lets merchants easily make declarations.
Procedures before and after PABLO
The pre-digitization era
- At the time of in-store purchase, merchants completed a paper-based BVE (French Cerfa form) that they provided to customers for validation.
- When departing from France, travelers stopped by the customs office to receive a stamp which was added to their slip in person.
- After merchants received export sales slips, buyers could be reimbursed for the VAT they had paid for at purchase time.
- At the time of sale, merchants complete the online slip creation form, print a BVE with an identification bar code and provide the slip to a client for any procedures.
- Before departing from Europe, travelers validate their BVE by scanning the document’s barcode. Electronic BVE validation can be done on terminals or scanners located in airports or border control areas.
- Electronic validation of export sales slips keeps merchants immediately informed digitally, so they can reimburse customers as quickly as possible.
Reimbursement methods and disputes
As soon as the electronic visa or slip has been received by customs, the merchant pays the listed VAT amount the buyer agreed to, in accordance with the information collected at time of purchase (address, banking information). Sellers can reimburse customers in France or abroad using the payment method of their choice.
When it comes to export sales slips, disputes between buyers and sellers fall under private law. Should the slip be annulled due to non-compliance or omission of required data, customs authorities shall not be held responsible for any damages. Before completing the slip, the seller must ensure that the customer meets all eligibility conditions for duty-free purchase.
Export sales slips and EDI
While PABLO is an extremely useful tool for small companies given that it’s free, there are other ways to make digitized export declarations. Many companies choose to pair with specialized operators to manage these operations (declaration service, non-compliance insurance, and so on).
These services are commission-based, and can sometimes incur additional costs for distributors. Whatever the type of exportation, it is often more appropriate for large companies to use a solution that includes all declaration types via EDI.