Mexico: This summer, a sales tax rebate for visitors

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Starting this month, foreign shoppers can get a refund on Mexico's 15 percent VAT (value added tax). Claim your refund by picking up a form at at a VAT booth at one of the following airports: Cancún, Guadalajara, Los Cabos, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta. At Mexico City's main airport, for instance, there are currently nine booths.

The program's website isn't available in English yet. So here's the fine print:

To qualify, you have to be returning to the U.S. by sea or air. Yet cruise passengers visiting major ports won't find VAT booths at the major ports until next year.

You have to spend a minimum amount—about $115.

You can't include the tax you pay for restaurant meals, hotel rooms, and car rentals.

If you pay with cash, each item has to cost fewer than 3,000 pesos (about $289).

Up to half of your refund will be given to you right away in pesos. The remainder will be credited to your credit card account or bank account within 40 days. (This means that if you paid for all of your items in cash you'll need to supply your bank account information to receive the rest of your refund.)

The most you can claim per trip is 10,000 pesos (about $960), whether you pay for items with cash or by credit or debit card. But note that, broadly speaking, the United States has an $800 per-person cap on how much you can bring back tax-free. Anything above this limit is subject to an American duty, which varies by item.

This program would’ve been handy if it had been up and running when I visited Mazatlán last month!

Feel free to share any experiences you may have with the VAT rebate program.

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