Destination Prices & Sales Taxes
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Luxury Goods
In the section Do Your Homework, I mentioned that it might be worthwhile to buy certain products at your destination, if the local prices are attractive. Conversely, it also might be a good idea to buy Duty Free on your trip out, if you’re going to expensive countries like Scandinavia or Singapore.
It’s not always easy to check out prices at your destination, whether Duty Free or Domestic. The Find Duty Free Online section gives you links to the Duty Free shopping sites of over 150 airports, airlines, and retailers so you can easily check Duty Free prices before you travel.
Checking local prices is a bit more difficult. Below are some links to Domestic prices of alcohol and cigarettes around the world. Further down, I’ve listed links to the local websites of some luxury retailers, as well as the local VAT/GST rates, so you can determine where you can get the best deal.
Alcohol Prices Around the World
The Global Brand Prices website was really great for summarizing global Domestic prices for several major spirits brands (Johnnie Walker Red, Smirnoff vodka, Bacardi rum, and Gordon’s gin). It was useful as an indicator of which countries are the cheapest and most expensive. Unfortunately, it isn’t working much of the time these days.
The only other source for comparative information on alcohol is the Eurostat’s EU alcohol price comparison.
If you live in an expensive EU country, it’s worth your while to buy alcohol locally in the cheap countries.
There is no up-to-date website showing alcohol prices by US state, but The Tax Foundation shows alcohol taxes by state, so you can at least get a feeling of price levels by state.
But, your best bet to find Domestic prices for specific brands (including wine) in specific locations, including US states, is the Wine Searcher website.
Cigarette Prices Outside the US
I also use Expatistan, which I actually think has more up-to-date and accurate prices, but is more difficult to navigate. You can’t actually go into the website for the prices, but you have to Google: “Country or city, Marlboro price, Expatistan.”
Cigarette Prices in the US
Cigarette prices in the US vary significantly by state, and range from around $6.00 per pack to a high of over $13.00 in New York. They’re typically low in southern and western states, and high in the northeast and California. These US cigarette prices on a state by state basis are from mid-2017, but they’ll give you an idea of what to expect and whether or not it’s worth buying Duty Free on your way over. (Click here or the image.)
VAT, GST, and Sales Tax Rates Around the World
You may remember that these taxes, except for US and Canadian sales taxes, are usually included in the prices, so the rates of VAT or GST are not a percentage of the retail price. Here’s a detailed VAT conversion table to translate those rates into a percentage of retail price.
VAT and GST Rates Outside the US
US Sales Taxes By State
US sales taxes vary by state, city, and even county and range from zero in 4 states to a combined average of just under 10%. Moreover, contrary to most other tax jurisdictions, prices don’t include taxes, which are only added when you pay. There are only two states which have a mechanism to recover part of the sales tax – Louisiana and Texas. Otherwise, the only way you can avoid the tax is to have the goods shipped outside of the state where you bought them. Here’s a link to a table of US sales taxes by state. If you’re looking at this table on your smartphone, you should turn it sideways to see the full width.
You might also be interested in the specific sales tax rates in major US destination cities:
Atlanta – 8.9%
Chicago – 10.25%
Los Angeles – 9.5%
Miami – 7%
New York City – 8.875%
The following luxury/designer retailers show their prices online in a number of countries. Combined with the VAT rates and Global Blue’s fees, you should be able to determine how attractive the destination price is for you, whether downtown or at the airport.
Louis Vuitton Global
Louis Vuitton France
Louis Vuitton Germany
Louis Vuitton Hong Kong – scheduled to close
Louis Vuitton Italy
Louis Vuitton Korea
Louis Vuitton Japan
Louis Vuitton Taiwan
Louis Vuitton UK
Louis Vuitton US
Piaget Hong Kong
Piaget Italy – go through Piaget International page
Use the Global Blue Refund Calculator to determine how much of a refund you’ll actually get.