European companies failed to reclaim $16.5B in business travel VAT last year, according to Conferma Pay analysis

New research from digital payments leader Conferma Pay has revealed European companies failed to reclaim $16.5B of Value Added Tax (VAT) related to business travel in 2021.

Across Europe, corporates can reclaim VAT on employee travel expenses for business trips, including transport, meals and accommodation. 

Yet during a period where the rate of inflation exceeds 8% in many markets, and central banks are embarking on significant tightening of monetary policy, businesses are missing out on vital profitability by failing to reclaim VAT.

Kelly Cleeton, Senior Business Development Director, Conferma Pay commented: “There’s been a degree of complacency across the business travel industry when it comes to VAT reclaim. It’s viewed as difficult and labour intensive, yet there are a variety of ways firms can improve the process.” 

Cleeton continued: “Most TMCs offer reconciliation services and software exists that can pull data from hotel or flight invoices and automatically populate reclaim forms. With an uncertain economic outlook, and the business travel recovery gathering pace, the industry should be doing all it can to limit costs.”


Top countries in Europe for unclaimed business travel VAT



2021 business travel spend

VAT rate

Estimated VAT unclaimed





















*Business travel spend based on GBTA’s latest Business Travel Index™


Companies in Germany, Europe’s largest business travel market, have the most to gain by reclaiming VAT owed to them, but there are significant opportunities across the continent.


VAT reclaim could represent an even bigger opportunity this year as business travel bounces back. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) expects pent-up demand for business travel will fuel significant growth in Western European markets during 2022 and 2023, leading to a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels of spending by 2024. 


When the sector does recover to 2019 levels, unclaimed business travel VAT will stand at circa $49.4B, unless more companies tackle the issue.


Conferma Pay Snap+ collects hotel invoices for each transaction paid using Conferma Pay virtual card technology. 


The service then matches the amount, date and line-item breakdown to the right payment, identifies key merchant information in readiness so the VAT can easily be identified in readiness to be reclaimed across the company’s entire hotel spend.


About Conferma Pay

Conferma Pay is a global financial technology company. We design and integrate virtual payment systems that provides a more efficient, seamless and secure way to pay for for businesses.

Travel Meets Payment

Conferma Pay was born in Manchester in 2005. Since then we have connected over 700 TMCs, and directly integrate with all the major GDSs and OBTs. Our roots lie in corporate travel payment integration.

We enable our payment providers to flow virtual cards into the preferred purchasing process of any business travel buyer. Crucial to this is our network of banking partners, who have issued virtual cards in over 200 countries, in 40 currencies with over 45 commercial banking partners via all major card networks.

Our ecosystem continues to expand to meet the growing requirements of our global customer base.

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