Theoretically, since we are Americans, we don't have to pay Value Added Tax to purchases on the English economy. That would be nice...
In Iceland, any single purchase over a certain amount ($50, I think) was tax-free. You just took your receipt up to the tax office and they gave you a refund on the spot.
Here it's a different story. You have to go to the place you want to buy something from, get a written estimate on a letterhead addressed to the squadron (or something). Then you go to the bank and pay for a cashier's check for the amount plus a fee (5-10GBP, I'm not sure). Then you take the estimate and the check to the tax office, and they send it off somewhere to be processed. Then, if it's approved, they call you back when it's ready and you go back to the tax office to get a check from them to the company you wish to buy from. Then you go back to the store/business and buy the thing.
Bob has been looking at lenses ever since his camera fell in the duck pond. He finally decided on one, and planned to do the tax-free thing. So we drove to Bury St Edmund's, paid for parking, walked down to the shop, got a price thing. Took it back to the tax office only to discover it wasn't right because it didn't have their address on it. Found out all the info above. As Bob has been asked to shoot a wedding next Friday, and he's working, and tax free would mean 2 trips to Bury, plus the fees and trips to the bank and tax office, and assuming the lens would still be in stock, and assuming the tax office would get the job done in 1 or 2 days, we decided to just buy it.
Grumble. Some $300 that we shouldn't have to pay, but time and tide wait for no man.
So we grumble about how difficult things are here. But in Iceland we only used the tax free thing once because everything was so expensive we never bought anything on the economy. So I try to keep in mind that it's not so much a rip-off as just not a great deal.
ETA: No, it is a rip-off. I just checked American prices. Now I'm grumbling again.