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A Quick Look at Tax (Tourist) Refund Schemes

by on April 4, 2015
 

As most countries are already collecting some form of Goods and Sales Tax / Value Added Tax, there is usually a mechanism which allows tourists to claim back what they have paid, subject to various conditions and as long as the goods are taken out of the country with you when you leave.

While many countries extend this to all those going overseas (with conditions, see their respective websites) some restrict the claims only to tourists and students or diplomats leaving permanently.

Please allow plenty of time to make the claim as there may be queues. The time ‘cut off’ may also vary depending on the airport / sea port or other port. Many of these also allow for larger items to be claimed and then checked-in with your luggage. However, you must check with the website to make sure this is available and ensure that the goods have been ‘signed off’ by the Customs official before you go to the counter to claim your refund.

Where can I find the counter?

Many air and sea ports have refund counters both or either before or after the Immigration Control or both, and you will need to check for the particular location. This sounds complicated, but most of the websites make it fairly clear and if you plan properly, you can claim back your tax paid without too much drama.

As any list with all these differences would be unwieldy at best and unworkable at worst, we have compared the salient points of a few of the refund schemes currently in operation. Please note that as with all Tax regimes, there may be changes and you are advised to use the links below the table to check on the most up to date figures and conditions for your particular situation.

Eligible Not Eligible
Australia
GST 10%
WET (wine equalisation tax) 29%
All overseas visitors and Australian residentsall overseas visitors and Australian residents. Operating air and sea crew.
Malaysia
GST 6%
Bona fide tourists, permanently departing diplomats. Malaysian citizens & Permanent residents.operating air crew.Anyone working in the 3 months before purchasing the goods.
Singapore
GST 7%
Tourists who buy goods in Singapore from retailers operating the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS), you may claim a refund of the GST paid on your purchases.Must be taken out via Changi International Airport, Seletar Airport and/or international cruises departing from the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore and International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre.Purchased within two months of date of departure.
Student pass holder who have purchased the goods in the last 4 months before the expiry of the student pass.
Operating air and sea crew.
Singapore citizen or permanent resident.
stayed 366 days or more in Singapore in the last 24 months before the date of purchase,
you have been employed in Singapore in the past 6 months before the date of purchase,
you are travelling on a ‘cruise-to-nowhere’, round-trip cruise or regional ferry.
France
VAT 20%
rates on basic foodstuff, books & magazines other foods, hotels, restaurants etc.)
You are not a European Union resident, you were 15 years old or over when the purchase was made and
you have stayed in France less than 6 months.
EU residents,Other visitors who have stayed 6 months or more in a year.
United Kingdom
VAT 20% on most items
Live outside the EU and are going back home, an EU resident leaving the EU for 12 months or more,a non-EU resident working or studying in the UK and are leaving the EU for 12 months or more,goods bought within the last 3 months (Not all retailers offer tax-free shopping) Operating air and sea crew.
Eligible Not Eligible
Australia
GST 10%
WET (wine equalisation tax) 29%
Purchased in the 60 days before departurepurchases from any single business (including multiple purchases) total $300 (GST inclusive) or moreyou paid for the goodsyou have an original tax invoice for the goodsyou wear or carry the goods Beer, spirits or tobacco products.goods without GST/WET  paid.services (accommodation, food etc)gift cards or vouchers.items already used (in part or in full) in Australia (food, perfume etc). It’s ok to use cameras, iPhones, clothing etcgoods not with you on your flight or ship out of Australia.
Malaysia
GST 6%
Eligible goods purchased at an Approved Outlet. Goods purchased at non Approved Outlets.
Beer, spirits or tobacco products.
Goods without GST paid.
Items that have already been used (in part or in full) in Malaysia Clothing is OK.
Metals & gemstones.
Goods not with you on your flight or ship out of Malaysia.
Goods where export is prohibited by law.
Singapore
GST 7%
All goods purchased in Singapore for which GST has been paid, of at least SGD100 (including GST). Exclusions as next column. Goods wholly or partly consumed in Singapore,
Goods exported for business or commercial purposes,
Goods that will be exported by freight,
Accommodation in a hotel, hostel, boarding house, or similar establishments.
France
VAT 20%
rates on basic foodstuff, books & magazines other foods, hotels, restaurants etc.)
the value of purchases from any single store, tax included, must exceed €175;
all the goods must be taken back with you, in your carry-on luggage, when you leave France;
all tax refunds must be claimed within six months of purchasing the goods.
food products and beverages,
tobacco products,
medicine,
most firearms,
unset precious stones,
cultural property,
automobiles, motorcycles, boats, planes, their parts and accessories,
purchases of a commercial nature.
United Kingdom
VAT 20% on most items
The Tax department says you MAY be given a refund, there is no list of goods that WILL have VAT refunded. mail order goods, including internet salesgoods already used in the EU,service charges,new or used carsgoods worth more than £600 exported for business purposes
goods to be exported as freight
goods that need an export licence (except antiques)
unmounted gemstones
gold over 125g,
a boat you plan to sail to a destination outside the EU
At Store At Airport
Australia
GST 10%
WET (wine equalisation tax) 29%
Just make sure Invoice is a ‘Tax Invoice’ Tax Invoice for goods on which tax is claimed
Malaysia
GST 6%
Valid Passport of traveller
Collect the Refund Form at the store and fill details.**Website does not indicate minimum purchase total.
Tax Invoice for goods on which tax is claimed
(Jewellery must be in a sealed bag)
Singapore
GST 7%
You may shop at any retailer. Make sure you get a Tax Invoice. Tax Invoice,
Your Passport,
Assigned Credit Card as token,
Apply for your GST refund using the Token or eTRS Tickets at the eTRS self-help kiosk at the airport or cruise terminal.(Detailed steps are on the website listed below.)
France
VAT 20%
rates on basic foodstuff, books & magazines other foods, hotels, restaurants etc.)
Ensure that the store participates in the VAT-Free scheme,
Show your passport,
Collect your Retail Export Form (“bordereau de détaxe”) which must be endorsed by a EU customs officer when you leave within 3 months of the purchase.
Retai Export Form,
Passport,
The goods, hand carried.
United Kingdom
VAT 20% on most items
Collect a VAT 407 form from the retailer,
have your passport ready,
Please note that some retailers change a fee to complete this form.
Show the goods, the completed form and your receipts to customs at the point when you leave the EU.
If in UK, take the approved form to collect your refund at the Refund Booth,
Hand Carried Checked items
Australia
GST 10%
WET (wine equalisation tax) 29%
Show items to Customs officer at Refund Desk. Goods must be sited and ‘signed off’ before being checked in.
Malaysia
GST 6%
Show items to officers at GST Customs Refund Verification Counters either before or after Immigration Control.*Check website for availability Show items to officers at GST Customs Refund Verification Counters before Immigration Control. Items must them be checked in.*Check website for availability
Singapore
GST 7%
Have items (high value and other hand carried items) ready for inspection if required. Apply for your GST refund at the designated GST refund area in the Departure Check-in Hall before you check-in your purchases.
France
VAT 20%
rates on basic foodstuff, books & magazines other foods, hotels, restaurants etc.)
In France:Be ready to show the goods if asked. Find an automated Pablo kiosk and insert the détaxe forms one at a time for validation, or take them to a Customs Agent – there are counters near the Departure Gates before Customs Control. If you do not have time, you may do this from home, but it may take a lomng time and incur fees.From another EU country – get the forms endorsed by the local Customs Agent and send a copy back to the store from which you purchased the goods. There is no provision for large items not hand carried.
United Kingdom
VAT 20% on most items
Small and Valuable items may be presented after check in at the Customs desk (located before and after security). Large and bulky items should be shown at the Customs Desk before Passport Control and then Checked in.
Australia
GST 10%
WET (wine equalisation tax) 29%
Total GST (price paid divided by 11), and/ortotal WET (14.5% of the price paid for the wine)on all of your eligible goods.Refunds to a credit card or Australian bank account generally paid within 60 days.
Refunds by cheque up to two months.
Malaysia
GST 6%
In cash up to three-hundred Malaysian Ringgit (MYR300),
to a credit card account; or
bybank cheque.
Singapore
GST 7%
Credit Card (withing 10 days)Cash – collect at the GST Cash Refund counter in the Departure Transit Lounge.Cheque – available only at Seletar airport and Cruise terminals.
France
VAT 20%
rates on basic foodstuff, books & magazines other foods, hotels, restaurants etc.)
Either by cheque mailed to you, or into your credit card. It may take some time, there seems to be no time stated.
United Kingdom
VAT 20% on most items
The retailer will tell you how you will be paid.
It may be possible to be paid in cash, discuss this with the retailer.

Here’s more information on each country:

Information: Australian TRS Also see our article HERE for more details.To download the app to make the application in advance. This is very useful and speeds the operation considerably.

Information: Malaysian Customs website Also see our article HERE for more details.
Information: Discover France website. This is not an official Government site, but the information covers all the parameters.
Information: UK Government Tax website or the Heathrow Airport site which offers information in various languages.

This site may help you find the rates in the country you are visiting and some links for updated information. This is a 2014 site, but may be useful.

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