How tourists can get a sales tax refund in Singapore

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If your Singapore itinerary includes a shopping spree on Orchard Road you’ll be happy to learn that the 7% GST included in prices can be refunded when you leave the country.

To be eligible for the GST (goods and services tax) refund you must meet several conditions. You must be 16 or older; you must be tourist, meaning you are not a Singaporean citizen or resident, have not spent more than 365 days of the last two years in Singapore, and have not worked in Singapore during the last 6 months; and you and the purchased items must leave Singapore by air. You cannot get the refund if you leave by road, train, or boat.

Recoup the taxes on that $1,000 bag

OK, assuming you meet the above conditions here’s what you need to do.

First, spend S$100 or more at a participating retailer. The GST refund program is voluntary and not all stores participate — those that do display a Tax Free Shopping or Premier Tax Free sign in their window. Department stores, electronics shops, and high-end clothing stores almost always participate. The refund is not valid for services or consumable goods, so you cannot get a tax refund on hotels, spa services, or restaurant bills.

Second, get a receipt and a GST refund form at the time of purchase. You will need to show your passport to prove that you are a tourist, then complete the GST refund form and have it endorsed by the retailer.

Lastly, finish the paperwork at the GST Refund Inspection Counter at Changi Airport. You’ll need to show your passport, air ticket, the original receipt, the completed GST refund form, and the items you purchased to finalise the refund.

There is a GST refund counter in each terminal and before and after immigration, so for bulky items you can complete the refund before checking your bags. You can choose to receive the refund as cash, a bank cheque, or a refund applied to your credit card. An administration fee is deducted from the refund amount so you won’t actually get back the full 7% — it’ll be closer to 6%.

The tourist GST refund is overseen by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and you can find further details on their official website.

Last updated: 15th November, 2014

About the author:
Tanya Procyshyn is a Singapore-based freelance writer and photographer. With a passion for unusual destinations, she has camped alongside Komodo dragons and shook hands with soldiers in North Korea. She blogs at www.idreamofdurian.com.
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