Are you a tourist and not familiar with tax-free shopping in 2022? Keep reading!  

While on a shopping holiday, have you ever been asked by a store’s cashier if you want a Tax Free Form, but did not know what it was for? As a tourist in countries that charge a Value Added Tax (VAT), you are entitled to a tax refund for your shopping. In some countries, the term Goods and Services Tax (GST) is used instead.   

Tourists who shop tax-free can obtain a VAT or GST refund for goods purchased when returning home. It is a process that enables an individual to receive the benefits of exporting goods out of a country. It also allows retailers and countries to promote shopping. 

Traditionally, shops outsource their tax refund obligations to Tax Refund Operators. Tax Refund Operators facilitate the processing of tourist tax refunds, which can be a complicated process. In a few countries, the government handles the tax refund process directly or appoints a Tax Refund Operator.  

Here’s how the process works if you are a tourist shopping tax-free for the first time.

Getting a Tax Free Form when you shop:

  • Tax-free shopping requires you to pay the full price of the item(s) including the VAT or GST upon purchase
  • You will receive a Tax Free Form from the retailer
  • You will need to identify yourself as a tourist by presenting your passport to the cashier
  • The Tax Free Form indicates the goods for which you will be claiming a tax refund and is essential for the export validation step by Customs
  • Original invoices or sales receipts for these purchases must also be kept
Remember to get a tax-free form at the shop after your purchase
Remember to get a Tax Free Form from the shop after your purchase

Export Validation:

  • The documents you will need for export validation would be your passport, Tax Free Forms, and the invoices or sales receipts of your goods
  • Customs may inspect your purchases
  • Customs will provide an Export validation by either stamping or digitally validating the forms
  • The refund operator may ask you to deposit your stamped forms and receipts into a mailbox so they can be processed manually
Get your export validation at the point of departure
Get your export validation at the point of departure

Receiving your refund when you leave:

Generally, there are a few ways to obtain your tax refund.

Cash refund

While at the airport, you can receive your refund in cash. You may or may not incur additional fees for cash or foreign exchange.

Credit Card refund

You can choose to receive a credit card refund on the card of your choice. Most of the time, there will be additional foreign exchange fees incurred.

Downtown Refund

Some Tax Refund Operators offer an early refund, which allows you to collect your tax refund immediately after purchase. However, this refund involves further fees and if you fail to get export validation when you leave, you will be charged the refund amount as well as a penalty fee. High foreign exchange fees also apply when you choose to obtain your tax refund in this manner.

Shop tax-free and enjoy upsized tax refunds with utu Tax Free Card!

At utu, we want to engage travellers who are looking for more value in their tax-free shopping. We believe shoppers should get the best tax refund for their tax-free shopping.

utu Tax Free Card is a virtual card that allows you to upsize your tax refunds whenever your refund is received to your utu Tax Free Card number. utu Tax Free Card offers you two refund methods to receive your tax refunds. All utu members will be able to choose between:

  • A 25% upsize on your tax refund when you choose to receive your refund in Frequent Flyer Miles from one of utu’s airline partners
  • 5% more on your tax refund amount to your payment card when you shop in 19 Eurozone countries

With the tourist’s journey at the heart of our innovations, we introduced our latest product – utu Membership – to revolutionize your tax refunds and redefine your travel retail experience. By subscribing for one of our premium utu Membership tiers, you will be able to upsize your tax refund across 50 countries by up to 30% with leading refund operators, on top of a joining bonus you’ll receive worth up to USD 1,250 in a Frequent Flyer Miles program of your choice. 

How do you use it? It’s simple.

  1. Register for an account and subscribe to a utu Membership.
  2. Activate your utu Tax Free Card on the utu Tax Free app
  3. Fill in your utu Tax Free Card number into the credit card refund field of a Tax Free Form (sometimes the shop will assist you with this), or a refund kiosk depending on the Tax Refund Operator
  4. In some cases, you will be required to input the expiry date as well
  5. For the rest of the tax refund process, follow customs formalities as instructed by the respective Tax Refund Operator
  6. Once your tax refund has been processed, utu will notify you when it has been credited to your preferred refund method

Shop to your heart’s content, knowing that you can upsize your tax refunds with utu. Download the utu Tax Free app and subscribe to a premium utu Membership now!


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