Guide to VAT refunds for tourists in UAE
- How to Claim VAT Refund
- VAT Refund Scheme
- Where Can Tourists Claim VAT Refunds
- Self Service Kiosks
- Non-eligible Goods
- UAE VAT Refund Eligibility Criteria
In November 2018, the UAE government, in collaboration with the Federal Tax Authority (FTA), officially allowed a VAT refund for tourists in UAE on goods purchased during their stay in the country. The process is possible through an integrated electronic system which was introduced following the UAE’s implementation of a 5% VAT charge on purchases.
Additionally, only retailers registered in the “Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme” and connected to the system are eligible for refunds. Want to know the answer to ‘how to claim a VAT refund in UAE for tourists?’ How can travellers to the UAE claim back the VAT charged to their purchases? Let’s find out.
How to claim a Tourist VAT refund in UAE?
Any tourist shopping in stores located in the United Arab Emirates is eligible to reclaim a refund made on purchases provided that they fulfil certain conditions.
- Tourists who plan to apply for refunds must ensure that their purchases are from retailers that are participants in the “Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme”
- The tourist must have the intention of leaving the UAE within ninety (90) days from the day of purchase, along with the products that were bought.
- Goods purchased must not be excluded from the FTA’s Refund Scheme
- Purchased products must be exported from the United Arab Emirates starting from the day of supply.
- Export and process of purchase of products must be implemented according to requirements set forth by the Federal Tax Authority (FTA).
UAE VAT Refund for Tourists Scheme
Planet VAT refund – a fully automated system created due to collaborations between the Federal Tax Authority and global operator Planet, allows registered retailers and shoppers to sail through the VAT refund process easily.
VAT refunds like these are possible thanks to collaborations between the FTA and Planet, which is the global operator of the refund system. A fully integrated electronic system from Planet allows registered retailers and visiting shoppers to expedite the Planet VAT refund process.
Here is how it goes:
- The shopper requests for a VAT refund claim and presents the necessary travel documentation (travel passport or GCC National ID card) used to enter the country.
- The retailer enters the required data into Planet’s electronic system to issue the claim.
- The retailer will stick a Tax-Free tag on the back of the original sales receipt presented by the shopper
- The Tax-Free tag is scanned to link the purchase to the shopper’s GCC National ID card or their passport.
It’s that simple. With a minimum spend of AED 250, the fully digital process issues shoppers a Tax-Free tag within 2 minutes.
Where can Tourists Claim UAE VAT Refunds for Shopped Items?
All claims must go through validation points or special devices placed at departure ports like seaports, border ports and airports in the United Arab Emirates. For example, if you are leaving Abu Dhabi as a tourist, the process can be executed through the VAT refund at Abu Dhabi Airport.
Here is how it works:
- Go to the designated validation point before checking in your luggage.
- Approach the immigration counter and present the original receipt with the Tax-Free tag on it, the products purchased, as well as copies of your credit card and passport.
- After successful validation, you can choose to get a refund via cash or card.
- The refund is processed.
Tourists can receive 85% of the total VAT amount paid minus a fee of AED 4.80 per Tax-Free Dubai Tag. If you are going for a cash refund, the maximum refund amount is AED 35,000 per tourist. If your refund amount exceeds this limit, provide a valid credit/debit card to process the refund.
VAT Refund App
Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has recently launched a new app that has simplified the process of claiming VAT refunds. Tourists are no longer required to retain physical copies of their purchase receipts, as the entire refund procedure is now conducted digitally.
Tourists can download the app, Tourist Refund, through the FTA service provider company, Planet. Upon purchasing an item from a store in the UAE, the shop owner or a merchant will scan the invoice, which will then be recorded in the app. The recently introduced application will contain details of each transaction made by the tourist, including the eligible VAT amount that can be claimed when departing the country.
When exiting the country, the tourist will go to the designated kiosk or counter and show the invoices in the app to claim a refund, either in cash or a transfer to a credit card. Since all of this will be completely automated, there will be no need to stand in long queues.
Self Service Kiosks
Thanks to newly launched self-service kiosks at departure points, tourists can now claim back VAT themselves. Rolled out in airports and other ports, the fully automated service streamlines the process by identifying tax eligibility for refunds, verifying the tourists have the goods and enabling tax recovery.
Of course, employees are always available to provide a helping hand when needed. Tourist VAT refund in the UAE can be processed through numerous locations across the country, including Dubai International Airport, Abu Dhabi International Airport, Al Maktoum International Airport and others.
All Tax-Free tags must be validated within 90 days from the date of purchase. If not done in time, the Tax-Free tags will expire and concerned shoppers will not be eligible for any claims.
Goods Not Eligible for VAT Tourist Refund UAE
All VAT-applied goods or products are eligible for a tax refund except these categories:
- Aircraft, motor vehicles and boats.
- Products that have been consumed partially or fully in the country or any Implementing State in the GCC.
- Goods that tourists don’t have on hand at the time of their departure from the UAE.
We recommend leaving enough time to process validations before departure. For example, arrive at the airport an hour earlier than the flight departure.
VAT Refund for UAE Tourists – who is eligible?
Not every tourist can claim VAT refunds on purchases made in the country. Under current regulations, travelling tourists must fall within these categories to be eligible for Planet VAT refund UAE.
- Travellers aged 18 or over who are not residents of the UAE.
- GCC Nationals are allowed to claim VAT refunds.
- Not a crew member on flights leaving the United Arab Emirates.
Additional regulations may apply to GCC Nationals who reside in foreign countries for studies.
FAQs About VAT Refund for Tourists in UAE
What is a VAT?
Vale Added Tax, or VAT, is an indirect tax levied on goods and services you purchase. The government imposes a tax to generate revenue for public services. Our guide on VAT in the UAE will further help you with how businesses can register themselves and more.
Are there businesses/goods that are exempted from paying VAT?
Several categories of items are exempted from paying VAT or will have to pay partial VAT. Check out VAT exemptions in the UAE guide for more details.
How can tourist track their VAT refund in the UAE?
Tourists can track their VAT refund status via the Planet Shopper Portal. After your purchase, you will receive a link via SMS. Simply open the link and access all the features available on the app.
What is tax-free shopping?
Tax-free shopping in the UAE refers to buying specific taxable items that will be exported, subject to particular terms and conditions. By validating their purchases at the point of exit, shoppers can receive a refund of the VAT charged on those goods.
When can I claim a refund for already export validated tags?
According to FTA, refunds for already export-validated tags can be claimed within one year from the date of export validation.
That’s all travellers must know about VAT refunds for tourists in the UAE. If you plan on travelling to the country, this guide for bringing medication to the UAE might be useful. Please make sure you are aware of the list of banned food items in Dubai.