Dubai is synonymous with luxury, grandeur, and opulence. You can find luxury hotels, cars, restaurants and shopping malls here. But let’s face it, all that glitters can also drain your wallet. However, there’s a silver lining: VAT Refund for tourists. Yes, you read that right! If you are a tourist in Dubai, you can claim back the Value-Added Tax (VAT) on your purchases. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process, from where to shop to how to claim your VAT refund.
What is VAT?
Dubai offers a Value Added Tax (VAT) refund system for tourists, making shopping in the emirate more attractive. Overseas tourists over the age of 18, who are not residents of any of the Implementing States and are not crew members on a flight or aircraft leaving an Implementing State, are eligible for VAT refunds on purchases made during their visit to the UAE.
Refund Percentage: Tourists can receive a certain percentage of VAT back, which is determined by the UAE’s tax policy. A refund of 87% of the total Value Added Tax (VAT) paid, after deducting a service charge of AED 4.80 for each tax-free transaction.
Process: After completing a purchase at a registered store, tourists need to follow a specific process, which includes obtaining a Tax Free Tag from the merchant and presenting it at Planet’s validation points on the date of travel from the UAE.
Validation: Ensure you have all items you’re claiming a VAT refund for, as well as their original tax invoices, ready for inspection by our validation staff when you leave.
Bring your original Passport or GCC IDs; copies or photographs are not acceptable. The VAT refund process must be started and completed by the individual named on the passport; no one else can do this on their behalf.
Refund Methods: After validating your goods, you can get a VAT refund via cash, card, or digital wallets. If you can’t visit a Travelex counter for a cash refund, use the Shopper Portal link sent to your phone. If you have a Planet tax-free tag on your invoice, scan its QR code for the portal. Once there, input your details to claim a card refund. Some refund points offer cash refunds in different currencies, with rates set by our partners.
Timeframe for Claim: There is a specific time frame within which tourists must claim their VAT refund after completing the validation process.After leaving the UAE and completing validation, you can claim your VAT refund up to 12 months from the validation date.
In case of issues or queries, tourists can contact the Federal Tax Authority or use the digital services provided by Planet Payment to track their tax refund status. This system is part of the Tourist Refund Scheme operated by Planet Payment on behalf of the FTA, aiming to enhance the shopping experience for tourists in the UAE.
The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) Service
The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) of the United Arab Emirates has partnered with Planet. It is a specialized service provider to administer the Tourist Tax Refund Scheme. This service aims to facilitate reimbursing the Value-Added Tax (VAT) to tourists as they leave the country. When tourists make purchases in the UAE, they pay a VAT that locals are generally subject to.
However, recognizing the importance of tourism to the national economy, the FTA aims to offer a more attractive shopping experience by enabling tourists to reclaim this VAT.
To benefit from this tax return, tourists must fulfill certain criteria and follow a specified procedure. It typically involves presenting receipts and relevant documentation. Planet’s role as a service provider is to streamline this process, ensuring it is straightforward and efficient. This collaborative effort between the FTA and Planet thus enhances the overall travel experience in the UAE, making it financially more appealing and convenient for tourists.
Federal Tax Authority Channels and Working Hours
Planet’s tax-free services make it easy for you to get tax refunds without hassle. There are two main types of service points to assist you:
- Manned validation desks: These are staffed counters located at various exit points like airports, land borders, and sea ports. They are generally open 24/7 to serve you at any time. However, the opening hours might differ if the desk is located at specific exit points like land borders or seaports. In such cases, the relevant border authority determines the hours, and you should check their schedule.
- Self-service kiosks: These are automated machines designed for convenience and available 24/7. You can use these kiosks to validate your tax-free forms yourself. It’s important to note that if these kiosks are located in places that aren’t open all day, like shopping malls, the kiosks will be accessible only during the standard operating hours of that location.
Required Documents and Forms for VAT Refund
Suppose you plan to get a tax refund in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In that case, you must ensure you have a few specific items. These are essential for the process, and forgetting even one can complicate things. Here’s a simplified guide to what you need:
- Valid passport or GGC national ID: Ensure you carry your original, valid passport or GGC national ID card. Copies will not do; you need the real thing. The ID you use should be the one you need to enter the UAE in the first place.
- Tax invoices with tax refund tags: When you buy something, the store will give you a tax invoice, which usually has a special “tax refund” tag. This receipt should have your name on it, and it needs to match the name on your travel document.
- The items you purchased: Wait to pack away your newly purchased goods! You’ll need to show them to the staff at Planet’s validation desks before you check in your luggage.
- Proof of departure: You’ll need a valid ticket or a confirmed booking that shows you’re leaving the UAE. This could be a flight or boat ticket if you’re going by sea.
- Online boarding pass: If you’re using one of the self-service kiosks found at shopping malls or hotels to process your refund, you’ll need an online boarding pass. And remember, your departure must be within the next 24 hours.
Note: If your purchase was made digitally through Planet’s advanced POS system (only available at some stores), you won’t need the tax invoices or tags. Just show your digital receipt.
So, ensure you have all these items ready to enjoy a hassle-free tax refund process.
Estimated Time to Submit Application for VAT Refund
The estimated time to apply for a VAT refund varies depending on the method used.
- Manned desks: 5 Minutes
- Kiosks: 3 Minutes
Estimated Time to Complete Application by the FTA
If you’ve paid with a bank card and you’re looking for a refund, expect to see the money back in your account within approximately nine days. However, if you paid in cash, the refund process is quick—talking about three minutes to complete.
Service Fees Details
For every tax-exempt tag, a charge of AED 4.80 applies. Additionally, there’s a 13% reduction on the claimed VAT amount.
Procedures and Steps for VAT Refund
If you’re a tourist shopping in the UAE, you can get a refund on the tax you’ve paid for certain goods. This is possible through a system called the Tourist Tax Refund Scheme. Here’s a simple guide on how to go about it:
Buying Eligible Goods
First, ensure you’re shopping at stores in the Tourist Tax Refund Scheme. These stores can issue tax invoices in different formats:
- Paper invoice with tax-free tag: Keep both the invoice and the tag safe, as you may need to show them later.
- Paper tax invoice & digital tax-free tag (QR Code): Keep the paper invoice and be prepared to display the digital QR code.
- Fully digital invoice: For stores that give digital invoices, you can monitor your tax-free purchases through the Planet Shopper Portal. After buying, you’ll get a text message with a link to this portal.
Leaving the UAE
Before you leave the UAE, you must validate your tax-free purchases. You can do this by scanning your passport or GGC national ID card at several locations:
- Airport self-service kiosks: Located near exit points.
- Shopping mall or hotel kiosks: You’ll need a valid online boarding pass indicating that your flight is within the next 24 hours.
- Manned validation desks: Located at various exit points like airports and land borders. You must be departing within the next 6 hours.
If Goods Need Inspection
Sometimes, staff may need to inspect the items you bought. This can only be done at the manned validation desks at exit points. Bring the tax-free tags, original invoices, and the items themselves.
Getting Your Refund
After successful validation, choose how you want your refund: Credit Card, WeChat, or Cash.
- For cash: Head to a currency exchange office participating in the Tourist Refund Scheme, usually after the immigration desk.
By following these steps, you can make the most of your shopping experience in the UAE!
Terms and Conditions for VAT Refund
Before you get too excited, let’s discuss eligibility. You can claim a VAT refund if:
- If you’re a tourist, enter the UAE with a tourist visa.
- You’ve got to be at least 18 years old, and you can’t be a resident of the UAE to qualify.
- Remember to validate your tax-free transactions within 90 days of receiving the tax invoice. Do this before you leave the UAE.
- If Planet staff ask for it, you must show your tax invoice, tax-free tags, and the items you purchased.
- You can request a refund up to one year from when you validated your tax-free transactions for export.
- Heads up: the most cash you can get back is AED 35,000.
- Retailers take note: You should be registered with the tourist refund scheme.
- VAT refunds only apply to items that fall under the Tourist Refund Scheme.
- Ensure the items you bought aren’t consumed fully or partially while you’re still in the UAE.
- The smallest purchase that qualifies for a refund is AED 250 (Dirhams).
Note: All items subject to VAT can qualify for a refund with the following exceptions:
- Perishable items that have been used, whether entirely or partially, within the UAE.
- Motor vehicles, watercraft, and airplanes.
- Items that are not in the possession of the international traveler upon departure from the UAE.
- Items bought through the internet.
- Items that have been utilized, either completely or to some extent, within the UAE and are not in their original packaging.
Where to Shop
When you’re out shopping and interested in getting some of your money back through a VAT (Value-Added Tax) refund, look for stores that are part of the Tax-Free Shopping Scheme. These shops usually have signs that say “Tax-Free” to let you know that you can claim a refund on the taxes you pay there. A VAT refund is essentially a way to get some of your money back on purchased items. It’s like a discount you claim later. So how do you know where to find these stores?
Big shopping centers like The Dubai Mall or the Mall of the Emirates are great places to start. They have multiple stores that are part of this special tax-refund program. This means you’ll have many shopping options and can enjoy various products while still being eligible for a tax refund. Remember to keep all your purchase receipts and follow the specific refund process to ensure you get your money back.
VAT Refund FAQs
1. Who Can Validate the Process?
Only the person whose name is on the registered passport or GCC national identity card can start or finish the validation process. No one else is allowed to do it for them.
2. When Should Validation be Done?
After you get tax-free tags, you have 90 days to validate them. Additionally, you must leave the UAE within 6 hours after your validation. If you don’t, your validation approval will be canceled, and you’ll have to start over.
3. Which Cards Can Receive Refunds?
You can get your refund on Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Union Pay cards. The refund will typically be in the local currency (AED). Remember, your bank or card company will decide the exchange rate for the refund.
4. What if I Don’t Get the Refund in 9 Days?
Suppose you haven’t received your refund within nine calendar days. In that case, contacting your card issuer or bank is important to figure out what’s going on.
5. Who Can I Talk to for More Information?
If you have any questions or have issues, contact Planet Tax-Free’s Customer Happiness Center. You can email them at email@example.com or call them at +971 4 586 4700. They are available from 9 AM to 12 AM GST.
6. How to Track My Request?
- To track your tax-free request, open the camera app on your smartphone and scan the QR code on your tax-free tag. This will open a URL link where you can find more details.
- Alternatively, if you get a text message with a URL link from a store that uses the Paperless Tax-Free Issuing system, click on that link and log in to the Shopper Portal with your details.
A trip to Dubai is complete with indulging in some shopping, and luckily, with the VAT Refund scheme, you can save while you splurge. So, remember this guide the next time you visit and make the most of your Dubai shopping experience! Remember to get travel insurance to protect you from unforeseen circumstances during a trip!