Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) for Retailers

A business which has registered for GST might provide a GST refund to a tourist by employing the Central Refund Agency services or by being a sole retailer. In either of the scenarios, a GST-registered business will have to refund the GST charges to a tourist as per eTRS (electronic Tourist Refund Scheme).

eTRS (Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme)

This scheme brings together several Central Refund Agencies & retailers under one platform. With this scheme, tourists will enjoy a hassle-free shopping experience in Singapore. They can also seek for GST refunds in a seamless way before they exit Singapore.

With this scheme, when tourists intend to make a GST refund claim with respect to their purchases, they need not fill several refund forms which are issued by different participating retail outlets. They just have to show their passport personally and provide evidence that they qualify for TRS while making their purchase via a retailer who is on eTRS. An image or photocopy of the passport will not be accepted.

Tourist GST Refund Scheme

Who is an Independent Retailer or a Central Refund Agency?

  • You should have registered your business for GST.
  • Your business should have maintained good payment records and tax compliance.
  • The internal records of your business need to be good. You should have maintained your internal and accounting records accurately.
  • You must be processing a minimum of 5,000 refund claims in relation to tourists on a monthly basis (on an average) for the previous 12 months during your application submission time.
  • You should possess a necessary system which can function in an eTRS environment.
  • You employ CCH (Central Clearing House) services & comply with the associated requirements.
  • You employ CRC (Central Refund Counter) services & meet the pertinent requirements.
  • You ensure to meet all the conditions which are levied by IRAS.

How to Operate TRS?

TRS is a scheme which is voluntary by nature. You can operate this scheme either by being a sole retailer or by employing services of a Central Refund Agency.

Using Central Refund Agencies services Operating as an independent retailer
Technical aspect
A facility to issue or print an eTRS ticket will be provided to you by a Central Refund Agency. When you intend to operate eTRS as a sole retailer, you need to make sure that a system which is arranged for eTRS is compliant with certain technical specifications. The system should also be capable to transmit data to a CCH (Central Clearing House).
Filing a return for GST
You will have to levy GST charges to a tourist just like how you levy GST charges on other kinds of sales. The worth of sales & GST charges relating to it need to be reported in Box 1 (complete worth of supplies which are standard-rated). You will need to report output tax due in Box 6 of your return for GST. You’ll be liable to levy GST charges to a tourist like how you levy charges on other types of sales. The sales worth & GST charges corresponding to it must be reported via Box 6 (meant for output tax due) & Box 1 (overall worth of standard-rated supplies) of your return for GST.
eTRS ticket issuance
You must follow certain steps when you issue an eTRS ticket to a tourist (steps are listed in the following paragraph). You need to adhere to specific steps while issuing eTRS tickets to tourists (steps are mentioned in the next paragraph).
Refund to a customer
The GST charges will be refunded by a Central Refund Agency to your customer. You should refund the GST charges to your client (includes a refund processed via an authorised central refund counter operator) mandatorily in 3 months from the date on which a tourist’s application was approved.
Making a GST refund claim
Since GST refunds are initiated by a Central Refund Agency to a customer, you cannot make any GST refund claim from IRAS. You will not be allowed to add the refund details in Box 7 (refunds & input tax claimed) & Box 10 (complete worth of a tourist GST refund claimed) on your return for GST. Once you’ve made the GST refund payment to your customer, you can submit a GST refund claim to IRAS by reporting the GST amount you refunded via Box 7 (refunds/input tax claimed) & Box 10 (entire worth of a tourist GST refund claimed) on your return for GST in relation to the concerned accounting period during which a refund was initiated.

Singapore’s Central Refund Agencies

Global Blue Singapore Pte Ltd Tourego Pte Ltd Global Tax Free Pte Ltd
A retailer who is associated with this particular agency will exhibit a "Global Blue" sign in his/her their shop. A retailer who is associated with this specific agency will showcase a "Tourego" sign in his/her shop. This particular agency is known for issuing only digitised eTRS Tickets. A retailer who is associated with this agency will have a "Global Tax Free" sign displayed in his/her shop.

GST Refund Amount Under TRS

The GST refund amount tourists will receive will be lower than the actual GST charges they incurred on their purchase. This is because a handling fee deduction is applicable to the service which was rendered to them with respect to their GST refund claim process. This handling fee will be levied by the Central Refund Agency/retailer/operator of the Central Refund Counter. The information with respect to charges levied to them will be displayed on their eTRS ticket.

How Tourists Can Get an eTRS Ticket in Singapore?

Step 1: You need to verify if the tourist qualifies for a GST refund

When a tourist requests for a refund on GST charges they have incurred via their purchases, you should check the tourist’s passport and also verify if they qualify for GST refund as per the TRS. You’re not permitted to accept either an image or a photocopy of a tourist’s passport. For a student pass holder, you will need to check if the purchases were initiated in the previous 4 months starting from the date on which the student pass is due for expiry.

Step 2: You need to validate the departure details of a tourist

You must verify if the tourist is exiting Singapore via air in less than 2 months starting from the date on which the purchase was made.

Step 3: You need to explain the GST claiming process to the tourist

In the event a tourist is eligible for a GST refund, you’ll be responsible for explaining the entire GST claim process to a tourist based on eTRS.

You will also have to intimate the tourist regarding the handling charges you might levy on them with respect to the refund service you will provide them (if applicable).

Step 4: Recommend tourists to use a single credit or a debit card as an eTRS token

You need to inform tourists to use only a single debit/credit card as an eTRS token in order to link the purchases made by them at various participating retail outlets under eTRS.

When a single debit or a credit card is utilised as an eTRS Token, a tourist can retrieve purchases they made at a single go when they apply for a GST refund through an eTRS self-help kiosk placed at the airport. Payment mode can be cash/credit card/debit card.

The eTRS ticket (digital or paper) has to be issued to a tourist who qualifies for a GST refund at the time of sale. In case a tourist chooses not to use a debit/credit card as their eTRS token, they can choose to use their eTRS ticket in order to submit their GST refund claim at any self-help kiosk which is located at the airport.

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Who Qualifies to be a Tourist

To qualify for a GST refund, a customer should be a tourist. A customer will be treated as a tourist when the following conditions are met:

  • Should not be a permanent resident or a Singapore citizen.
  • Should have spent ? 365 days in Singapore for the previous 24 months from the purchase date.
  • Should not be associated with any kind of employment in Singapore for the last 6 months prior to the purchase date.
  • Should not be a crew member of any aircraft on which he or she (your customer) makes an exit from Singapore.
  • Should be at least 16 years old at the time of making a purchase.
  • If your customer is a student pass holder, they should purchase the commodities in the previous 4 months before the expiry of their student pass.

Qualifying Criteria for Retailer to Claim GST Refund

  • Should buy commodities & ask the retailer to issue an eTRS ticket.
  • Should spend minimum S$100 inclusive of GST charges. A tourist will be allowed to accrue up to 3 receipts/invoices issued by a single GST-registered retailer on the same day to meet the minimum purchase value of S$100.
  • Should make a GST refund claim via a token or an eTRS ticket (digital/paper) at any of the self-help kiosks at the airport.
  • Should make an exit from Singapore via Seletar Airport or Changi International Airport in less than 2 months starting from the date on which the purchase was made.
  • Should make an exit from Singapore along with the commodities in less than 12 hours post to receiving a GST refund approval.
  • Claim the GST refund amount from an authorised central refund counter operator in less than 2 months starting from the date on which the application was approved.
  • If the tourist is a student pass holder, he or she should have met all the criteria mentioned earlier. Also, he or she should have purchased the commodities in the previous 4 months prior to the expiry date of the student pass & plans to exit along with the commodities and stay out of Singapore for at least 12 months.

What Goods Don’t Qualify for a GST Refund

All standard-rated commodities on which GST charges are levied will qualify for a refund excluding:

  • Commodities partly or entirely used in Singapore.
  • Commodities exported for commercial/business-related reasons.
  • Commodities which will be shipped via freight.
  • Hotel/boarding house/hostel, or a similar establishment accommodation.

Under this scheme, services do not qualify for a GST refund.

Tourist Refund Scheme Availability

This scheme is available to a tourist who brings purchases outside Singapore in less than 2 months from the purchase date through:

  • Seletar Airport and/or
  • Changi International Airport.

Claiming Your GST Refund During Your Departure

  • Make sure you reach the airport early so that there is enough time for your GST refund request to get processed and for the inspection of your commodities.
  • In case you’ve commodities/bulky commodities you need to check in, you will need to claim your refund in relation to GST at a chosen refund area which is meant for GST. This area will be situated in the check-in hall which is meant for departure. You will need to submit your GST refund application prior to checking in the purchases you’ve made.
  • For commodities which are of a higher value or commodities which can be carried via hand, you’ll need to submit your GST refund application at the Departure Transit Lounge (located after the Departure Immigration).
  • You will need to use a self-help kiosk for other commodities.

Steps to Follow at a Self-Help Kiosk

When you intend to claim for your GST refund via an eTRS self-help kiosk, you will have to perform the following steps:

You will need to present the following documents:
  • Passport & travel-related documents
  • Actual receipts/invoices
  • Digital eTRS and/or paper tickets
  • eTRS token (if applicable).
Declarations have to be made by you:
  • You will need to declare your eligibility for the Tourist Refund Scheme.
  • Acknowledge the terms and conditions with respect to TRS.
Validate purchases:
  • Swipe an eTRS token via a debit/credit card or
  • Scan the barcode of every eTRS ticket
Opt for a refund method:
  • At Changi International Airport:
    • Credit card
    • Cash
    • Alipay
  • At Seletar Airport:
    • A bank cheque
    • Credit card
Gather your notification slips:

A notification slip will be dispensed via a kiosk. You will need to verify your refund status as well as check the instructions which are mentioned on this slip. If the commodities need to be inspected physically, you will need to present the following items at the Customs Inspection counter:

  • Your commodities/purchases
  • Actual receipts/invoices
  • An eTRS ticket
  • An air ticket which is confirmed/boarding pass
Get your refund:
  • If you choose to receive your refund via a credit card, you’ll receive your sanctioned refund amount via a chosen credit card of yours in less than 10 days.
  • If you intend to receive your refund through Alipay at the Changi International Airport, you will need to visit the GST Cash Refund counter which is located in the Departure Transit Lounge (next to the Departure Immigration). You will also need to carry your notification slip which is approved in order to process your refund in relation to GST to your respective Alipay account.
  • If you wish to receive your refund via cash at the Changi International Airport, you will need to go to the GST Cash Refund counter which is situated within the Departure Transit Lounge. You will also need an authorised notification slip to collect your refund via cash.
  • For receiving your refund via a bank cheque, you’ll need to fill in details like the name of the payee and the mailing address on a notification slip after approval. The slip needs to be dropped into a respective cheque refund box. You will receive a bank cheque via mail within 14 days from the date on which you deposited the authorised slip of notification into the concerned cheque refund box.

Fraudulent TRS Claims Enforcement

IRAS will take serious action against foreigners who make incorrect declarations intentionally with an aim to either get a GST refund under TRS or to misuse the scheme.

Commodities might be subjected to physical inspection by the officers at Singapore Customs before the approval of your GST refund claim.

Enforcement Powers of IRAS

With the help of the enforcement powers, IRAS might seize the commodities and arrest a foreigner who tries to make a fraudulent GST refund claim.

IRAS will work closely with the Singapore Customs officials to identify such criminal groups who aim to deceive GST.

Fierce enforcement measures will be imposed on offenders (inclusive of prosecution). In the event of an offender being convicted, he/she:

  • Might face penalty charges which are 3 times the tax refund amount.
  • Might be jailed for a term which can extend up to 7 years and/or pay a fine of up to S$10,000.

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