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For GST-registered businesses

Under the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS), tourists may receive a refund of GST paid on goods purchased from retailers who participate in the scheme. TRS is available to tourist who are bringing their purchases out of Singapore via Changi International Airport, Seletar Airport or an international cruise (excluding cruise-to-nowhere, round-trip cruise and regional ferry) that departs from the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore and the International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre within two months from the date of purchase, subject to the eligibility and conditions of the scheme.

For departure via the cruise terminal, the final destination of the ship’s voyage must not be Singapore and where the voyage involves the ship returning to Singapore on one or more occasions, the tourists may only claim GST refund on the ship’s last departure from Singapore in that voyage.

On this page:
Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS)
Enforcement on fraudulent claims 
Operating the Tourist Refund Scheme     
  Method 1: Operate the scheme on your own  
  Method 2: Engage the services of Central Refund Agency
Is my customer eligible for refund?
How can my customer qualify for tourist refund?
What goods are eligible for refund?
Tourist Refund Scheme vs. Hand-Carried Export Scheme

Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS)

IRAS has introduced the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) to replace the paper refund form system from 19 August 2012.  eTRS, which connects multiple Central Refund Agencies and retailers on a single platform, offers tourists a seamless and hassle-free experience when they shop in Singapore.  Tourists who wish to seek a refund of GST for their purchases under the TRS, are no longer required to fill up different refund forms issued by the participating retailers at each retail shop. 

From 19 August 2012, any retailer who wishes to operate the tourist refund scheme can only do so through eTRS.  Retailers who issue paper refund forms to the tourists on or after 19 August 2012 can be penalised.

Enforcement on fraudulent claims

IRAS takes a serious view of foreigners who wilfully make false declarations to seek GST refunds under the tourist refund scheme or abuse the scheme.

The eTRS system allows IRAS to detect any unusual claim promptly. As a control measure, physical inspection of the goods may be carried out at the GST refund counter by Singapore Customs officers before a GST refund claim is approved.

IRAS may exercise its enforcement powers to seize the goods and arrest the foreigners who attempt to fraudulently claim GST refunds. IRAS works closely with Singapore Customs to uncover such criminal syndicates that attempt to defraud GST. Strong enforcement measures, including prosecution, will be taken against such offenders. When convicted, offenders have to pay a penalty of three times the amount of tax refunded, and may be fined of up to $10,000 or jailed up to seven years or  both.

See past prosecution cases where offenders were convicted for their offence.  

 

Conditions to operate as a Central Refund Agency or Independent Retailer under the eTRS

  • Be GST-registered
  • Has good tax compliance and payment records
  • Has good internal records and have proper accounting and record-keeping
  • Be processing at least 5,000 tourist refund claims per month on average over the last 12 months at the time of application
  • Has the necessary system that can operate in the eTRS environment
  • Engage the services of the Central Clearing House (CCH) and fulfil the related requirements
  • Engage the services of the Central Refund Counter (CRC) and fulfil the related requirements
  • Refund at least 85% of the GST to tourists on average
  • If you are operating as a Central Refund Agency, provide IRAS with an updated list of your affiliated retailers within 30 days of any change to the retailers' details
  • If you are operating as a Central Refund Agency, upon the instruction from the Comptroller, terminate your service with any of your affiliated retailers, or to refrain from entering into service agreement with any retailer as specified by the Comptroller for the purpose of the scheme
  • Ensure the system set up for the eTRS continues to comply with the technical specifications including subsequent updates or changes
  • Ensure the data transmissions from the CRA/ IR's system to the CCH's system are timely, accurate and complete
  • Maintain good tax compliance and payment records
  • Maintain good internal records and have proper accounting and record-keeping; and comply with the conditions of TRS
  • Put in place contingency procedures to be executed at the retail outlet(s) in the event that the retail end issuing solution for eTRS is unavailable, and to notify IRAS of such incident immediately and have any other conditions as may be imposed by the Comptroller from time to time.

You can refer to the GST Guide on the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) (391KB) for more details. 


Simple steps for retailers to follow under the eTRS 

  • When tourist requests for a GST refund on his purchases, you must check the passport of the tourist to ensure that the tourist is eligible for GST refund under the Tourist Refund Scheme. In addition, you are advised to check with the tourist to ensure that he is departing from Singapore by air or international cruise.
  • For tourists departing from Singapore on an international cruise (excluding cruise-to-nowhere, round-trip cruise and regional ferry) from the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS) and the International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre, you should check with the tourists that they are departing on the qualifying ships before issuing eTRS Tickets to the tourists.  You may refer to the tables below for the list of qualifying ships departing from the respective cruise terminal:

Table: Qualifying Cruise Ships for October 2014

S/No.

Arrival Date Departure Date Cruise Terminal Departure Time Vessel

Operation Hour for GST Refund Counter (On Departure Date)

1 08/10/2014 08/10/2014 Harbourfront Centre 17:00 NG Orion 09:30 - 16:30
2 09/10/2014 09/10/2014 Harbourfront Centre 23:00 Ocean Dream 15:30 - 22:30
3 18/10/2014 18/10/2014 MBCCS 18:00 Sun Princess 09:30 - 17:30
4 24/10/2014 24/10/2014 MBCCS 19:00 Sapphire Princess 10:30 - 18:30
5 28/10/2014 28/10/2014 MBCCS 18:00 Diamond Princess 10:30 - 17:30
6 29/10/2014 30/10/2014 Harbourfront Centre 18:00 ms Amsterdam 10:30 - 17:30

Table: Qualifying Cruise Ships for November 2014  

S/No.

Arrival Date Departure Date Cruise Terminal Departure Time Vessel

Operation Hour for GST Refund Counter (On Departure Date)

1 10/112014 10/11/2014 Harbourfront Centre 17:00 L'AUSTRAL 09:30 - 16:30
2 23/11/2014 23/11/2014 Harbourfront Centre 16:00 SEABOURN ODYSSEY 08:30 - 15:30
3 25/11/2014 25/11/2014 MBCCS 17:00 VOYAGER OF THE SEAS 09:30 - 16:30
4 27/11/2014 27/11/2014 MBCCS 18:00 SAPPHIRE PRINCESS 10:30 - 17:30

Note: The above table will be updated on a monthly basis.

  • If the tourist is eligible for the tourist refund, you should explain to the tourist the refund claim process under eTRS.  At the same time, you should advise the tourist to choose one credit/debit card to be used as an eTRS Token for the purpose of linking up the purchases made at the different retail shops participating in eTRS.  With a single credit/debit card as an eTRS Token, the tourist will be able to retrieve all his purchases at one go when applying for his GST refund via the eTRS self-help kiosk at the airport or cruise terminal. Payment can be made with any credit/debit card or cash.
  • You must issue an eTRS Ticket to the tourist eligible for GST refund at the point of sale. If the tourist does not use a credit/debit card as an eTRS Token, he can use the Ticket to apply for his refund claims at the self-help kiosk at the airport or cruise terminal.

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Operating the Tourist Refund Scheme

Tourist Refund Scheme is a voluntary scheme. You may choose to operate the scheme under either of the two methods as follows:

  1. Operate the scheme on your own
  2. Engage the services of the Central Refund Agencies - There are currently three Central Refund Agencies in Singapore:

  

  1. Global Blue Singapore Pte Ltd

    Global Blue

      
    Website: http://www.globalblue.com/
  2. Premier Tax Free & Fintrax Payments (Asia) Pte Ltd

    Premier Tax Free logo

    Website: http://www.premiertaxfree.com/
  3. Global Tax Free Pte Ltd

    Global Tax Free

    Website: http://www.global-taxfree.com.sg/


Method 1: Operate the scheme on your own

(a)  If you are operating the electronic tourist refund system (eTRS) on your own as an independent retailer, you have to ensure that the system setup for eTRS complies with the technical specifications as set out in e-Tax Guide “GST Guide on the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme” (391KB) and is capable of transmitting data to Central Clearing House.

(b)  You are required to charge GST to the tourist like on any other sales. The sales value and its corresponding GST have to be declared in Box 1 (total value of standard-rated supply) and Box 6 (Output tax due) of your GST return respectively.

(c)  Before issuing eTRS Ticket:

  • You must ensure that your customer is eligible for the GST refund by checking his passport or other identification papers. If your customer is a student pass holder, you must ensure that the purchases are made in the last 4 months before the expiry date of his student pass.
  • You should explain to your customer the procedures of obtaining a refund and the handling fee for the refund service imposed by you (if any).
  • You should check that your customer intends to leave Singapore via the airports or cruise terminals within 2 months from the date of purchase.

(d) You should advise your customer to choose a credit/debit card for the purpose of linking up all purchases made from different retail shops which are participating in eTRS.  This will allow your customer to retrieve all his purchases at one go when applying for his refund claims via the self-help kiosk at the airport or cruise terminal.  Regardless if a Token is used, you should also issue the eTRS Ticket to your customer who is eligible for the refund at the point of sale.

Your customer can apply for his GST refund at any of the eTRS self-help kiosk at the airport or cruise terminal.  He needs to get ready his Token/eTRS Tickets, original invoices/receipts, passport and travel documents. At the kiosk, your customer is required to declare his eligibility and acceptance of the TRS conditions.  Thereafter, he can retrieve and verify his purchases details on which he wishes to make a claim by either swiping the credit/debit card which has been assigned as a Token or scanning the barcode of each eTRS Ticket. Upon successful verification of his purchases, he will be given the option to choose either cash refund or credit card refund if he is departing from Changi International Airport.  For departure via Seletar Airport, Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore or International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre, the refund options available to the tourists are either by credit card or bank cheque.

At the end of the transaction, a Notification Slip showing the status of the refund will be issued by the kiosk.  If physical inspection of the goods is required, your customer will have to present the goods, together with the original invoices/receipts, eTRS Tickets and boarding pass/confirmed air ticket/confirmation slip showing the cruise itinerary to Customs Inspection counter for approval.

Upon approval of the refund, your customer can expect to receive his refund credited to the specified credit card within 10 days. If your customer has chosen cash refund (available for departure via Changi International Airport only), he may proceed to the Central Refund Counter (CRC) at the Departure Transit Lounge (after immigration clearance) with his approved Notification Slip to collect the cash. If your customer has chosen bank cheque refund (available for departure via Seletar Airport/ Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore/ International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre),he must complete his particulars such as payee name and mailing address on the Notification slip and drop the slip into the designated cheque refund box provided. The bank cheque will be mailed within 14 days from the date of deposit of the approved notification slip into the designated box.

You must make a refund to your customer (including through an approved central refund counter operator) within 3 months after the date the application of the tourist for the refund is approved.

(e) After you have refunded the GST to your customer, you may claim the GST refund from IRAS by declaring the amount refunded in Box 7 (Input tax and refunds claimed) of your GST return for the accounting period in which the refund is made.


Method 2: Engage the services of Central Refund Agency


(a)  The Central Refund Agency will provide you with the facility to print the eTRS Ticket.

(b) You are required to charge GST to the tourist like any other sales. The sales value and its corresponding GST have to be declared in Box 1 (Total value of standard-rated supplies) and Box 6 (Output tax due) of your GST return respectively.

(c) Before issuing eTRS Ticket,

  • You must ensure that your customer is eligible for the GST refund by checking his/her passport or other identification papers. If your customer is a student pass holder, you must also ensure that the expiry date of his student pass is not more than 4 months from the date of purchase.
  • You should explain to your customer the procedures of obtaining a refund and the handling fee for the refund service (if any).
  • You should check that your customer intends to leave Singapore via the airports or cruise terminals within 2 months from the date of purchase.

(d) You have to advise your customer to choose a credit/debit card for the purpose of linking up all purchases made from different retail shops who are participating in eTRS.  This will allow your customer to retrieve all his purchases at one go when applying for his refund claims via the self-help kiosk at the airport or cruise terminal. Regardless whether a Token is used, you should also issue eTRS Ticket to your customer who is eligible for the refund at the point of sale.

Your customer can apply for his GST refund at any of the eTRS self-help kiosk the airport or cruise terminal.  He needs to get ready his Token/eTRS Tickets, original invoices/receipts, passport and travel documents.  At the kiosk, your customer is required to declare his eligibility and acceptance of the TRS conditions.  Thereafter, he can retrieve and verify his purchases details which he wishes to make a claim on by either swiping the credit/debit card which has been assigned as a Token or scanning the barcode of each eTRS Ticket.  Upon successful verification of his purchases, he will be given the option to choose either cash refund or credit card refund if he is departing from Changi International Airport.  For departure via Seletar Airport, Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore or International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre, the refund options available to the tourists are either by credit card or bank cheque.

At the end of the transaction, a Notification Slip showing the status of the refund will be issued by the kiosk.  If physical inspection of the goods is required, your customer will have to present the goods, together with the original invoices/receipts, eTRS Tickets and boarding pass/confirmed air ticket/confirmation slip showing the cruise itinerary to Customs Inspection counter for approval.

Upon approval of the refund, your customer can expect to receive his refund credited to the specified credit card within 10 days. If your customer has chosen cash refund (available for departure via Changi International Airport only), he may proceed to the Central Refund Counter (CRC) at the Departure Transit Lounge (after immigration clearance) with his approved Notification Slip to collect the cash. If your customer has chosen bank cheque refund (available for departure via Seletar Airport/ Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore/ International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre),he must complete his particulars such as payee name and mailing address on the Notification slip and drop the slip into the designated cheque refund box provided.  The bank cheque will be mailed within 14 days from the date of deposit of the approved notification slip into the designated box.

You must make a refund to your customer (including through an approved central refund counter operator) within 3 months after the date the application of the tourist for the refund is approved.

As the GST refund is made by the Central Refund Agency to the customer, you cannot claim any refund from IRAS. The Central Refund Agency may claim the GST from IRAS after refund has been made to the customer.

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Is my customer eligible for refund?

To be eligible for GST refund, your customer must be a tourist. Your customer has to meet the following criteria:

  • he is not a Singapore citizen or permanent resident;
  • he spends 365 days or less in Singapore in the last 24 months before the date of purchase;
  • he has not been, at any time, employed in Singapore in the past 6 months before the date of purchase; 
  • he is not a member of the crew of the aircraft or ship on which he is departing from Singapore; and
  • he is 16 years or above at the time of purchase.
  • If he is a student pass holder, he must have purchased the goods in the last 4 months before the expiry of his student pass.

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How can my customer qualify for tourist refund?

 He may qualify for tourist refund if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • Spend at least SGD100 (including GST). He may accumulate up to 3 same-day invoices/receipts from retailers bearing the same GST registration number to meet this minimum purchase amount;
  • Apply for his GST refund using the Token or eTRS Tickets at the eTRS self-help kiosk at the airport or cruise terminal;
  • Depart with the goods via Changi International Airport Departure Hall/ Seletar Airport Passenger Terminal/ Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore/ International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre within 2 months from the date of purchase;
  • If he is departing on an international cruise (excluding cruises-to-nowhere, round-trip cruise and regional ferry) from the cruise terminal, he must:
    - declare that he is exiting Singapore and will not return via the same voyage on the same ship, using his cruise itinerary as documentary proof of his departure and
    - commit that he will not be returning to Singapore within 48 hours.
  • Depart with the goods within 12 hours after obtaining approval of his GST refund;
  • Claim the refund from the approved central refund counter operator within 2 months from the date of approval of the application; and
  • If he is as student pass holder, he must have fulfilled all the above criteria, purchased the goods in the last 4 months before student pass expiry date and intend to depart with the goods and remain outside Singapore for a minimum period of 12 months.

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What goods are eligible for refund?

All standard-rated goods (i.e. goods for which GST is charged at the prevailing rate) are eligible for refund except for:

  • Goods wholly or partly consumed in Singapore
  • Goods exported for business or commercial purposes
  • Goods that will be exported by freight
  • Accommodation in a hotel, hostel, boarding house, or similar establishments

Services are not eligible for GST refund under the Tourist Refund Scheme.  

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Tourist Refund Scheme vs. Hand-Carried Exports Scheme

The Tourist Refund Scheme is a separate scheme from Hand-Carried Export Scheme. For more information on zero-rating your supply under the Hand-Carried Export Scheme, please refer to Hand-Carried Exports Scheme.

Tourist Refund Scheme Hand-Carried Exports Scheme


This scheme is to enable tourists to obtain GST refund on goods that they have purchased in Singapore and brought our of Singapore via the airports or cruise terminals.

This scheme is applicable if you wish to zero-rate (i.e. charge GST at 0%) your supply to your overseas customer for goods that are hand-carried out of Singapore via Changi International Airport.

Your customer is a bona fide tourist who satisfies all eligibility criteria under the scheme.

Your customer is an overseas person who has business establishment or whose usual place of residence is outside Singapore.

For example, you should use the Hand-Carried Exports Scheme if you are selling to an overseas company.

The person bringing the goods out of Singapore must be the tourist (i.e. your customer). 

The person bringing the goods out of Singapore can either be you or your overseas customer. It can also be someone who is authorized by you or your overseas customer (e.g. employee).

At the time of sale, you need to charge GST to your customer.      

After the tourist has completed the refund request at the self-help kiosk or at Singapore Customs Inspection counter, he will be given a Notification Slip informing him of the refund status. All the refunds will be processed by the Central Refund Counter (CRC).

The tourist can proceed to the Central Refund Counter in the Departure Transit Lounge (after Departure Immigration) to collect his cash if he chooses cash refund. For credit card refunds, the refund will be made directly to the specified credit card within 10 days and he does not need to go to CRC.  Tourists who are departing Singapore from Seletar Airport/Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore/International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre will receive their GST refund via credit card or bank cheque.    

At the time of sale, you may choose to charge GST or zero-rate your supply.

If you choose to zero-rate your supply, you must obtain the export permit (stamped by Singapore Customs) within 60 days and all required documents to support the zero-rating of your supply.

If you choose to charge GST to your overseas customer, there is no facility to obtain GST refund at Changi International Airport.

You do not need to declare any export permit.

You need to declare a valid export permit for the goods that will be hand-carried out of Singapore.

  

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Last Updated on 21 October 2014


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