travellers to the UAE Here’s some good news: you can now claim VAT refunds against purchases you made in the UAE without having to present a receipt physically.
This comes after the Federal Tax Authority of the United Arab Emirates introduced what is reportedly the first 100% digital tax refund programme in the world. According to the FTA, this move will transform the way tourists enjoy their travel to the UAE.
VAT Refunds For Tourists
The tax refund programme for visitors, which entitles them to a reimbursement of the VAT they paid on purchases made while travelling through the UAE, was introduced by the FTA in 2018. A fully integrated electronic system that links retailers signed up for the “Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme” with all ports of entry and exit from the UAE was used to recover payments.
Digital Process of Issuing VAT Refund
The FTA’s latest initiative aims to make this process completely paperless for visitors to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
To ensure a seamless digital process of issuing, sending, modifying, and saving invoices for tourists, the new solution is electronically integrated between retail outlets and the tax refund scheme. Retail outlets will begin issuing e-receipts in order to provide tourists with a consistent claiming experience.
In a year, approximately 95% of retailers will join the growing list of companies offering e-invoices. However, many major retailers have already signed on. Officials estimate that more than 3.5 million traditional paper invoices will be converted to digital format.
Kahlid Ali Al Bustani, Director-General of UAE FTA said;
“The biggest challenge was tourists’ need to carry a lot of paperwork. So when the tourists make a purchase, they have a printed invoice with a sticker which shows the reference number of the tourist’s refund code and when they arrive at the airport, the paperwork will be checked to issue a refund. And this is a lengthy process.”
“Over the past year, we worked on a plan to introduce this scheme where tourists’ refunds will be electronically generated.”
During the first eight months of 2022, tourist VAT refund transactions increased by 104.15%, with the total number of transactions doubling to 2.31 million, according to Al Bustani.
The total value of tourist VAT refunds increased by 113.48 per cent between January and August of 2022 compared to the same period last year.
Self-Service Kiosks For Tourists
According to the FTA, an electronic tax-refund system is integrated for purchases at a number of different hotels, shopping centres, malls, and other retail locations where tourists can scan their passports and claim their refund.
“The efficiency of the process is very quick and tourists can always check about their refunds amounts on the Planet portal once the invoice is posted,” said Kahlid Ali Al Bustani.
Eyad Al Kourdi, general manager, Planet Tax free said;
“The aim always has been to get to deploy more self-service kiosks. It makes the customer journey much simpler and smoother. It’s a very easy process – firstly, you scan your passport, then you will see your transactions, after which you can select your preferred refund method and you’re done.”
Planet has opened more than 100 kiosks nationwide and intends to add more in the coming months. The amount will be transferred to the account/card within 10 working days of initiating the refund process.
According to Al Kourdi, the entire refund process takes less than three minutes. Planet staff will be on hand at the airport’s kiosks to assist tourists with the process.