5 Tips to Traveling Tax Free

Frugal travelers not only love great deals on airfare, but they are always on the lookout for steals on the ground, too. One way to save money while traveling overseas is to make tax-free purchases at qualified retailers.

Here are 5 tips for traveling tax-free.

1. Look for signs: To find tax-free goods, shop at an authorized duty-free merchant. Look for signs or stickers in the store window that advertise tax-free shopping or Value-Added Tax refunds. Common tax-free providers are Global Blue and Premier Tax Free.

2. Shop: Most countries have a minimum purchase requirement for goods to be tax-free. The purchase must be made in one store in one day and the minimum purchase fee varies by country. See below for the minimum fee in popular countries around the globe.

3. Get your paperwork: In order to receive your refund, the store clerk must fill out the required tax forms. Make sure to ask for the forms at checkout. You might be required to show ID, so make sure to bring your passport with you.

4. Get stamped: Once you are at the airport for departure, you must take your purchases to the customs office before you go through security. There, your tax forms will be stamped and you can pack your purchases in your luggage for check-in (except for in Australia, where all purchases except for wine and oversized items must be carried on).

5. Get paid: There are couple ways to obtain your refund. After you have made it through security, you can visit a tax-free kiosk to receive an immediate refund. Or, you can pick up a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope at the merchant in which to mail your paperwork and receive a check. Note: refunds do not apply to items you have shipped home.

Value-Added Tax/Goods and Services Tax Rates for Selected Countries

Australia
VAT/GST rate is 10 percent
Wine Equalization Tax is 14.5 percent
Minimum purchase is US $300 in a single store over a 30-day period

France
VAT/GST rate is 16.38 percent (19.6 VAT minus the administration fee)
Minimum purchase is Euro175.01
Average refund is 12 percent (after administration fee)

India
VAT/GST is 12.5 percent – no minimum purchase

Indonesia
VAT/GST is 10 percent
Minimum purchase is 500,000 rupiah (US $55) on a single receipt

Israel
VAT/GST is 16 percent
Minimum purchase is 360 new Shekels (US $100) on a single receipt

Italy
VAT/GST rate 21 percent
Minimum purchase is Euro155 (US $217)

Japan
Consumption tax (equivalent to VAT) is 5 percent
Minimum purchase is 10,001 Yen (US $119) in any single store on any given day
Tip: Refund issued at store where purchase is made

Korea
VAT/GST rate is 10 percent
Minimum purchase is 50,000 won (US $43) in total receipts

Mexico
VAT/GST rate is 16 percent (11 percent in border zones)
Minimum purchase is 1,200 pesos (US $103)

Singapore
VAT/GST rate is 7 percent
Minimum purchase is SGD100 (US $77) in any single store on any given day

South Africa
VAT/GST is 14 percent
Minimum purchase is 250 rand (US $36) in total receipts

Thailand
VAT/GST is 7 percent
Minimum purchase is 2,000 baht (US $66) on any given day and a total minimum of 5,000 baht (US $166)

United Kingdom
VAT/GST rate is 20 percent
Minimum purchase is £30 (US $48)
Administration fee is 5 percent

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Published: December 12, 2011