UPDATE | Singapore's new eTRS (electronic tourist refund scheme) system, which provides travellers with a GST tax rebate at the airport, is now in effect: here's how it works.
PREVIOUS | Singapore may no longer be the duty-free shopping heaven of its heyday but there are still good savings to be made – especially if you take advantage of the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) to claim a rebate on Singapore’s GST sales tax at Changi Airport.
There are however a few catches.
You won’t get a refund of Singapore’s full 7% GST – the TRS rebate process is managed by two companies which claim a commission of up to 1.5% of the GST for providing this service. So at most you’ll get back 5.5-6% of the sales tax.
And with two companies looking after the TRS rebate, depending on where you shop you may need to line up twice at Changi to claim your refund – once at each company’s rebate counter – so allow plenty of time at the airport.
That said, here’s what you need to know about claiming Singapore’s GST rebate.
How to qualify for a GST rebate
You’ll need to spend a minimum of S$100 at any store to be eligible for the rebate and you’ll need to have your passport with you.
Ask the sales staff for a GST Claim or Refund Cheque form – they should complete the paperwork and hand you a copy of the form.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky compared to the more straight-forward systems such as Australia’s TRS rebate.
If the shop displays a 'Tax Free Shopping' sign the refund will be issued by Global Blue; a ‘Premier Tax Free’ logo means the refund falls to the Premier Tax Free agency.
Both of these have desks at Singapore’s Changi Airport.
(Some shop display a Tax Refund and will have made their own arrangements for issuing your rebate – DFS is one of these, as are some smaller shops, which may in turn have outsourced the rebate process to another agency.)
At Changi Airport
Changi Airport has GST Refund Counters both landside (in the public area, before customs check) and airside (the passenger-only area, after customs).
The landside counter lets you claim a rebate on bulky items that can’t be carried onto the plane – you can line up, get your rebate and then add these to your checked luggage.
The airside counter is for claiming a rebate on smaller or more delicate carry-on items.
In both instances, your first stop is the Government Customs counter where you’ll show the goods and get your paperwork stamped.
If you bought the goods from a Global Blue or Premier Tax Free agent you’ll have a Global Blue Cheque or Premier Tax Free Voucher which should be taken through customs to the respective refund desk in each terminal.
If your shopping was as an independent Tourist Refund Scheme outlet you’ll need to mail the completed and stamped refund form back to the retailer (in a supplied post-free envelope) to process your GST refund. There’s a mailbox at the GST Refund Counter.
You can opt to receive your GST rebate as a cheque or deposited into your credit card account. We suggest the later because bank fees for processing a cheque in foreign currency can be pretty vicious and could wipe out a large portion of your rebate!
For more information, visit the Singapore Government's TRS website.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.