Singapore's new eTRS tax-free shopping refund system explained

By John Walton, August 15 2012
Singapore's new eTRS tax-free shopping refund system explained

Singapore's new electronic tourist refund scheme, which provides travellers with a GST tax rebate at the airport, comes effect this Sunday, August 19th.

Australian Business Traveller spoke to representatives of the Singapore government to find out exactly how it works -- and how it differs from the old system travellers are used to.

The new eTRS system works on a self-service basis, linking purchases made on a single credit or debit card together for a swifter process.

"There are two main systems of getting a tax refund in Singapore – through in-house tax refund counters available at malls like DFS Galleria along Scotts Road (off Orchard Road), or through a tax refund agency" the government rep told us. "In Singapore, there are two key tax refund agencies, Global Blue and Premier Tax Free,"

The new system gets a little complicated depending on what you've bought and whether you're using the new electronic system or older paper methods, but most travellers will use a six step process:

  1. Check if the place you're shopping has the Singapore tax-free sticker in their window to signify that they're a participating retailer.
  2. Pay consistently with one credit or debit card -- this will link up your purchases electronically for a simpler refund at the airport.
  3. Request an eTRS ticket with your receipt, ensuring you note down if you're heading for a Global Blue or Premier Tax Free desk at the airport in the event of any questions.
  4. Before checking in at Changi airport, bring any bulky purchases destined for your checked baggage, plus your tax refund paperwork, to the GST kiosk in the departure hall. Hand luggage items go with you through security to the kiosk in the departures hall.
  5. Make sure the GST refund officers provide you with a customs stamp if you're not using the electronic process.
  6. Check in as normal, then head to the GST refund counters with your customs stamp to claim the cash back.

Check the Singapore governments TRS website's information for full details and any late changes.

A few extra notes:

  • A minimum purchase of SGD 100 (just over A$75 at current exchange rates) is required.
  • You have two months to get a customs stamp, and your tax-free form is valid two months after the date of the customs stamp.
  • Premier Tax Free only lists refund locations in Changi's Budget Terminal and T1 -- not T2 or T3.
John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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