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sven

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Lived and worked in Singapore for 2 years

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Asia > Singapore > Useful Info
Updated on Sep 17, 2019 Useful Info

How to easily get a GST tax refund in Singapore

  • Singapore has fairly low GST (which is the name of its VAT/Sales Tax) rate of 7%, and on top of that a very streamlined way to get it all back at the end of your trip with the implementation of eTRS (Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme) in 2012
  • What kind of purchases are eligible for Singapore GST refund (see the official government website for the complete list):
  • Purchased within 2 months of the date you're applying for the refund
  • Purchased at a participating shop. Most participating shops will have TAX FREE or DUTY FREE sticker displayed prominently, like these (but keep in mind that not all of them will display it so it's always a good idea to check with a staff):User submitted photo of SingaporeUser submitted photo of SingaporeUser submitted photo of Singapore
  • Must spend over SGD$100 at any given shop (you can use up to 3 separate purchases in a same day to meet this criteria) for purchases from that shop to be eligible. Some examples to illustrate how this threshold works:
  • 1 purchase of over $100 -> eligible
  • 3 purchases from the same shop in a day adding up to $90 -> not eligible
  • 4 purchases from the same shop in a day that together add up to $120 but no 3 of them add up to $100 ($30, $30, $30, $30) -> nothing is eligible
  • 4 purchases across 2 shops in a day that together add up to $150 but each individual shop is less than $100 (shop 1: $40 and $40, shop 2: $35 and $35) -> nothing is eligible
  • 4 purchases across 2 shops in a day, one of which add up to $120 and the other one only add up to $60 (shop 1: $70 and $50, shop 2: $30 and $30) -> only the $120 from shop 1 is eligible for GST refund
  • Not already consumed — either fully or partially — in Singapore. So make sure you keep all the package and labels on
  • Must be a good and not a service. For example you can't claim GST refund on a massage, haircut, accommodation, car rental, etc., because these are by definition consumed in Singapore. This effectively means only things that you shopped are eligible
  • Not purchased for commercial/resell purposes. So if you buy a lot of something you may be denied GST refund on them because the customs officer may deem that it's for resell purposes
  • Additionally, there are also eligibility criteria for you as a person (all of these criteria just means that you must be a tourist):
  • You can't be Singapore citizen or resident
  • You must be at least 16 years old
  • You must be leaving Singapore by air, and not by sea or land
  • You're not an airline crew member of the airline you're flying out of Singapore with
  • You must not have any sort of work pass to Singapore, and you must not have a Depend's Pass, Long Term Visit Pass, Long Term Visit Pass Plus, or Student's Pass
  • You must not be working for any embassies, consulates, any international organizations (like the UN) or other diplomatic missions in Singapore; and you must not be the spouse, depend, or child of anyone who's working in this capacity


  • The good news is, you don't have to remember all these criteria or keep track of your eligible purchases. The process is minimal hassle on you, and you will basically be shown a total refund amount when you apply for it when you leave Singapore. Now, if you want to confirm whether this amount is accurate or not, then you will need to track everything, but 99.9% of the time the amount is accurate


  • Now that you know the criteria, here's the step-by-step guide on how to actually get the refund:
  • When you're shopping:
  1. Always carry your passport with you as you shop around in Singapore. Your passport is how they electronically track your purchases to determine what's eligible and what's not. Note that a scan or photo of your passport is NOT accepted. You must present your original passport in person at checkout
  2. When you make a purchase, always check with the cashier if you can get a GST refund with your purchase, even if you're at a store that does not have the "TAX FREE" sticker. If they're a participant, they will scan your passport and log your purchase into the eTRS system
  3. Keep your physical receipts as your purchases may be inspected when you apply for your refund later
  • When you're at the airport about to leave Singapore:
  1. When you get to the airport, apply for your GST refund before you check in your baggage. This is because you may be asked to show your purchases for a manual inspection, so you need to have your purchases in your possession when you apply. Manual inspection only happens occasionally, most people just get the refund automatically. In terms of how long the GST refund process takes, I'd say it takes 10-45 minutes depending on if you get chosen for manual inspection or not.
  2. In the terminal, look for GST refund kiosks (also called eTRS self-help kiosks). They look like this:User submitted photo of SingaporeThey will be located both before and after the customs. Most people use the ones before the customs (because they need to have the purchases in possession for potential inspection). The only time you'd use the ones after the customs is if you bring it onto the plane with you as a carry on item.
  3. On the kiosk, scan your passport to get started, then simply follow the prompt on the screen to the end, where you will get a Notification Slip
  4. At this point, the kiosk may tell you to report to Customs Inspection Counter for physical inspection of your purchases. If that happens, you need to bring your 1) purchases ,2) original receipts for the purchases, and 3) your passport to the inspector
  5. Otherwise, you will be asked to choose how you want to receive refund, which can be done by: 1) credit card, 2) Alipay or 3) cash. Provide any details the machine asks for to put the money into your account
  6. If credit card: the refund money will show up on your credit card within 10 business days
  7. If by Alipay: this option is only available to those with a Chinese bank account. You will just have to scan your QR code and the refund money will show up immediately on your account
  8. If you choose refund by cash, you will need to head over to a Central Refund Agency after immigration to collect your money. They're open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, at these locations:
  • In terminal 1: near the iShopChangi Collection Centre and Charles & Keith
  • In terminal 2: near the iShopChangi Collection Centre and Eu Yan Sang
  • In terminal 3: near the iShopChangi Collection Centre and The Shilla Duty Free
  • In terminal 4: near the iShopChangi Collection Centre


  • Note that there's a handling fee that's subtracted from the amount refunded to you. The GST refund handling fee is currently 1.6% of total, GST-inclusive purchase value
  • For more details, check the website of Singapore's tax agency, Inland Revenue Authority, on this topic: https://www.iras.gov.sg/IRASHome/Schemes/GST/Tourist-Refund-Scheme