Tourists can now reclaim VAT at shopping malls and hotels

Nine recovery kiosks are stationed at leading shopping centres and hotels with the total increasing to 55 by the end of the year

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A: Standalone. A visitor looks excited to have his picture taken outside Dubai Mall. Saturday, February 8th, 2020. Downtown, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Visitors to the UAE can now reclaim VAT from self-service kiosks in major malls and hotels as the Federal Tax Authority expands its Tourists Refund Scheme across the country.

The expansion will begin with nine kiosks, increasing to 55 by the end of the year. There are currently 52 refund kiosks at air, land and maritime exit ports around the country.

"Eligible tourists who meet the necessary criteria for reclaiming the VAT they incurred on their purchases in the UAE can process their refund applications from the convenience of their own hotels or from a list of major shopping malls around the country," said Khalid Al Bustani, FTA director general.

First  rolled out in November 2018, the number of digital transactions under the Tourists Refund Scheme more than doubled in the second half of 2019, increasing to 3.2 million transactions by the end of the year, compared to about 1.52 million received at the end of June, according to FTA data.

The average number of daily tax refund transactions for tourists grew 2.64 times from 3,720 in the scheme’s first month to 9,830 daily transactions in December.

Applicants using the new kiosks must scan their boarding pass to prove they are leaving the UAE in the next 24 hours, as well as their original passport or ID card for GCC nationals and their credit card. They must then follow instructions on the kiosk screen to recover the tax, which includes submitting invoices on retail purchases made in the UAE marked with "tax-free" stickers.

By the end of 2020, there will be 25 self-service kiosks stationed in malls and 30 in hotels. Courtesy Federal Tax Authority

While there is no limit on the amount of tax that can be recovered if a tourist wants the sum transferred onto a credit card, cash refunds have a set maximum of Dh7,000 a day.

To date, 12,310 retail stores across the UAE are linked to the refund system, with participating venues visibly marked with "tax-free" stickers on store fronts.

Once all of the new kiosks start operating, there will be 25 stationed in malls and 30 in hotels.