The UAE Explained: Can tourists claim their tax back?

Non-residents will be able to claim the VAT paid on goods from November

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, JULY 1, 2015. A man and a boy look into Rolex's store at Mall of the Emirates. Photographer: Reem Mohammed / The National  (Hold for Business) *** Local Caption ***  RM_20150701_MALL_012.JPG

It is nine months since the UAE introduced VAT, and the good news for tourists is that they will soon be able to claim it back. But how?

Here is a guide to everything you need to know about the VAT process for non-residents:

When will tourists be able to claim back VAT on their purchases?

An “advanced integrated digital system” to refund VAT to non-residents is under process and will be operational from November 18.

Will all tourists in the UAE be able to claim their VAT back?

The only exceptions will be residents of other Gulf Cooperation Council countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.

What goods and services can tourists claim tax back on?

A good rule of thumb is that you can claim the VAT back on goods that you bring with you when you are leaving the country, said David Daly, a partner in the Gulf Tax Accounting Group, which is based in Fujairah.

“The exceptions are the car, boat or aircraft you buy and leave the country in,” he said.

In addition, goods must be bought from stores that are registered under the scheme and the items must not be exempted from a VAT refund.

Are there any other rules?

The goods need to have been bought within UAE borders, and the tourist and items must leave the country within 90 days from the date of purchase.

How can tourists claim VAT back?

The Federal Tax Authority has partnered with a global taxback organisation called Planet who will manage the process. Merchants registered with Planet will “clearly communicate this to purchasing tourists,” said Mr Daly.

“A merchant will issue a Tax Free tag to the tourist, attaching it to a sales receipt. This is associated with the tourist’s passport and a digital Tax Free form will be completed,” said Mr Daly.

Where can you claim tax back? 

Special points will be provided where tourists can easily reclaim taxes, according to FTA director general Khalid Ali Al Bustani. Before checking in at the airport, tourists will visit one of the various Planet points and, once validated, they can decide on the method to receive their refund.

What sort of paperwork will tourists have to fill out? 

Aside from the physical receipt from a merchant, the process will entirely be online, said Mr Daly.

What evidence do you need to show to prove you are a tourist? 

Your passport, which will display an entry stamp and the lack of a UAE or other GCC residency visa, will be sufficient proof.

How is the UAE trying to make it easier for tourists to claim their tax back? 

The government is taking steps to streamline the process and minimise the effort required from the tourist, said Mr Daly. “They are here on holidays,” he said.


Read more:

The UAE explained: What are the new plans for the economy and why?

UAE retailers urged to register for tourist VAT refund scheme

Tourist VAT refunds will be handled by 'advanced integrated digital system'