The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) confirmed that the VAT Refund Scheme for Tourists is witnessing continuous development, advancement, and expansion by introducing more facilities to streamline and speed up the refund process for tourists eligible for a tax refund.
The Authority noted that the system witnessed a significant increase in demand recently, as travel restrictions are gradually relaxed. The tourism sector in the UAE started showing signs of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by mega event Expo 2020 Dubai and the government’s efforts in supporting the travel industry.
During the Global Tourism Forum Pre – Post the COVID-19 Pandemic – which was held at Expo 2020 Dubai and organised by the Federal Tax Authority in collaboration with Planet (FTA’s authorised VAT Refund Scheme for Tourists operator) – the Authority showcased the pandemic’s implications on shopping patterns and purchasing consumers’ behaviours along with economic indicators of the recovery of the tourism sector globally and locally. The event brought together representatives from many departments including the Department of Economic Development, Tourism Development Department, and Department of Finance.
During the opening of the forum, His Excellency Khalid Ali Al Bustani, Director General of the FTA, assured the utmost readiness and efficiency of the VAT Refund Scheme for Tourists. The system is one of the most innoVATive digital systems based on smart connectivity without paper transactions. The system is part of FTA’s integrated electronic platforms, which contributes to promoting an innoVATion-friendly environment and improving quality of life, in line with the vision of the wise leadership to make the UAE one of the best and most developed countries in the world.
Commenting on the indicators, His Excellency noted the high level of tourist satisfaction with the system. The UAE is one of the first countries to implement such a VAT Refund Scheme for Tourists that is characterised by the speed of completion of refund requests in mere minutes, ease of procedures, and clarity.
“Despite the significant negative implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years, the tourism sector, among others, has gradually begun to recover. The sector witnessed positive growth driven by the increasing rate of immunisation against the virus, coupled with easing restrictions,” H.E. added. “Considering the current state of the tourism sector, the electronic VAT Refund Scheme for Tourists is gaining increasing importance. The system reflects the continuous development the UAE is leading in all fields and contributes to strengthening the tourism and travel sectors. As one of the leading sectors playing a major role in enhancing the local economy, the UAE’s tourism industry contributes significantly to the country’s GDP. The sector is characterised by its safe environment, hospitable people, attractive landmarks, and services that meet the highest international standards.”
The VAT Refund Scheme for Tourists includes a fully integrated electronic system that creates a direct link between 13 air, land, and maritime entry and exit ports across the UAE, with more than 13,800 stores registered with the Authority, allowing tourists to submit tax refund requests on their purchases. The system relies on advanced technologies allowing tourists eligible for tax refunds to reclaim the VAT they incurred, provided they meet the conditions and criteria specified in the government decisions issued in this regard.
The Self-Service Kiosks provide more facilities for tourists and are equipped with the necessary technology to enable tourists to complete tax refund procedures automatically. Visitors at Expo 2020 Dubai admired the devices, which can process tax refund procedures for tourists within two minutes. There are more than 82 operational Self-Service Kiosks, spread across major malls and hotels, while the VAT Refund Scheme for Tourists is available at air, land, and maritime entry and exit ports across the UAE.