To offer tourists a hassle-free and seamless shopping and GST refund experience in Singapore, IRAS took bold steps to introduce an electronic system to replace the paper-based system. Known as the Electronic Tourist Refund System (eTRS), the new system is the first government system in the world that allows retailers and multiple GST refund agencies to operate on a common platform.
The eTRS is a significant improvement over the paper-based system. With eTRS, tourists not only enjoy consistent experience when they purchase from different retailers in Singapore, they can also expect faster refund process at the airport.
At the point of purchase
When a tourist purchases goods from retailers participating in eTRS and wishes to seek GST refund, his purchase details will be captured and automatically sent and stored in a central database owned by IRAS. To identify his purchases, the retailer will issue an eTRS ticket printed from its point of sale system to the tourist, who no longer needs to fill up forms unlike under the paper-based system. For greater convenience, the tourist may even use a credit card as a token for tagging his purchases at the retailers. This token will link up all his qualifying purchases made from different shops. With the token, even if he misplaces his eTRS tickets, he can still claim for GST refunds at the airport.
At the point of claim
With eTRS, tourists approach the self-help kiosks at the airport to obtain refunds, without having to visit the Customs Inspection Counter.
At the self-help kiosk, the tourist swipes his passport and credit card (used as a token) or scans his eTRS tickets to automatically retrieve his purchase details. The kiosk will prompt the tourist to confirm his purchases and GST claims. The tourist may select the preferred payment mode (either cash or credit card) to receive his GST refund. If he opts for refund via credit card, he needs to confirm this at the kiosk and then proceed to board the plane. The refund will be automatically credited to his designated credit card account.
If he opts for cash refund, he would proceed to the Central Refund Counter in the Departure Transit Lounges to collect his cash refund on the spot. Even if he had made purchases from retailers affiliated to 2 CRAs, he can obtain cash refund at one counter. eTRS eliminates multiple queuing.
The entire refund process under eTRS takes only about 5 minutes, while the paper-based refund process take about 20 minutes.
If physical inspection of the goods is required, the kiosk will inform the tourist to proceed to Customs Counter before his refund claim can be processed. This is done on a selective basis.
With eTRS, tourists no longer need to queue at the Customs Inspection Counters to have all their claims manually endorsed. Also, tourists no longer need to queue at 2 different CRA counters nor post their endorsed forms to receive their GST refunds. Neither are there uncertainties of not receiving cheques in mail.