To offer tourists a hassle-free and seamless experience when they shop in Singapore, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) took bold steps to introduce the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) in May 2011.
The eTRS is the first government system in the world that allows retailers and multiple GST refund agencies to operate on a common platform. It works on a unique business model that is self-financing for IRAS and yet commercially viable for the CRAs.
In a recent survey conducted on close to 3,000 tourists, 96% expressed satisfaction with the eTRS claim process. The GST refund claim process that used to take 20 minutes, now takes just 3 minutes to process. In addition, the centralisation of refund processing under one single operator allows tourists to enjoy greater certainty in receiving their GST refunds.
Besides delivering a superior experience for tourists in claiming refunds, the eTRS has also resulted in improved productivity for retailers as eTRS eliminates the hassle of form filling for each tourist purchase. SC can now conduct more thorough and targeted checks during goods inspection for cases that are flagged out by the kiosk.
For IRAS, eTRS leads to improved intelligence and audit efficiency. Having all transactions stored centrally in a database facilitates data analysis and profiling, thus improving the efficiency of TRS audit work.
By providing a hassle free experience for tourists, eTRS has indeed transformed the entire eco-system for tourist shopping and refund claims. This customer-centric initiative has helped strengthen Singapore’s position as a premier shopping destination.
eTRS Refund Process
At each point of purchase, tourists can choose to assign the same credit/debit card as a token to link up all their purchase details made from different retail shops. The token will enable the tourists to retrieve their purchase details at one go when applying for refund via the self-help kiosk at the point of departure. The purchase details captured will be automatically sent and stored in a central database owned by IRAS. Regardless of whether a token is used, the retailer would have to issue an eTRS ticket printed from its point-of-sale system to the tourist, in addition to the receipt or tax invoice. Hence, tourists who do not use a token or misplaces the token can still use the eTRS tickets as an alternative to retrieve their purchase details when making a refund claim.
When departing from Singapore, the tourists can approach any self-help kiosk at the airport to apply for the GST refunds, by simply swiping their passport and credit/debit card (used as a token) or scanning the eTRS tickets to automatically retrieve their purchase details for verification. Upon confirming the purchases and the refund claims, the tourists may select the preferred refund mode, that is credit card refund or cash refund. For credit card refund, the refund will be automatically credited to the tourists’ specified credit card account. For cash refund, tourists can collect cash from the Central Refund Counter in the Departure Transit Lounge.