IRAS issues e-Tax Guides to Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) system

6 August 2012

On 1 August 2012, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) issued guidance on the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) in the form of revised editions of e-Tax Guides, namely:

  • GST Guide on the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) (3rd Edition)
  • GST Guide for Retailers participating in Tourist Refund Scheme (5th Edition)
  • GST Guide to Visitors on Tourist Refund Scheme (5th Edition)

The Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) was introduced in April 1994 to ensure that the imposition of GST will not adversely affect Singapore as a shopping destination for tourists.  Under the scheme, tourists may obtain a refund of GST on goods purchased from GST-registered retailers who participate in the scheme. Currently it applies only to goods brought out of Singapore via Changi International Airport or Seletar Airport within two months from the date of purchase, subject to the conditions of the scheme.

With effect from January 2013, this scheme will also be available to goods that are brought out of Singapore by international cruise passengers (excluding cruises-to-nowhere, round-trip cruise and regional ferry passengers) via Singapore Cruise Centre at Harbourfront and Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS) at Marina South. IRAS will release further details by 1 September 2012.

The scheme is not mandatory. Retailers who wish to participate in the scheme can either administer the scheme themselves or engage the services of the Central Refund Agencies (CRAs).

The Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) however will fully replace the paper refund form system from 19 August 2012. eTRS, which connects multiple Central Refund Agencies and retailers on a single platform, enhances tourists’ experience by offering tourists a consistent refund claim process and hassle-free shopping experience in Singapore. Tourists no longer need to fill up different refund forms issued by the retailers at each retail shop.

With effect from 19 August 2012, eTRS will be mandatory and the paper-based system will cease from this date. All GST-registered retailers and Central Refund Agencies operating the paper-based system must transit to the eTRS if they want to continue operating TRS. Retailers who continue to issue paper refund forms from 19 August 2012 can be penalised for doing so.

Regulations 47 to 50F of the Goods and Services Tax (General) Regulations lay down the conditions for the Tourist Refund Scheme under both the paper-based and electronic system. Central Refund Agencies and retailers who choose to participate in the scheme must comply with the conditions set out in IRAS e-Tax Guides.

The key differences between the eTRS and the paper-based tourist refund system are:

  • Retailers will have to electronically capture tourists’ passport number and purchase details relating to the refund claim using a retail end issuing solution. These data will be sent to and stored at a central system, known as the Central Clearing House (CCH)
  • Tourists can use a token (i.e. credit card) to link all their purchases made from any IR or CRA-affiliated retailer. With either the token used or the ticket issued at the shop, tourists can then retrieve their eTRS transactions at the self-help kiosks located in the airports
  • At the airport, tourists will be able to make use of the self-help kiosk to check and confirm the purchases that they wish to claim GST refunds. These self-help kiosks are available at all terminals of the Changi International Airport and Seletar Airport
  • All refunds will be made to tourists by the Central Refund Counter (CRC) on behalf of all CRAs and independent retailers (IRs)
  • Approval from IRAS is required for CRAs and IRs to participate in the electronic system.

For further information, please refer to the IRAS e-Tax Guides.

Source: This article was extracted from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) website. Visit for more information.