Tax-Free Shopping in Japan

Tax-free shopping in Japan refers to the 10% consumption tax, also known as VAT, which can be claimed back by foreign travelers. There are also tax-free stores dispersed throughout Japan, which offer their products at tax-free prices. More and more stores are offering tax-free items given the rise of tourists shopping in Japan. Shopping in Japan is an experience unto itself given the many shopping districts, large-scale department stores, outlet malls, and regular malls. If you are a foreigner, you are most likely eligible for said tax-free benefits, making your shopping adventure even more enticing. To help you get the best deal out there, we’ve prepared this guide to tax-free shopping in Japan.

Tax-Free Shopping Sticker

tax free shopping in Japan

You will likely spot this sticker throughout your shopping experience. The Tax-Free stickers indicate whether or not a shop can offer tax-free items, meaning they have received the appropriate permission. Looking out for the sticker is a good way to choose which stores to go into! Finding the red emblem outside stores is more common in shops near the airport and at malls and department stores. If you’re not sure a store offers this service, there’s no harm in asking!

Are You Eligible To Receive Tax-Free Shopping in Japan?

Only foreign visitors, in Japan for less than 6 months, are eligible for tax exemptions and tax-free shopping in Japan. It is important to take note when you arrive at the airport that you receive a stamp in your passport. This stamp will be vital in proving your visitor status when claiming your tax benefits. Sometimes when travelers use automated passport machines at the airport, it will not indicate in their passport correctly, so keep this in mind when you arrive. If you work in Japan, you are not eligible for tax-free shopping.

What Items Can Be Purchased Tax-Free in Japan?

Two categories of goods can be purchased tax-free. The first are categorized as ‘consumables’. These are things like food and drinks, cigarettes, medicine, health food products, and cosmetics. If you are purchasing a consumable good and want a tax exemption – you cannot consume it in Japan. This means that the item will be sealed and labeled upon purchase and cannot be opened until you have left Japan. The minimum amount of money that must be spent is 5000 Yen, purchased on the same day in the same store, and taken out of Japan within 30 days.

Other goods are categorized as ‘general goods.’ These are items such as clothing, jewelry, electronics, and housewares, and they do not require any special packaging or labels. You can use these items while in Japan, but they must be taken out of the country less than 6 months after you enter the country. Like consumable goods, the minimum amount to get a tax refund is 5000 Yen. The maximum amount is 500,000 Yen.

What Is the Process for Receiving the Tax-Refund While Shopping?

For starters, it is important to always have your passport with you when shopping in Japan. This will indicate to the store that you are a foreign shopper. You can only receive the tax exemption on the same day of purchasing, so you must have your passport with you.

  • If you are in a store, there are 2 possible processes for receiving the tax exemption:
    • The first is to show your passport to the shop owner when making the purchase and they will apply the discount on the spot.
    • Depending on the store, on-the-spot reductions are not always possible. If it is not an option, the second approach is to pay the full price and then visit a tax-free counter to receive the refund. Make sure you have the receipt, passport, and credit card used for payment. The card name must match the name on the passport.
  • If you are using the tax-free counter, make sure that you ask for a Record of Purchase. Having this is necessary when going through airport customs on the way out. Keep it safe!
  • You may also be required to sign a Purchaser’s Pledge. Here, you are agreeing to follow the rules and take the general goods out of Japan. You declare that you will not use the consumable goods while in Japan and will take them out of the country within 30 days. You will also be asked to present this document at the airport.

Please note:

This tax-free process is slowly being digitalized with the Visit Japan Web app. This app is predominantly used for visa purposes and to help visitors enter and exit the country smoothly. But, it now has an additional tax-free purchase function to use when shopping at tax-free shops. If you register for this service before arriving, you will be able to shop and claim your tax exemption by simply showing your tax-free 2D code to the staff instead of your passport. It is only currently available in stores that can read tax-free 2D codes.

Tokyo department stores tax free shopping in Japan

Is Alcohol Tax-Free in Japan?

Yes! Alcohol is tax-free in Japan but it must be purchased from selected retailers. Items such as sake, wine, and whiskey are produced in specific facilities. They are then purchased by direct sales stores which are approved to receive the tax redemption. When you are choosing which category at the airport, alcohol is considered a consumable.

What Is the Difference Between Duty-Free and Tax-Free?

There is a distinction between tax-free and duty-free in Japan which is important to take note of. Tax-free refers to the VAT (consumption tax). Duty-free refers to the government tax exemption which can be taken advantage of by anyone who has gone through the airport immigration border.

Other Important Tips

  • The name on your passport must match your credit card. This means that only the cardholder will be exempt from the taxes. So keep this in mind when deciding which card to use!
  • Be careful about combining consumables with general goods. For example, if you spent only 3000 yen on consumables but 7000 on general goods, it would not count for tax-free shopping. You must spend over 5000 yen for each category for the exemption to be applied.
  • Remember, you cannot open the consumables in Japan. If you wish to use the consumables while in Japan then you cannot receive the tax exemption.

Keep these tips in mind, and always remember to have your passport with you. Happy shopping!

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