Tax free shopping in Japan refers to the 8% sales/consumption tax, also known as VAT which can be claimed by foreign travelers, or you can also find tax free stores dispersed throughout Japan. 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, and malls, and if you are a foreigner, you are most likely eligible for said tax-free shopping in Japan, making your shopping adventure even more enticing. To make it even easier, here is a guide to tax-free shopping in Japan.
Tax-Free Shopping Sticker
You will likely spot this sticker throughout your shopping days, 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 know whether or not the store is able to offer goods without tax. Finding the red emblem outside stores is more common in shops near the airport and at malls and department stores.
Are you eligible to receive tax-free shopping in Japan?
Tax exemptions and tax-free shopping in Japan is only eligible to foreign visitors. You must be in Japan for less than 6 months, however, or it will not apply. Also, it is important to take note when you arrive at the airport that you receive a stamp in your passport. 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 the tax-free shopping.
What items are eligible to purchase tax-free in Japan?
Goods which can be purchased tax-free are categorized as consumables. This is things like food and drinks, cigarettes, medicine, health food products and cosmetics. If you are purchasing a consumable good and want to tax exemption – you cannot consume it in Japan. This means that the item will be sealed and labeled upon purchase and cannot be opened, in order to receive the tax exemption. 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 such as clothing, jewelry, electronics, housewares and does not require any special packaging or labels. You are welcome to use these items while in Japan, but they must be taken out of the country less than the 6 months of your entry into the country. Like consumable goods, the minimum amount to get a tax refund is 5000 yen.
What is the process for receiving the tax-refund while shopping in Japan?
For starters, it is important to always have your passport with you when shopping in Japan to indicate you 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 the show your passport to the shop owner when making the purchase and receive the tax exemption with your purchase – this is not always possible depending on the store. If it is not possible, the second option is to pay the full price and then visit a tax-free counter to receive the refund after the purchase. Again, to receive either exemption you must have your passport.
- If you are using the second option at the tax-free counter, make sure that you ask for a Record of Purchase. Having the record of purchase is necessary when you are going through airport customs, so make sure you have it.
- The Purchaser’s Pledge is another form of proof where you are agreeing to follow the rules and take the general goods out of Japan and that you will not use the consumable goods while in the country and will take them out of the country within 30 days. This is also necessary for the airport.
Is alcohol tax-free in Japan?
Yes! But it must be purchased from selected retailers. Items such as sake, wine and whiskey are produced in specific facilities and purchased from 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 and the same rules apply to other consumable goods.
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.
Other important tips for tax-free shopping in Japan
- It is important that the name on your passport matches your credit card. This means that only the cardholder will be exempt from the taxes. So keep this in mind if you purchase on a credit card with a different name as they must match your credit card.
- 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!