Tax-Free Shopping in Japan

Tax-free shopping in Japan refers to the 8% sales/consumption tax, also known as VAT, which can be claimed by foreign travelers, or found at 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, outlet malls, and regular malls. 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 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 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 can 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?

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. 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?

Goods that can be purchased tax-free 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.

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. 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. This, however, is not always possible and will depend on the store. 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. Again, to receive either exemption you must have your 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, keep it safe!
  • The Purchaser’s Pledge is another form of proof. 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. This is also necessary for the airport.
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.

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!