One of the things we love to do in Japan is definitely SHOP! ? Whether you're bringing back your favourite anime collectibles, delicious Muslim-friendly snacks, or armloads of cosmetics, your luggage will filled to the brim with souvenirs.
But Japan isn't the cheapest place to shop (click here for some budget-friendly spending tips for your Japan trip!) especially after the consumption tax on goods and services was raised to a whopping 10% from October 2019. ? Thankfully, visitors to Japan who are staying in the country for less than 6 months can get a tax-free refund so you won't have to bear the extra cost for all of your souvenirs! ? Keep reading to find out how you can shop tax-free.
Is the tax-free refund applicable to me?
Visitors to Japan who are in the country for less than 6 months are eligible to receive the tax-free refund or rebate. Do make sure to get an entry stamp when you're entering the country to be eligible for this discount. If you're using the automatic/electronic gates, get a stamp from an immigration officer. You will need to present your passport (no photocopies!) at the respective shops to get your discount so make sure you have this stamp ready.
Where can I shop tax-free?
Credit: Discover Kyoto
Not all stores in Japan offer tax-free shopping, but those that do will have a "Tax-free shop/counter" logo (as above) displayed so be on the lookout! ? You can also use the official tax-free shopping website which has a list of tax-free shops and counters across the country.
Some large brands where you can shop tax-free include:
- Don Quijote (Donki/Don Don Donki)
- AEON malls/department stores
- Tokyu Hands
- Matsumoto Kiyoshi pharmacies
How do I obtain the tax-free refund?
There are 2 main ways stores offer tax-free shopping to visitors: (1) your final amount payable at the counter will already be tax-exempt or (2) you will have to bring your receipt to a separate counter in the shop to receive your tax refund. You can ask the store staff or cashier during payment about tax-free shopping if you're unsure which method the store follows. ?
#HHWT Tip: Tax refunds can only be done at the time and point of purchase so remember to have your passport on you as you can't go back the next day to claim it!
What items are eligible for the tax-free refund?
There are two types of items eligible for a tax-free refund:
- General items: Clothing, accessories (shoes, bags, jewellery), appliances, and non-consumable goods
- Consumables: Food (including vitamins or supplements), beverages, cosmetics (including make-up), and tobacco products
- Click here for an idea of what are some Muslim-friendly souvenirs you can find in Japan!
A minimum purchase amount of JPY5,000 (at a single store in a single day) qualifies you for a tax refund and there is no maximum limit. General items will not be specially packaged, so you can use them while you're still in Japan. Perfect if you need to pick up a new pair of shoes or jacket during your trip! ? General items just need to be taken out of Japan less than 6 months after your date of entry into Japan.
A minimum purchase amount of JPY5,000 (at a single store in a single day) is required but there is a maximum amount of JPY500,000 (excluding tax). This amount might seem huge, but if you're travelling with a group of friends or family you might find that it'll add up quickly! Do note that this does not apply to any food or meals to be consumed immediately.
Consumables are supposed to be taken out of Japan within 30 days of purchase so if you're planning for an extended vacation or stay remember to plan your shopping wisely as you may have to ship items back. Consumables will also be packaged and sealed specially and are not supposed to be used or opened in Japan. The cashier will inform you that you are not supposed to break the sealed bag and use the items - if you do this, you may be expected to pay the tax at the airport if random checks are carried out.
My family learnt this first-hand when we popped into a store to buy some lip balm on our last trip to Japan - we were so shocked when the cashier put our purchases into a special plastic bag and sealed it! Full disclosure, we did use our items and did not get checked at the airport. ? However I advise you to follow the rules as you don't want to risk paying the tax!
#HHWT Tip: Have separate purchases and receipts for items you need or want to use immediately, and items you will be bringing back from Japan.
General + consumable items (combined)
When purchasing a combination of these 2 types (e.g. a dress and some make-up) the total purchase amount must be between JPY5,000 and JPY500,000 (excluding tax). The items will all be specially packaged and sealed, and must be taken out of Japan within 30 days of purchase.
P.S. Not all stores may allow for a combination - check with the respective stores before you shop!
How does the process work?
Some major stores will display the tax-free logo and sign in a very visible way! For smaller souvenir shops or independent stores, do look out for a sign inside the store itself.
1. Look out for shops with the tax-free logo.
2. Present your receipt to get a tax-exempt total, or redeem your tax refund.
3. Sign the form presented to acknowledge your tax-free purchase. This form also indicates that if you are found to have violated the terms (e.g. opened the sealed consumables bag) you will pay the tax later on.
4. Receive your items.
5. Carry-on your tax-free items when flying back home. For liquids that exceed 100ml and other items that cannot be packed into carry-on luggage, inform the customs officer that you have purchased them tax-free.
6. After check-in and security checks at the airport, your passport and purchases will be checked by customs officers.
Upon receiving a tax-free refund or exemption you should receive a notice or separate receipt stapled into your passport. This indicates the total tax-free purchase amount (e.g. JPY7,500) and may also list the specific items. Do not remove this notice from your passport unless told to!
Note: While the official rule is to carry-on your tax-free purchases, our personal experience is that our purchases were not checked by customs officers and we were able to pack them into our checked luggage. We recommend you follow the official rules so you won't risk any troubles or issues that may delay boarding your flight. ?
Shopping in Japan doesn't have to be scary - or scarily expensive! Thankfully with the tax-free scheme you can bring back all of the souvenirs you've been dreaming about without having to worry. ?