Guide to Getting Tax Refund on Your Shopping in Tokyo, Japan

14 December, 2016

Claiming the Japan 8% sales/consumption tax or VAT refund for shopping in Japan is one of the most hassle-free experience. There is no need to show Japan Customs your products to obtain customs stamp and then claiming your tax refund via tax refund agents like Global Blue – this is a typical sales tax refund for most countries like South Korea. Instead, in Japan, you can get cash refund directly and immediately from the tax refund counters at the shopping centres/malls or shops where you shopped at. There are a few things you should take note of to facilitate your Japan 8% sales tax refund process. Let me share with you my experience below.

First, bring your passports everywhere you go especially if you are planning to shop that day. In fact, even if you don’t plan to shop on that day of the trip, you might still end up doing some shopping because there are just so many interesting things to buy in Tokyo, Japan. The key number to remember is 5000 Yen (about S$60 as of 14 Dec 2016) and the key word to note is Excluding Tax. In Tokyo, some shops label their pricetags as “Price + Tax” while bigger shopping malls like Takashimaya tend to label their pricetags as “Price (inclusive of tax)”. So if your final bills comes up to exactly 5000 Yen (inclusive of tax), you cannot claim the 8% tax refund. Inclusive of tax, your bill should add up to at least 5400 Yen so as to claim Japan sales tax refund. Don’t make the above mistake as that may mean you will need to re-queue at the usually long tax refund queues at the shop.

To summarise, you can only claim the Japan 8% sales tax refund if your spending is at least 5000 Yen (excluding tax) or 5400 Yen (including tax).

tax-free-shopping-tokyo-japan

Second key thing to note is that you cannot combine your purchase of general items (shoes, clothings etc.) with consumables (cosmetics, snacks) for the 5000 Yen. See image below for examples. If you want to claim for general items, you should ensure your purchases of these general items add up to 5000 Yen (before tax). Likewise for consumables – the best part is that you can claim for 8% tax refund for all your delicious Japanese snack purchases.

1. Consumables (foods, drinks, medicines, cosmetics, etc.) must be purchased at the same store on the same day, and the total spending must be over 5,000 yen, but no greater than 500,000 yen.
2. General goods (electric appliances, clothing, accessories, etc.) EXCEPT FOR consumables are exempt from consumption tax if purchased at the same store on the same day, and the total spending must be over 5,000 yen. Note that there used to be a minimum spending of 10,000 yen but Japan has recently changed their policies on this to reduce it to 5,000 yen.

tax-free-combination-allowable

There are other conditions you need to fulfill to claim the Japan 8% consumption tax refund:

  • Only foreign visitors who have temporarily stayed in Japan for less than 6 months since entering Japan.
  • You must show your passport at the store where you purchased the goods for tax-free procedure.
  • You have to claim your sales tax refund on the same day of purchase.

When you produce your passport at the tax refund counter, they will check your Japan entry permit stamp to confirm your eligibility. They will then staple a piece of paper with the tax refund information and your particulars on the page where the Japan entry permit stamp is. You will need to return this piece of paper (titled “Record of Purchase of Consumption Tax – Exempt for Export”) to the Japan customs at the airport just before you go to the immigration counters where your passport is checked.

There were comments on forums that the customs counter might not be manned or they couldn’t find the customs counter as the location was not very obvious. When I departed via Narita Airport, the customs counter was directly facing the immigration counters – look out for it as they can be easily missed if you are looking for it.

tax-refund-process-tax-free-shopping-japan-tokyo-airport-customs

All your consumables that you are claiming your tax refund for will be sealed in a clear bag. You are not supposed to take them out of the bag. According to the official Japan customs website – “Articles purchased tax free will be checked with the card by a Customs officer, who will collect the card at the time of your departure from Japan.” However, in practice, this is not done (at least based on my experience and what many others at other travel forum say) so you can pack all your purchases in your bag and check in.

tax-free-shopping-consumables-sealed-tokyo-japan

Summary: Claiming your Japan consumption/sales 8% tax refund process in 5 Steps

Step 1Ensure that you have spent at least 5400 Yen (inclusive of tax) or 5000 Yen (exclusive of tax) on your tax-exempted eligible item and you have not mixed the purchases for general items and consumable items.

Step 2 – Bring the following items to the tax refund service counter

(a) The items you purchased

(b) Your passport

(c) Receipts for the items you purchased (handwritten receipt are not accepted)

(d) Credit card used to purchase these items (where applicable) – some shops require this. If you paid in cash, ignore this.

Step 3Queue for your turn (expect long queues especially for big shopping malls) and wait for them to process your tax refunds

Step 4 – You will get back your tax refund in cash. Do note that at some shops, there is a processing fee which will be deducted from your tax refund. For example at Shinjuku Takashimaya, you will be charged a 1.1% duty free processing fee based on your purchased items. The tax refund counter staff will also staple a piece of tax refund paper in your passport.

Step 5 – Your purchased items will be sealed in bags – don’t open them. You can pack them in your checked-in bags and check them in at the airport. Pass the tax refund paper to the staff at the airport customs counter.

Do note that Steps 2 and 3 may differ for some shops as their pricetags are indicated as “Price + Tax” so all you have to do is show your passport and pay the “Price” (without the tax). This simplifies the process a lot.

And that’s it!

Look out for other promotions and discounts for your shopping

Besides tax-free shopping, look out for other “lobangs” (great deals and discounts) when you shop too e.g. at Takashimaya in Shinjuku, you can collect a tourist discount card from their service counter at Level 10. You will need to show your passport with the Japan entry permit (pasted onto your passport at the immigration counter).

shinjuku-takashimaya-tourist-discount-card-5-percent-off

This Takashimaya shoppers’ card entitles you to a 5% discount for a single purchase of over 3000 Yen before sales tax (i.e. 3240 Yen after tax).

takashimaya-shoppers-card-discount-shinjuku-tokyo

There are lots of discounts for purchases using UnionPay credit card e.g. UnionPay Cardholders are eligible for 5% discount for purchases at Tokyu Hands with a UnionPay card (no minimum purchase required). You can also claim 8% tax refund at Tokyu Hands when you spend more than 5400 Yen at Tokyu Hands – meaning you save up to 13% off your purchases! Read this blog post for where you can find great bargains with your UnionPay credit/debit card.

If you want even more hassle-free tax refunds, just buy your Japanese snacks at the airport – the price are also tax-free or duty-free so all you have to do is pay the listed price and you are done. For Japanese snacks tax free shopping at Narita Airport, I recommend the Fa So La branches – there are at least 4 Fa So La tax-free shops selling Japanese snacks at the Narita Airport International Terminal – check all of them out if you have time as they offer samples of the snacks and some carry snacks that the other Fa So La do not have.

fa-so-la-tax-free-asakusa-narita-airport

fa-so-la-tax-free-japanese-snack-shopping-narita-airport

 

Zhiqiang & Tingyi

Comments (31)

  • 13 Best Places to Shop in Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya (plus Enjoy Discounts with UnionPay Cards and Tax Free Shopping) – Singapore Travel BlogReply

    14 December, 2016 at 1:16 am

    […] top 13 places to shop in Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya – Do check out my next few blog posts on how to claim the 8% sales consumption tax refund in Japan and what are the top Japanese snacks to buy back home and where you can buy […]

  • GinaReply

    17 April, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Hi,

    Would I be able to claim for tax let’s say I bought about 2000yen worth of items from shop A, and4000 yen worth of items from shop B in the same shopping mall? Thanks

  • JmReply

    2 July, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Why won’t the tax return center in Osaka accept my USA passport card to get the refund which has the same info as the paper passport which I did not bring because I have the card .

    • EdReply

      4 August, 2017 at 7:56 am

      JM read what is says on the passport card. The Passport Card is only valid for land and sea travel between the US, Mexico and Canada. Besides the fact that they shouldn’t have let you into the country with it, I have no idea why they con’t accept the card.

  • ChristineReply

    6 October, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Hello, what about buying things from a flagship store, not in departmental store, where to get the tax refund? In the airport?
    Eg, if I’m buying a LV bag in LV Ginza (instead of buying in LV in Takashimaya/Seibu)? Thank you.

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      19 October, 2017 at 1:15 am

      You can get it from LV Ginza directly

  • JeniReply

    12 October, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    I didn’t know this. They stapled a paper in my passport but I was not able to get the money refunded tax.;( Will the customs at the airport question me about this?

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      19 October, 2017 at 1:14 am

      they will not question you abt it. Once you left the country, you can remove the paper

  • ChrisReply

    31 October, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Hello,
    I am going to Tokyo and Osaka in two weeks. I am having a little trouble understanding the tax refund process for general clothing items. Say if I was to buy a bunch of clothes at one shop for example Bape and spent over 5000 ¥. How would I claim the tax back from a street store. If I am able to take the receipt to a tax refund counter are they only located in malls or on the street as well Or is it only applicable on purchases made in malls? Also can I use the item before arriving at the airport upon return to my home country or does it need to be sealed? Clothing is never sealed. Sorry this probably sounds stupid..r/explainitlikeimfive

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      31 October, 2017 at 11:35 pm

      You can only claim tax from a store that offers tax refund. So i dont think you can claim from street stalls.
      By right, you cannot use the item that you have claimed tax refund for and they shld be sealed. Based on my experience, they do not check though so do so at your own risk.

  • MikaReply

    6 November, 2017 at 5:18 am

    Hey, after getting tax refund am I free to open and wear the item (watches, purse, bag etc…) on the connecting airport? Is there any evidence in my passport about the bought item (for declaration) once I land in my home country?? Thank you!!

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      6 November, 2017 at 8:26 am

      yes – you can open and wear them after you have cleared the Japan customs. no need to declare once you have reached your home country

  • LimReply

    6 November, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Hi, I am planning to buy a watch at a tax free shop. So it would mean I will pay the price without VAT. Do I still have to declare or show anything at the customs at departure? Thanks!

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      11 November, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      By right, you have to declare and show at customs at airport but I have never heard anyone who are required to show the items at the airport.
      You have to check how they display the prices – whether it is before or after VAT

  • MarcReply

    8 November, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Hi

    – If you werent able to get the refund on the date of purchased, is there a possibility to have it refunded in the Airport?
    – What if it’s like a Helmet and you didnt but it in a mall that have a tax refund counter, is there a possibility of a tax refund?

    Thank you so muc

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      11 November, 2017 at 4:09 pm

      I didnt find any tax refund counters at the airport. You may want to email them to confirm. They expect tourists to refund directly at the shop they buy.
      If the shop does not offer tax refund, then you cannot claim a tax refund.

      • Rizzal PuasaReply

        30 January, 2018 at 9:21 am

        There are no tax refund at Narita. There is however, a customs counter after you pass through immigration. Here is where you surrender all the receipts stapled to your passport by the various tax-free stores. Happy shopping everyone!

  • Gordon LeeReply

    13 November, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    I went to Japan 2x and going for the 3rd time. I was never able to find the tax refund counter at NRT. Does anyone know where it’s located?

    • PavelReply

      29 November, 2017 at 9:27 am

      As far as I know, there is no tax refund in airports. You can only do it in tax free shops.

      • Rizzal PuasaReply

        30 January, 2018 at 9:17 am

        You are correct

  • ShahReply

    24 November, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Hi.. if I were to buy a pair of shoes and open it to wear and throw the box away as it consumes space in my luggage,when I depart from the airport, is the vat paper stapled to my passport still valid? Or i have to pay the vat as it’s voided? Thanks!

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      24 November, 2017 at 11:02 pm

      by right you are not allowed to use the product or take it out of the sealed packaging if you have claimed your tax refund. But in reality they dont check at the airport.

  • amarpreet singhReply

    14 December, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Hi,

    Can you combine receipts from different stores??

    Thanks

  • MeitaReply

    19 December, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Hey i bought cosmetics from dotomburi,but i thought that i can only claim the tax at the airport like in singapore,but i read on ur blog that i can claim at the store where i bought the cosmetics?

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      20 December, 2017 at 8:13 pm

      yes – for japan, you can only claim at the store

  • WaqarReply

    5 January, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    is tax refund policy applicable on used car purchase ? or can we use VAT on Japanese car auction ?

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      6 January, 2018 at 3:29 pm

      I do not know used car purchase and relevant taxes in Japan

  • FlemmingReply

    7 April, 2018 at 3:32 am

    A question about online sale. I’m planning on ordering some electronics through Amazon Japan during my stay in Tokyo. Any experience how/if a VAT refund is possible? Thanks.

    • Zhiqiang & TingyiReply

      12 April, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      sorry – no experience with that

  • Rajesh SubashReply

    28 May, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    Hi,
    I just returned from Japan with lovely memories & experience. I had done some shopping at multiple centres, but main junk was at Tokyu Hands for which I got the tax refund of around 5000 Yen. Upon return I got a bit delayed lugging all the luggage to the train station and could catch the Narita Exp reservation only half hour later. As a result I reached the airport rather late and furthermore my Sri Lankan Airlines flight was prepond by 15 min. Hence it was quite a rush and finally managed to catch the flight. Amidst this chaos I missed the customs check counter to show the goods. Now what do I do for the same. I have the snaps & Video of all the sealed items intact here in India. Should I leave this issue as it is or do I need to notify the authorities ? If so to whom ?
    Thanks in advance

  • NatReply

    12 June, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Hi, what if I buy goods in Tokyo but I’m leaving from Fukuoka International Ferry Port to Korea? Is there custom to declare my goods there?

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