Travel: How to do a tax refund in Korea

I’m noticing that everybardy’s headed to my motherland these days since I’m suddenly getting an influx of emails about Korea. From these mails, it seems like everyone’s only got one thang on their minds – shopping. It dawned on me that I’d never actually blogged about the tax refund process in Korea, and since I’m in a relatively yappy mood today, let the verbal diarrhea begin πŸ˜€ Here’s how I usually do my tax refunds in Korea (and they’re stated in chronological order).

 

AT THE STORE

  • Most large department stores and normal stores should allow you to do a tax refund. I’m talking about the decent large corporations here, such as Lotte, Shinsegae, Laneige, Aritaum, Hanskin, etc. You won’t be able to do it at those street stores that sell KRW10,000 dresses. Sadly, services such asΒ hairΒ and CNP Skin Clinic also do not do tax refunds.

 

Look out for these logos if you’re not sure.Β  There could be more, but so far, these are the most common ones that I’ve encountered.

types of tax refund in koreaFrom L-R: Global Blue, Global Tax Free and KT Tourist Reward

 

  • Most stores have a minimum KRW30,000 purchase level before you can do a tax refund, so consolidate your purchases. Don’t be buying 1 eyeliner from 1 store, and then 2 blushers from another store – look around, decide on what you want, and then buy it all at one shot in one store.

 

  • Sometimes, you can try to consolidate with your friends if you can’t hit KRW30,000, but then you’ll have to decide who gets the tax refund. It’s quite paltry actually – for KRW30,000, I -think- the refund is only KRW1,500. It also doesn’t increase exponentially i.e. for KRW35,000 in purchase, I think your refund is still only KRW1,500. There are various levels you need to hit before you can get more tax refund (although I’m really not sure about the specific levels). For a clearer example, my guess would be -and don’t quote me on this- 30k, 45k, 70k, 100k, so on and so forth. You can try using the Refund Calculator.

 

  • When making payment, always remember to request for a tax refund. The cashier will print out a receipt and a tax refund sheet, put it into an envelope and hand it to you. You can request for them to staple it together (some of them tape it together) for easy sorting later.

 

  • Note: Do not take the receipts/tax forms out of the envelopes or throw away these envelopes yet! Go about your day shopping and accumulate all these envelopes.

 

  • Note 2: If you’re shopping at Lotte Department Store at Myeongdong, collect all your various receipts and head to the tax refund counter behind Gucci on Level 1. They have also recently (in April) set up a tax refund cash counter instore (next to the tax refund counter), so you can instantly get your cash back.

 

  • Note 3: Of course, if you’re feeling up to it, you can shop at the Tax-free area on Levels 9-12 of Lotte Department store (plenty of beauty brands there). However, note that they might not have the latest launches, and more importantly, it’s crowded. really, really crowded. It may save you the hassle of the entire tax refund process but in return, be prepared for a lot of angst caused by pushing and shoving, not-so-awesome service as well as a pittance of samples.

 

 

IN YOUR ROOM

So right, it’s the end of the day and your feet / shoulders are dying from the day’s activities. Now it’s time to relax in bed and sort out the tax refund envelopes.Β  As mentioned, I recall there being 3 distinct types / companies that handle the tax refunds- Global Blue, Global Tax FreeΒ  and KT Tourist Reward.

types of tax refund in koreaFrom L-R: Global Blue, Global Tax Free and KT Tourist Reward

 

Their white envelopes usually come in different-coloured flaps. Global Blue is blue, Global Tax Free is orange, and KT Tourist Reward is white. For convenience sake, from this point onwards, I’m gonna refer to them by colours.

global blue envelopes

Global Blue (blue envelope)

global tax free orange 2

Photo of Global Tax Free (orange) envelope taken from the original photographer (cos I’ve thrown away all of mine)

kt tourist reward whiteNow the KT Tourist Reward system isn’t all that common, so I can’t find an image online. But it will be a mostly-white envelope with this logo

  • Note that only the envelope will be coloured – the receipts/tax refund forms can come in a variety of colours. This is why I said not to take them out of the envelope during the day.
  • For starters, sort all the receipts from the same coloured envelopes together i.e. gather all the papers from the orange envelopes and put them into one orange envelope. Same goes for the blue and white ones.
  • During the sorting (hello Potter), try not to mess up the papers and ensure that the receipts are still taped/ stapled together with the tax refund forms. If not, just fold them together. This will expedite your process at the airport later on.
  • Now you have 3 bulging envelopes of receipts/tax refund forms right?
  • Going one envelope at a time, take out the receipts and fill in your particulars (usually your name, passport number, home country address and signature). Remember to put them back into the same envelope.
  • You can choose to either do this every night (my roomie did this), or on the very last night before heading to the airport the next day (that’s what I do).

Β tax-free-formFill in your particulars (where the blacked out portions are)

 

PACKING YOUR PURCHASES

Now, you can choose to either:

  • Pack all of them into one bag (it’ll be easier if the customs officer wants to check). If you’ve bought skincare stuff, naturally this bag will have to be checked in (cos of the liquids).
  • Pack them as per normal – I usually spread them equally into my main luggage bag, my duffel bag and my handcarry bag. This also means that if the customs officer wants to check, it’ll be like an exploratory journey to Narnia through my clothes.

 

AT THE AIRPORT

Here’s the important part, so pay attention.

  • Instead of heading to the airport 2 hours before your flight time, I strongly advise that you go there 3 hours earlier instead.
  • Go to your check-in counter as usual, and give your passport and e-ticket and all that jazz.
  • Tell the staff that you have tax-free items packed into your luggage.
  • The staff will then tag your luggage as usual, but she will return your luggage to you, instead of sending it along the travellator into the aircraft.
  • Collect your boarding pass and luggage, and wheel it over to the Customs counter (ask the check-in staff where it is).
  • Whilst you’re queueing (and there usually is a long queue), take the various receipts and tax free forms outta the envelopes, but still grouped by envelope colour. I usually just tuck them into the flaps of the respective envelopes.
  • To expedite the process, I also smoothen out the receipts so that the Customs officer can view it more easily.
  • Hand them over to the Customs officer and he will stamp every receipt and hand them back to you. He may sometimes ask to check your items – I usually just gesture to my luggages. I have seen people being asked to open their bags for checks before, but thankfully, I haven’t had it so far.
  • Once everything is stamped, step aside from the counter, and if possible, try to regroup all your receipts immediately into the respective envelopes, and keep them with you (in your hand carry or handbag). You’ll still need them.
  • Right next to the Customs counter is the Oversized Baggage counter. Wheel your luggages over and deposit them there. Your bags will now go to the aircraft.
  • You can now go through immigration.
  • Once you’re done, do not start your duty-free shopping. Head straight for Gate 28 instead. This is where the tax-free cash refund counters for Global Blue (blue) and Global Tax Free (orange) are located.

GB_Incheon

gate 28Go to Gate 28

tax refund counters incheon 2Note: This image is credited to the original photographer and note that the Starbucks is no longer there, so don’t use it as a landmark. Remember, Gate 28.

tax refund counters incheonOnce again, Starbucks is no longer there. Gate 28, Gate 28, Gate 28.

 

  • So once you’re here, queue up. Both queues are always equally long, so just queue at whichever one is shorter.
  • This is where the receipt grouping comes in handy. There will be some part-time staff on hand to help check your receipts, but somehow, I find that the queue is always held up by someone who hasn’t filled in the particulars, has the wrong receipts, are missing some papers etc.
  • Simply pass the Orange envelope receipts to the orange counter staff, and get your moneh back.
  • Repeat process for Blue counter.
  • Now, if you’ve got the white ones, KT Tourist Reward, head over to Gate 27.

KT tourist reward machine location

kt tourist reward machinesNote: This isn’t the exact location. I can’t find an actual photo cos they’ve just been recently set up. Just look out for these machines. If you’re lucky, there will be staff on hand to help you.

 

kt tourist reward machines how toIf there are no staff on hand, this is how you can do it. There will be instructions on the giant screen as well.

One thing I noted is that if your refund exceeds KRW20,000, if there’s a staff member there, they will have to take your passport away to some unseen office to verify your particulars. You may have to wait about 10-20 mins for them to return, so stay put.

And that’s it! You’re done! You can now proceed to either spend all your cash tax refunds (I usually just buy magazines like Ceci, Allure, and buy food), or keep it for your next trip. Alternatively, there are money changers around, so you can change it back to your home currency (not sure of the rates though).

 

Happy Shopping everyone! πŸ˜€

 

 

 

 

 

34 thoughts on “Travel: How to do a tax refund in Korea

  1. wow…ya this is going to be helpful! at least I know gate 28, gate 28, no starbucks anymore…lol Tks!

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  6. This is definitely going to help! Just wondering, do you get to keep your original receipts from the stores? I want to keep track of my purchases but do they take all the receipts together?

  7. your article about tax refund is really v clear and useful, I rem trying to Google for info on doing tax refund before my trip last year and none other articles were as clear. and we had a slight bit of problem when we did our tax refund and it didn’t help with the language barrier and unfriendly tax refund staff. thank you for the great article, I’m sharing this with my friends who are going to Korea for the first time.

  8. Hi, sorry to comment on your old post but I hope you can help me with this:

    Since I will be travelling with my family, is it possible to ask another person to queue at the blue counter while I queue at the orange counter to speed up the process?

    By the way, your post is really informative and thank you for putting the effort to explain the tax refund step-by-step coupled with pictures:D

    • Hey Shili, You can ask someone to queue up for you, but as you’ll need to show your passport (and be the passport holder) to claim the refund, you might have to run into some issues (going back and forth the counters).

      In addition, I know they’ve recently stationed some staff there to help facilitate the process, so I’m not sure if they will ask the non-passport holder to leave the queue.

      One thing you can do is to fill in all the blue counter receipts with one person’s name, and all the orange counter receipts with another person’s name so you can both queue and get your refunds at the same time πŸ™‚

  9. Hi i was no time run for tax refund on 27 Dec, i already have those customs stamp in my receipt, please advise what can i do to get the refund.

    • Hello,
      Unfortunately this hasn’t happened to me before (because I always get it done at the airport), so I am unable to comment on how you should go about getting the refund. Perhaps you can check the receipts and see if they have a website for FAQs? Good luck! πŸ™‚

    • Hi Wong, if I’m not wrong, you can actually send your tax refund over to
      Korea by mail since you have already gotten the endorsement from the customs.
      It happened to my friend too. But I’m not too sure about the actual procedures though.

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  11. Hi , If I had done the tax refund at myeongdong . Do I only hand the envelope to the custom counter or I have to do the same procedure ?

    • Hello! When you say you’ve done the tax refund – did you actually receive the cash back yet? If you’ve already received the cash , you don’t need to submit it to the airport custom counter already. Otherwise, I’m not really sure what you mean by “done the tax refund” though, since your details are sketchy…

      • Hi, yes I’ve received the cash refund . But I was notified by the counter staff at myeongdong that I need to pass the receipt to the custom officer at counter D and J but they will not check my luggage. They mentioned if I didn’t pass to the custom officer there will be a penalty .

        I wanted to know whether can I pass the receipt to the custom officer before I check in to the airline counter ?

      • Yup in this case you still need to pass all your receipts together to the customs officer so that they can stamp it and prove that you’ve taken the cash out of the country. Just follow the instructions of the myeongdong staff and you’ll be fine πŸ™‚

  12. Hello Dalja, i plan to ship my items via EMS Korea post to Singapore a few days before i leave Korea. when i do my tax refund, if the custom officer wants to check the goods, what do i do? Please help! =)

    • If in the event that you do get checked and you don’t have the goods to show to the customs officer, you probably won’t be able to receive the tax refund amount. I usually just carry all my products along with me and pack them into my luggage to avoid such incidents. πŸ™‚

  13. Thanks for the informative post! But if I were to do it like you did and not check in my luggage first, I.e not sending it down the travelator, then how do I send it to be boarded into the aircraft after I’ve claimed the tax? do I go back to the counter?

    • Hey Juliana,

      I wrote it in my entry but you might have missed it (cos the process is so tedious) – Right next to the Customs counter (where you get your receipts stamped) is the Oversized Baggage counter. Wheel your luggages over and deposit them there. Your bags will now go to the aircraft. πŸ™‚

  14. hi! Do you happen to have any idea if Seoul station has any refund counter just like the ones at the airport? As I will be taking Korean Air and I understand that Korean Air can check in the luggage at Seoul Station.

  15. Can we still claim tax if ive brought it from it from the same store but have like 2 receipts which accumulate to 30,000 won??

    • if it’s the same store you might have to ask the staff to accumulate both into one tax refund slip and see if they can do it? Usually it’s per-receipt but they might make an exception (but I’m not sure about this).

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