Value Added Tax (VAT) is a crucial element of financial systems globally, and its implications extend even to the realm of travel. For tourists exploring the United Arab Emirates (UAE), understanding the VAT refund system is not just a financial perk but an integral part of the travel experience. To assist tourists in navigating this process seamlessly, CBM Consulting has created a VAT refund user guide. This guide provides comprehensive information on eligibility criteria, documentation requirements, and procedures to claim VAT refunds, ensuring that travellers can make the most of their shopping experiences in the UAE.

Brief Overview of VAT

VAT is a consumption tax applied to goods and services at each stage of production, making it a significant factor in the economic landscape. Its implementation in the UAE has direct implications for both residents and, notably, tourists.

Significance for Tourists in the UAE

Tourists, often enticed by the allure of luxury shopping and unique experiences in the UAE, find the VAT refund system particularly relevant. It offers them the opportunity to recoup a portion of the VAT paid on eligible goods and services.

Purpose of VAT Refund System

The VAT refund system in the UAE serves the dual purpose of attracting tourists and promoting economic activity. By providing a mechanism for tourists to reclaim VAT, the UAE aims to enhance its appeal as a shopping and tourism destination.

Implementation of VAT in the UAE

The UAE introduced VAT on January 1, 2018, as part of a broader economic diversification strategy. The implementation aimed to reduce dependency on oil revenues and create a more sustainable economic model.

Eligibility for VAT refund in UAE for Tourists:

There are two main categories of people who can claim VAT refunds in the UAE:


Age and Residency:

Tourists must be 18 years old and above and should not be residents of the UAE. This criterion ensures that the VAT refund system is specifically designed for non-residents.

Entry on Tourist Visa:

To be eligible, tourists must have entered the UAE on a tourist visa. This ensures that individuals entering the country for leisure and temporary purposes can benefit from the VAT refund system.

Minimum Purchase Requirements:

Tourists must make a minimum purchase of AED 250 per invoice from a retailer registered in the ‘Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme.’ This minimum spend ensures that the VAT refund is targeted towards significant transactions.

Eligible Goods and Non-Consumption:

Goods purchased must be eligible under the scheme, and importantly, they should not be consumed in the UAE. This condition emphasizes that the VAT refund is intended for items that are taken out of the country.

Export Validation:

Tourists must export validate the tax-free transactions within 90 days of the invoice date at the departure port. This step is crucial and requires tourists to present their purchases for inspection before leaving the country.

Refund Request Timeframe:

The refund request must be made within one year of the export validation. Tourists should be mindful of this timeframe to ensure their eligibility for a VAT refund.

Maximum Cash Refund:

There is a maximum cash refund limit of AED 35,000. This limit is in place to manage the cash transactions associated with VAT refunds and to prevent potential abuse of the system.

Process of VAT refund:

Tax-Free Shopping Receipt:

Tourists should apply for a tax-free shopping receipt at participating retailers. This involves providing necessary details and ensuring that the retailer is part of the ‘Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme.’

Export Validation Stamping:

Upon departure, tourists need to get the receipt stamped for export validation at designated points at departure airports. This step verifies that the purchased goods are indeed leaving the country.

Submission of Stamped Receipt:

Tourists should submit the stamped receipt and other required documents at refund kiosks or counters at departure airports. This involves presenting the validated receipts and providing any additional information requested.

VAT Refund Methods:

Tourists have the flexibility to choose the method of receiving the refund, whether in cash, credited to their credit card, or through a bank transfer. This choice allows for convenience and accommodates various preferences.


Registered Taxable Person:

Businesses must be a registered taxable person with the Federal Tax Authority (FTA). This involves completing the necessary registration processes with the FTA.

Credit Balance on VAT Return:

To be eligible for a VAT refund, businesses must have a credit balance, indicating that their input tax exceeds their output tax. This condition ensures that the refund is provided when the business has incurred more VAT on purchases than it has collected on sales.


VAT Refund Claim through FTA e-Services Portal:

Businesses should file a VAT refund claim through the FTA e-Services Portal. This online platform streamlines the process, allowing businesses to submit their claims efficiently.

FTA Review and Decision Notification:

The FTA will review the claim and notify the business of the decision within 20 business days. This timeline provides businesses with clarity on the status of their refund request.

VAT Refund Credited to Registered Bank Account:

If the VAT refund claim is approved, the refund will be credited directly to the business’s registered bank account. This electronic transfer ensures a secure and efficient process for businesses to receive their refunds.

Expanding on these details provides tourists with a comprehensive understanding of the eligibility criteria and the step-by-step process involved in claiming VAT refunds in the UAE. This information empowers tourists to navigate the system confidently, maximizing their chances of a successful VAT refund claim.


Mastering the intricacies of the VAT refund system in the UAE transforms a financial obligation into a traveler’s advantage. For tourists, understanding the nuances of this system ensures a more informed and economically savvy exploration of this vibrant destination. By staying informed, submitting accurate documentation, and maximizing opportunities, tourists can make the most of the VAT refund system in the UAE.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about VAT refund
  1. Can I receive my VAT refund in a currency of my choice?

Many refund systems offer options for currency selection. However, keep in mind that currency conversion rates may apply.

  1. Can I claim a VAT refund if I make purchases through an online platform?

In many cases, yes. Ensure that the online platform is registered with the VAT refund system and follow the specific guidelines for submitting digital documentation.

  1. What should I do if I encounter challenges during the VAT refund process?

Contact the customer support provided by the VAT refund system or approach the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) for assistance. They can guide you through common challenges and provide solutions.

  1. How can I get a VAT refund at Dubai Mall?

Tourists can claim VAT refunds for Dubai Mall purchases by visiting designated VAT refund kiosks or counters within the mall. Present tax invoices and required documents for processing.

  1. How do I claim VAT at the airport?

Tourists leaving UAE airports can claim VAT refunds at designated counters or self-service kiosks in departure terminals. Present tax invoices, passport, and purchased items for inspection to receive the refund.

Related Topic:

VAT Filing in the UAE

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