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16 April 2024

Tourist tax refunds surge 14.41% to 4.18 million in 2023: FTA DG


The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has reported a 14.41 per cent increase in tax refund transactions for tourists, totalling 4.18 million transactions in 2023, with a daily average of transactions of 11,460.
Khalid Ali Al Bustani, Director-General of FTA, stated to the Emirates News Agency (WAM) that the electronic system for refunding value-added tax to tourists has exceeded expectations in recent years, with a significant rise in tax refund transactions. The FTA’s data indicates that approximately 14 million electronic transactions for tax refunds to tourists have been processed since the system’s launch in November 2018 until the end of the previous year.

He noted that the daily average of electronic transactions executed for tax refunds to tourists has consistently increased over the past four years, rising from 4,130 transactions as a daily average in 2020 to about 7,390 transactions daily in 2021, and jumped significantly to about 10,020 transactions daily in 2022, and continued to rise, with the daily average of tax refund transactions for tourists executed during 2023 reaching about 11,460 transactions.
FTA DG said, “With the tourism recovery witnessed by the UAE, and the continuous development operations carried out by the Authority for the electronic system for VAT refunds to tourists; the total annual number of electronic transactions executed for tax refunds to tourists has witnessed continuous growth in recent years, rising from 1.51 million transactions in 2020 to 2.7 million transactions in 2021, with an increase of 78.54 percent. The increase continued to 3.66 million transactions in 2022, with an increase of 35.44 percent. It rose again to 4.18 million transactions in 2023, with an increase of 14.41 per cent.”
Regarding the electronic linkage of retail systems with the digital system for VAT refunds to tourists, Al Bustani clarified that this linkage constitutes a key element in the significant achievements made during the past period, noting that the digital system developed for VAT refunds to tourists, launched in 2022, is considered the latest of its kind globally.

He added, “The digital system primarily relies on dealing with electronic invoices issued by registered retailers (point of sale) with the Authority’s system instead of traditional paper invoices, through electronic linkage between these outlets and the system, to issue, send, modify, and store invoices electronically between the seller, the tourist (buyer), and the system, in accordance with the best standards, and to enhance the country’s competitiveness in all sectors, including the tourism sector.”

He stated that the electronically linked retail base to the tourist VAT refund system witnessed significant expansion across the country in recent years, surpassing a total of 16,480 stores by the end of last year, with a total increase of 60.62 percent compared to around 10,260 stores at the end of 2020.

He pointed out that the expansion of the digital tourist VAT refund system in the UAE aligns with the government’s digital strategy for smart transformation of services. The system focuses on proactive and innovative services that aim to meet user aspirations by facilitating transactions with ease and speed. Users highly appreciate the system for its user-friendly interface and quick refund procedures for eligible tourists.

Al Bustani emphasised the Authority’s commitment to deploying a large number of self-service devices through which tourist VAT refund procedures are fully automated upon their departure from the country in about two minutes. He noted that the current number of self-service VAT refund devices is 85, compared to 71 devices at the end of 2020, representing an increase of 19.72 percent.

These devices are deployed in many major commercial centres (malls) and hotels and are available at tourist departure points from the country. He clarified that Planet (the service provider for the Tourist Tax Refund Scheme) is the entity authorised by the FTA to operate the system by managing these devices equipped with all the necessary technological means to complete VAT refund procedures fully automatically, while employees from the operating company are present near the self-service devices to provide support to tourists when needed.

Meanwhile, The Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) has signed a Collaboration Agreement with the Registration Authority (RA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) to support the business and investment environment and promote the business sectors that fosters growth and innovation in Abu Dhabi.

This agreement will further develop the private sector and financial services ecosystem in the emirate, while supporting national economic diversification in alignment with the directives of the Abu Dhabi Government.

The Collaboration Agreement constitutes an extension and update to the partnership agreement signed between ADCCI and the RA in 2018 to extend their collaboration to align with the latest developments and the changing requirements of the dynamic business environment in Abu Dhabi. This includes provisions related to registration and licensing procedures free zone companies, as well as facilitating their membership with the Chamber.