Thailand: VAT refunds surge after reopening

Tourist tax refunds have skyrocketed since Thailand fully reopened in June last year, according to Revenue Department director-general Lavaron Sangsnit.

Mr Lavaron said foreign visitor numbers jumped after the reopening, reflected by a large increase in value-added tax (VAT) refund totals. In 2022, the department refunded VAT to more than 423,000 tourists with a total value of 1.2 billion baht.

From January to May 2022, there were 55,700 refunds amounting to 204 million baht. However, refunds from June to December increased to 367,000, amounting to almost 1 billion baht.

This year the department expects VAT refunds to increase as tourist arrivals continue to rise. From January to March 2023, the department provided VAT refunds to 273,000 tourists worth 700 million baht.

The department offers three options for VAT refunds.

For refunds at the airport, goods worth at least 2,000 baht (inclusive of VAT) must be purchased from stores displaying the “VAT Refund for Tourists” sign.

On the purchase date, tourists must present their passport and ask the sales assistant to issue the VAT Refund Application for Tourists form (P.P.10) with the original tax invoices.

On the departure date, tourists must present the goods and the P.P.10 form with original tax invoices to a customs officer for inspection before check-in. Tourists who purchase luxury goods have to declare them at the Customs Inspection Office.

Luxury goods include jewellery, gold ornaments, watches, glasses, pens, mobile phones or smartphones, laptops or tablets, handbags and belts, valued at 10,000 baht or more per item. Other carry-on goods can be worth 50,000 baht or more per item.

After the immigration counter, travellers must submit the P.P.10 form and original tax invoices at the VAT Refund for Tourists counter at an international airport. For refunds of up to 30,000 baht, payment can be made in cash or electronically through Alipay or WeChat, or a transfer to a credit or debit card account. For refunds exceeding 30,000 baht, payment is done through credit card transfer within 34 days.

For VAT refunds by mail, tourists can post the documents to the VAT Refund for Tourists Office. The refund payment is made via a credit card transfer.

For refunds at VAT Refund Downtown agents nationwide, they are located at leading department stores.

Since January 2020, the department has adopted blockchain technology to provide VAT refunds to foreign tourists, aiming for faster refunds and to provide incentives for return visits by travellers.

Many stores now issue electronic P.P.10 forms, allowing travellers to submit VAT refunds directly through the Thailand VRT app, which is powered by blockchain. The refund payments are made electronically through Alipay, WeChat, or transfer to a credit card account.