Does Korea Have Tax Refund on Stores and Hotels? Yes! Here are My Tips on How to Get a Tax Refund in the Airports, Seaports and Downtown Seoul Korea!

If you're going on a shopping spree or staying in a hotel in South Korea (especially Seoul, Busan and Jeju), I suggest you read this guide on the proper procedure and some tips on getting your tax refund from the time you enter a store/hotel up to your departure at the airport ;) The VAT (value added tax) and luxury tax can be as high as 10% minus fees (~8%) so if all your purchases add up, you might just get some cash back for your next trip or use it to buy some food while waiting for your flight =)

*Pics from the Global Blue, Global Tax Free and Korea Tourism websites

Technically, these are the eligibility requirements. I've done this a lot of times as a foreigner visiting Korea for less than 6 months with a passport and valid visa which is almost always the case for tourists ;) There's also officially a purchase requirement of 30000 won per store but sometimes, this is not always the case so the best thing to do is to check the store door for the Global Tax Free (blue or orange) sticker and show more than one staff a picture of the tax free signs and your passport (sometimes they also accept if you show a copy of the passport, they're not going to take it). You must also claim within 90 days of purchase =)

There are 2 tax refund companies for purchases in Korea that I've encountered so far. They have separate booths, and sometimes separate claiming locations at the airport and in Seoul.
- the Global Tax Free (color orange) - which is a Korean company
- the Global Blue Tax Free (color blue) - which is international and operates in 43 countries in 5 continents - includes Singapore and South Korea.


You are eligible for a refund if you're a yes to - Are you:
- a foreigner visiting Korea for less than 6 months?
- a holder of Korean passport or permanent resident visiting Korea for less than 3 months (overseas Korean)? 
- a Korean resident studying abroad for 3 years or more?

You are not eligible for a refund if you're a yes to - Are you:
- part of the US Armed Forces in Korea?
- a diplomat in Korea?
- a foreigner but didn't bring your passport?
- a foreigner with an expired visa?
- a foreigner working in Korea and liasons?
Scroll down below for Procedures and My Tips on Purchase Refund.

There are 2 tax refund companies for hotels in Korea that I've seen so far. I haven't tried hotel refund yet. They might also have separate booths, and sometimes separate claiming locations at the airport and in Seoul.
- the Global Tax Free (color orange) - which is a Korean company
- the KTis

The hotels participating in the Hotel Tax Refund Policy are selected by season and are either with Global Tax Free or KTis and not both. Please confirm with the hotels as well. Check here and here for the list.

For hotel refund, Global Tax Free (orange) has the following eligibility for participating hotels (haven't tried it yet):
- minimum purchase of 30000 won and must depart from Korea within 3 months
- stay for more than 2 nights and no more than 30 nights
- tax return request must be done within 90 days
- foreigner visiting Korea for less than 6 months
- overseas Korean with 2 years or more of foreign residency or less than 3 months of Korean residency
Note: Hotel refunds are not eligible for group tourists, package tourists and those using a corporation card.
Scroll down below for Procedures on Hotel Refund.


Step 1: Have a picture of both Global Tax Free and Global Blue stickers ready on your phone or print it. Unless you want to repeat "tax refund" or "tax free" to the staff who might not be able to understand English. Optional: You can also check ahead online here which branch your target shop has tax refunds. This link leads to a list of stores for the Global Blue Card following the thinking that if they accept that card then that must be a tax refund store as well. I haven't tried registering for the card yet but maybe I will for convenience and so that I don't have to fill out those tax free forms if I use a card haha. Please note that not all branches of the same stores have tax refunds ;) The tax refund ones are usually in tourist and high traffic areas like Myeongdong. The stores are usually cosmetics (like Aritaum, Banilaco, Etude, Holika Holika, Innisfree, Laniege, Missha, Nature Republic, Skin Food, The Body Shop, The Face Shop, Tony Moly), clothes (like 8Seconds, Adidas, Forever21, Teenie Weenie, Zara), luxury brands (like Coach, Louis Vitton, Burberry, Hermes, Prada) and big department store types (like E Mart, Lotte Mart, Hyundai Department Store, Lotte Department Store, The Galleria).

Step 2: Before you enter a store you wish to purchase from, check the door for the Tax Refund Logo Sticker (blue or orange). If you already have a previous purchase with a blue for example, you might want to look for the blue sticker all the time so that you'll only have to go to one tax refund company counter. Ask for the purchase requirement. Some have brackets per spending tables like if you spend this much, you will get this much fixed refund.


Step 3: Once you're ready to pay, be the one to show your passport and date of departure (bring a copy of your plane ticket too to be sure). Don't wait for them to tell you about it so that nobody forgets about the refund. Decide if you're going to use cash or card. The card name must be same as the passport name and the person who will claim it at the airport. To make things simpler, use your passport, put your name there then claim the refund yourself. Pay with a card in your name as well. Depending if the store is already high-tech, you might be asked to manually input your details such as name, address, passport number, contact number, etc. You need to get the tax refund receipt from the store when you buy the item and not the regular receipt (do not just collect regular receipts and submit at the airport, you won't get a refund that way).


They will give you an envelope with the claiming procedure and your receipt intact. Keep that properly and know where you put it come packing time. You can put all other future receipts from the same tax refund company there as well. 

Step 4: When you're packing, place the items (and the receipts if you want) in a separate bag (in your check-in luggage if just cosmetics or clothes). Go over the receipts, separate according to Blue and Orange and make sure that everything is filled up properly. I usually just choose the cash option instead of the mail in check or charge back to credit card because I have the money already instead of waiting for it for months in the mail (I've tried this, it's okay but if anything is amiss like the amount or you filled out the form wrong, then you can't talk to anybody to clarify - money gone) or in your credit card statement. Make sure you can easily reach your purchased items or just wear them if you want (but I've heard some has to be unopened, I usually take out the box and use them already and just keep the receipts and tags handy) because you have to show it to the customs counter before checking in your luggage. Plan to go to the airport early. The hours of operation of the Global Tax Free counters inside the departure area (for claiming money) at the Incheon Airport is from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. only for example ;) During Chinese holidays (due to the number of Chinese tourists), other holidays and peak season, there would probably be a very long line as well. This is probably why they've opened up VAT Refund Centers at 6 other locations in Downtown Seoul. See their locations below.


The issue I have with this is that I heard you'll still have to claim handwritten receipts at the airport, as they will only accept ones with bar code for Global Blue, they don't accept MasterCard for Global Tax Free Orange and you still have to go to the customs at the airport (see Step 5) anyway. You'd also have to present your passport and credit card (same name, Visa, MasterCard or AMEX for Global Blue while Visa, JCB or AMEX for Global Tax Free orange). They will pay you cash and will hold an amount as a temporary deposit in your card. If you fail to show the items to the customs at the airport and have the slips signed, they will charge your card the cash plus penalty fees. But if you're pressed for time and will be boarding when the counters are closed at the airport then this option is fine too. Note: If you're at the airport or seaport and there's no refund counter like Gimpo Airport or if it is closed, please see Step 6.


Step 5: The usual procedure is to check in first then tell the airline agent that you have items for tax refund. They will tag it and you can carry it to the customs and return it to check in after or at the oversized baggage drop. What I do though is go to the customs counter first before checking in (if they don't require your boarding pass), show the items with my ticket & passport and have them stamp the receipt already so that I can pack away my stuff for check-in. If they tell me to check in first then I will do the usual procedure. If you don't know where the customs counter or the tax free inspection counter is, check the envelope they gave you! The one in Incheon Airport is a bit hidden and near Check-in Counter J if I remember correctly.

Step 6: After check-in, look at your Tax Free envelope again and locate the immigration gate closest to your Tax Free Refund counter at the Departure area to save time. As I said earlier, if you have stamped receipts from both orange and blue tax refund companies, you have to queue twice but at the Incheon Airport, they're both at the 3F near Departure Gate 28 ;)



They will ask for your passport and the stamped receipts. Remember how much you need to claim. If you're at the airport or seaport and there's no refund counter like Gimpo Airport or if it is closed, you can drop your completed and stamped forms at the designated mailbox. Your refund will be sent by post or deposited to the "bank account associated with your credit card" within 1 to 2 months. Since I frequent Korea, I just keep the stamped receipts and claim them next time if I'm still going back within 90 days of purchase.. Worst case, most tourists don't sweat anymore over small change say 1500 won haha. Consider yourself a local, contribute to the economy and know that your taxes go to various "social welfare" developments and programs in Korea ;)

Don't want to be bothered with all these procedures? There's always the option to go to the many Duty Free shops at the airport or in the cities in Korea so that what you buy is already tax-free and you can claim all the stuff after immigration and check-in. ;) Do take note that if you choose to buy at the airport (and it's your last chance to buy), they might not carry all of the store products like what happened to me at Innisfree recently in Busan (they weren't selling a makeup base and primer I was looking for at Duty Free) and you'll be lugging all those things around (consider handcarry restrictions, weight and if you're transiting to another country where you have to pass another security scan that don't allow liquids for example in the handcarry like Hong Kong)!

Looking for more discounts? Check out my post on coupons in South Korea ;)

Quick Infographic on How to Claim Purchase and Hotel Refund from GTF (Global Tax Free Orange)



Useful Links:
What is the Tax Refund Policy?

Update 3/2016: I have just received a Trick Eye Museum Seoul coupon you can print! Yey! This is good for up to 4 people ;) Please contact me via my form so that I can send it to you guys ;) The Trick Eye Museum can be found at B2 Seogyo Plaza 20 Hongikro 3gil, Mapogu, Seoul Korea.

Update 4/2016: I got the 2016 FIT Couponbook with 43 Best Tourist Destinations with Suggested Itineraries in Gyeonggi-do, Korea (the area around Seoul that includes DMZ, Yongin and Everland. The validity of the coupons range from 2016 to mid-2017. It's a big file document. Please feel free to contact me at Guiltless Getaways through this form so that I can send it and the Trickeye coupon to you via email =D Kindly indicate all these details - which country you are from, what month this year or next year when you are going and which part of Korea you are going to so that I may include other references, freebies or deals I have. Thank you so much!!

Hope this helps you have a pleasant shopping and hotel experience in South Korea! =)