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New measure to boost shopping tourism

The Tax Administration under the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has announced a new measure designed to improve efficiency and ultimately encourage spending by tourists in Taiwan. The MoF has announced that tourists claiming value-added tax (VAT) refunds of less than NT$1,000 (US$35) on goods purchases for under NT$20,000 will soon no longer be required to produce the actual items for customs' inspection upon departing Taiwan. Under the new policy, which is expected to be implemented in April, tourists will be able to claim VAT refunds at the point of purchase. This will eliminate the need to claim refunds at Customs for purchases under NT$20,000.

The announcement comes in response to calls from the ECCT to simplify and bring Taiwan's VAT refund system in line with best international practices and to find ways to boost shopping tourism. Tourists are now taking greater advantage of Taiwan's VAT refund system than in previous years. Statistics released by the Customs Administration show that the number of tourists claiming VAT refunds on departure reached 400,578 in 2012, an annual increase of 45.5% while refunds reached NT$690.86 million, a record rise of 46.5% from 2011.

While the new measure has been welcomed by ECCT members in the Retail & Distribution, Luxury Goods and Travel & Tourism industries, members believe there is still much that could be done to improve efficiency and boost shopping tourism. Specifically, the ECCT's Luxury Goods committee recommended in its 2013 Position Paper that the government open the market for Tax Refund Services to private operators in order to reduce costs and improve efficiency further for the benefit of consumers.