Want to get in on that sweet tax refund action while visiting Korea?
This post shows you how!
- How much Korean tax refund is
- How they work
- Where to get a refund
- How to get an immediate refund
- And more!
Tax refunds overseas are complicated by design, and Korea is no exception (I had to read instructions in Korean and English to understand).
Strap yourself in and prepare to be confused, but hopefully get one in the end.
Let’s check it out!
*** Disclaimer ***
The information here is valid as of July 2022. Tax refund rules change regularly. Make sure to check the Korean Customs Service website before traveling to South Korea.
Korea has a pretty good tax refund system for tourists who shop at the right stores. It will help you save money on unique items that Korea makes.
How do tax refunds work in Korea?
Korea’s Tax Free System can be divided into two categories, tax refund and duty-free.
Tax refund means you can get the Value Added Tax (VAT) and Individual Consumption Tax on certain items refunded at the airport before leaving Korea.
Duty-free means the taxes are excluded when you shop at a duty-free store. Easier but limited in selection.
The end result may be the same, but their procedures are quite different.
How much is VAT in Korea?
Korean VAT (value added tax) is 10% on most goods and services. The merchant must collect the tax and pay it to the government. Fortunately, it’s built into the price, so you don’t need to calculate it and get awkward amounts of change.
Some small shops or street vendors might give you a 10% discount (deducting VAT) if you pay cash, but that’s between me and you 😉.
How much is the tax refund in Korea?
10% on items from participating stores. This varies depending on terms and conditions and the amount you spend.
Am I eligible for a tax refund in Korea?
You’re eligible to get a tax refund on goods worth over 30,000 KRW but under 5 million KRW in total. The items must be bought within three months of your departure.
Non-Korean tourists without an f-4 visa must have stayed in Korea for less than 6 months to qualify.
Overseas Koreans must have stayed in Korea for less than 3 months and lived overseas for over 2 years.
Is it worth getting a tax refund in Korea?
Depending on the amount you spent and your level of patience, getting a tax refund can be so worth it.
For example, I bought a 2,000,000 KRW (1,550 USD) laptop and received around 200,000 KRW (155 USD) back. I felt this was worth the effort.
There’s even a way to get refunded immediately in stores now. We’ll go over this in the next section.
How do I get a tax refund in Korea?
This process is a bit more complicated than just shopping duty free. There are a few hoops to jump through that may seem unnecessary, so make sure to arrive at the airport at least 30 minutes earlier than usual.
The benefit is that you have a much wider range of products to choose from all over Korea. Don’t worry, we’re here to simplify things.
Ask for a tax refund receipt/document at the register when you buy a product that meets the previous criteria at a designated shop. You’ll have to show your actual passport and provide flight info, so make sure to have that handy while shopping.
For example, if you shop at Yeouido The Hyundai, bring your receipt to a tax refund service desk on the 6th floor and ask for a tax refund receipt.
When you arrive at Incheon Airport, don’t check in refund items or any luggage that will hold refund items and tell the person at the check-in counter that you intend to get a tax refund for them.
Bring the item, receipt and VAT refund receipt to the Customs Declaration Counter to get a Customs Export Approval stamp on the document.
There’s a kiosk, but the service isn’t always available.
Also, I just found out that if an item costs over 60,000 won, you can’t use a kiosk as the staff needs to verify the actual item. Rules seem to keep changing. So… If you’re super lucky and able to use the kiosk, you can automatically get a tax refund to your credit card. This kiosk is before Immigration.
Take your luggage to the oversized baggage counter to check it in.
Finally, take the stamped tax refund slip to the Tax Refund Counter and get your refund. You’ll probably be able to only get cash in USD, JPY or KRW, although the tax refund receipt says that card refund is available. Go figure.
* Tax Refund Counters
- Terminal 1: Next to Gate 28 on the 3F
- Terminal 2: Next to check-in counters D and E on the 3F / Near Gate 253 in duty-free zone
* Tax Refund Kiosk Machines
– Duty Free zone: 4F Gates 26 & 27 in Passenger Terminal 1 / 3F Gate 253 in Passenger Terminal 2
* Tax Refund Kiosk Machines
- Terminal 1: Next to Gate 28 on the 3F / Near the central pharmacy on the 3F
- Terminal 2: Next to Gate 250 and 253 on the 3F in duty-free zone
As of April 1, 2020, you should be able to receive an immediate refund in stores for items that cost more than 30,000 KRW and less than 500,000 KRW. Make sure to have your actual passport and flight info on hand as well.
These immediate refunds are limited to a total purchase amount of less than 2,000,000 KRW during your trip in Korea.
If this method works, I highly recommend it over getting a refund at the airport. It will save you a ton of hassle.
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Getting a tax refund can be a bit complicated, but it’s usually worth it.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments!
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