How to get Tax Refund in USA as Tourist, Resident for Shopping ? FAQs


America is one of the best places to buy clothes, electronics, etc. You get the best value for your money spent. As a tourist from Asia, if you compare, buying a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt at an outlet mall in US with decent 30% discount vs. buying the same shirt in Asia, it is literally twice the price or more. Recently, I went on shopping spree on the day of my return in Houston, TX. I got to know at the mall that I may get Tax Refund. I was curious but was not sure as I never knew the process. I will share all the details on how to get tax refunds, what are the requirements and conditions, and address some commonly asked FAQs.

Do you get Tax Refund for Shopping in US at Malls, Outlet Malls,  or Online Stores  ?

Yes, you do get tax refund for your purchases in US, if you are traveling outside of US. But, there are way too many conditions to get a decent refund back to you.

What Tax do you get as Refund ?  Does the Federal Govt pay you ?

You usually get Sales Tax as refund, if you are exporting the goods outside of US. The sales tax on shopping in US goes to the respective states. It does not go to the federal government and they do not give you the refund.  Below is an image that shows approximate State tax by state for your reference.

Sales Tax Rates in US for Refund as Tourist

 What Tax Refund do you get for shopping in US as Tourist or Resident ?

Depending on the state you purchase in, you will get the State Tax back to you as refund. See the sample receipt on taxes that are charged in Texas.Sales Tax Receipt for Refund in US as Tourist Sample

Is the Tax Refund paid by US Federal Govt or IRS ?

No, the tax refunds are paid by the respective states that you make your purchases in. So, it is a state tax refund to be more specific.

I am a US Resident on H1B, L1, F1, or other Visas, am I eligible for Tax Refund ?

Yes, it does not matter. All visa types are eligible.  Anyone traveling outside of US are eligible for tax refund. All the below conditions described apply to you.

I am a US Citizen, will I get Tax Refund for shopping in US ?

Yes, US Citizens are also eligible for tax refund, provided they travel outside of US within 30 days. You can only claim it at airports on the day of your departure. All the below conditions described apply to you.

Do I get VAT or GST refund in US as a Tourist or Resident ?

When you shop in America, you are not subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) or Goods and Services Tax (GST). The concept of VAT and GST exist in many countries by US is different and you are only subject to Sales Tax, when you do shopping as tourist

What are the Requirements or Conditions to get Tax Refund in USA as Tourist or Resident ?

The requirements to get tax refund are slightly tricky to get a decent refund, as they force you to purchase more at a single store. Most of the requirements or conditions are common for foreigners and US Citizens, only difference is where they can claim tax refund and when. Below are the requirements.

  • Minimum Amount : Depending on the state, there is a minimum amount of tax you need to have per receipt or purchase from a brand store or outlet store. In Texas, you need to have a minimum of $12 tax per receipt or combined receipts from the same brand stores. Technically, in Texas with 8.25%  sales tax, you need to purchase for at least for $150 USD in a single store or brand outlet to be eligible for the refund.
  • Original Receipts : You need to submit original receipts at the Tax refund counter. They do not accept duplicate, photo copy or reprint sales receipts. You need to submit the first original receipt that is printed. No digital or e-mail receipts are accepted, unless it is an online purchase item from a brand store and if the receipt has delivery address of the goods in that state. You need the packaging slip of delivery for online purchases.
  • 30 days : You need to have the purchase done within 30 days from the day of your international travel or departure date from US.
  • International Travel : You get refund only, if you are traveling outside of US and the items you are buying will be staying outside of US. Technically exporting it to other country, that’s why they ask for the original receipt and take it for refund. It means that the sale is final in US and there are no returns for your same goods you bought here in US.
  • Physical Inspection : You need to show your item purchased for physical inspection and it has to be in new and unused condition with all the tags.
  • Passport , I-94 / Entry Stamp : You need to show your Visa/ Passport, and I-94 with entry stamp on it, if holding foreign passport.
  • Departure Information / Flight Tickets : You need to show your international departure info or flight ticket itinerary and for US citizens, you need to show the boarding pass to get tax refund.
  • Item should Depart US & State : The items purchased must be taken with you and should depart the state you purchased in and USA as well.
  • Food or Services : No refund for food or services purchased.
  • Participating Stores : You get Tax Refund only if you purchase goods from the participating stores. They claim that it is a big list of 6,500+ stores…but watch out for the brands. I purchased from few brands, that were not eligible for refund such as Abercrombie & Fitch.
  • Processing Fee : There is a processing fee for your tax and it is crazy. Below are the options
    • Instant Cash : If you want instant cash it is 50% processing fee for tax refund.
    • Check / PayPal : If you want a check or can get refund to PayPal, then it is 35% of the tax refund. Also, you will also be charged $4 USD for every single store or brand purchases.
  • Refund Locations : Both US Citizens and non-US citizens can claim tax refund at all major international airport terminals, they would have a Tax refund desk. Check airport for the details on the terminal. Also, if you are a non-US citizen, then you can even claim tax refund at certain mall locations in the state. Check the state website for the exact locations in a   For Texas, here are the refund locations.
  • Tax Refund Policies : Tax refund policies can vary by state and there is no standard sales tax percentage set as well. You should check the Sales Tax and Tax Refund policies in that respective state before you shop to ensure you get tax refund. For instance, if you shop in Delaware, there is no sales tax, so no refund.

Tips for Tax Refund as Tourist or Resident in US:

Overall, Tax refund is definitely a good thing, if you are doing a lot of shopping and taking it home. The only downside is that you have to give the original receipt of purchase. I bought for over $900 USD, but could not get a sizable tax refund as I did not know all of these facts and conditions. If you plan it ahead of time, you maybe able to get a decent tax refund. Below are some tips

  • Duplicate Receipt / re-prints : When you buy your item, request for duplicate receipt or re-print of receipt. This can be used by you for warranty at your home country or international location.
  • Take a Photo of Original Receipt : Take a picture of the original receipt and if requested by the warranty location outside of US, then you can use the photo and duplicate receipt.
  • Buy maximum at One Brand Store : Make sure you pick few brands and do shopping in those brands, so that you meet the minimum requirement of Tax refund. If not, you will not be eligible for tax refund as you will miss out on the minimum. I did not get anything as I bought in multiple brands and they were less than $150 purchase per store, so I was not meeting the minimum amount of tax refund in Texas.
  • Register for Warranty : If you are buying an electronic item and if there is an option to register online, register for warranty, when you have the original receipt.
  • In the labyrinth of taxation and its nuances, many of us overlook a compelling opportunity — the possibility of obtaining a tax refund. Whether you’re a tourist, witnessing the splendour of USA, or a resident who enjoys shopping, you may be entitled to a tax refund. But, how can you get this financial reprieve? This article will serve as your guide, unraveling the intricacies of accessing your tax refund in the USA, both as a tourist and a shopping enthusiast. Secure your reading glasses and dive in — there’s much to uncover and claim.
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Understanding the Basics of USA Tax Refunds

Embarking on a shopping spree in the USA can be quite an exhilarating experience, whether you’re a resident or merely visiting as a tourist. Yet, did you know that there’s an incentive to further sweeten this adventure? It’s called the tax refund – and understanding how this works is vital to ensure you seize every opportunity to get your money back.

In essence, sales tax in the United States is levied at both state and local levels. This might come as a surprise if you’re accustomed to countries where Value Added Tax (VAT) is consistent nationwide. Depending on where exactly within America’s borders your shopping exploits take place, expect these rates to vary significantly.

A noteworthy point for tourists especially: certain American states offer sales-tax refunds specifically aimed at non-US residents – which can mean substantial savings! On the other hand, while residents may not qualify for these types of incentives directly attributed to tourism spending, opportunities still abound for them regarding other kinds of tax refunds.

Take note though; just because such provisions exist doesn’t automatically guarantee that seeking out and claiming these refunds will be straightforward or hassle-free. Therefore it’s essential that both tourists and residents alike educate themselves about their potential entitlements before going shopping – arming yourself with knowledge could well serve as your ticket towards maximizing your budget while enjoying all those retail delights America has up its sleeve.

Process for Tourists Claiming Tax Refunds

In the United States, as a tourist, you can claim tax refunds to your advantage and make the most out of your shopping experience. Understanding how to do so can seem confusing at first glance, but let’s break it down into simple steps.

Firstly, you should know that not all states in the U.S offer tax refund policies for tourists. The five states which currently provide this facility are Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, Indiana and Missouri. Before making any purchase keep this in mind or else you won’t be able to claim a refund on sales taxes.

To initiate the process of claiming your tax refund as a tourist in one of these aforementioned states; after making your purchases from stores participating in tax-free shopping programs (specifically look for shops with ‘Tax-Free Shopping’ signage), save all receipts carefully as they will be required later on. You’re then asked by retailers to fill out specific forms detailing each purchase made – always ensure that these documents are filled correctly and completely.

Lastly when departing from an international airport within such state after concluding your visit (ensure it’s within 90 days from date of purchase), present said forms along with purchased items (unused/unworn) plus original receipts at dedicated Tax Refund Centres located inside airports before checking-in luggage. This is where officials verify documents against purchases then either immediately give cash refunds or send them via cheque/direct deposit depending upon individual arrangements done beforehand.

This has been an overview on how tourists in America can reclaim paid sales taxes while shopping providing some additional financial relief during their trip! But remember: always stay informed about current laws regarding this matter because they may change without notice.

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Experiences and Tips: Successful Shopping Refunds

Navigating the maze of tax refunds in the USA can seem daunting, especially if you’re a tourist eager to make the most out of your shopping spree. Fear not, armed with a bit of knowledge and some wise tips, you’ll be able to successfully request your deserved reimbursement.

Firstly, remember this golden rule: always keep your receipts. Whether you’re shopping in upscale boutiques or budget-friendly outlets, it’s important to retain proof of all purchases made during your stay. These receipts will provide crucial evidence when claiming back sales tax. You might also need them for customs purposes on returning home.

Next up is understanding which items are eligible for tax refund and those that aren’t – so research beforehand is crucial! Some states offer retail sales tax refunds only on clothes or specific goods while others may exclude certain categories altogether. Keep yourself informed about these nuances before hitting the shops.

Lastly, consider using specialized services designed to help tourists get their VAT (Value Added Tax) or GST (Goods and Services Tax) refunded easily; such companies take care of paperwork and legalities in return for a small fee – an option many find worth exploring due their stress-free nature.

So be prepared before embarking on that much-anticipated shopping expedition across Uncle Sam’s land; arm yourself with information about local laws regarding taxes imposed on purchases made by visitors and remember—every penny saved from reimbursements adds up to more space for amazing finds!