Tax Refund Tourist USA information

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

In Travel Experiences by KumarUpdated : 41 Comments

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.

What are your experiences with Tax Refund as Tourist ? Did you get any tax refund as Resident  ?

Image Credit :


Other Articles

Comments ( 41 )

    1. administrator

      I am not aware of Tax refund for tourists in San Francisco. I don’t recall seeing anything in airport as well. You may call the airport to double check.

  1. Hai Pham

    It is the first time I know about this tax refund.I wonder why they add sale tax to the amount of purchase then they refund sale tax to you.If I buy some Iphones in US, get tax refund at the airport then bring back to US after vacation outside US. That means I can buy iphone without sale tax?

    1. administrator

      It all varies by state, hard to say, there is no unified tax refund rules in US…In states like Texas, if you are tourist, you get the tax refund as explained above.

  2. Tola

    Thank for sharing!.

    I was in Florida for 2 weeks, I purchased an Iphone 11 Max Pro, 2 Airpods, and many electronic products from Best Buy at millenia store orlando. and I asked the people there, a staff at apple store how can i claim the tax back. He mention that I can claim either at the airport, but on the days of my departure, I was hurry to airport for 6hours earlier my departure. I asked the airport central information desk, she looks at me like i am a criminal and said ” we don’t do any tax refund this country of United State” once you buy it, you have to pay for the tax. and I was like, whatt!!! OKEY I’M DONE. and i am not able to claim them sale tax i bought during my stay in FL in last fall 2019.

    1. administrator

      Every state is different, if the airport does not have an option, then very likely that state does not offer anything as such.

  3. Judy Will

    I buy goods from online stores like Amazon, ebay, Wayfair I ship to a post box in WA but live near the border in Canada. Then I go down and stay for a day or two and then I am allowed to take back $50. or $200. So since I ship to the US I am paying WA state tax am I allowed a refund of the sales tax on small item purchases? All items don’t come from WA but from other states but since shipped to WA. I pay the sales tax. I collected the on line receipts for one year but have no idea if I should bother trying to get the sales tax back? I do not have shipping labels but on the invoices there are tracking numbers and delivery dates clearly showing.

    1. administrator

      I am not sure, how it would work for WA. You would need to check with WA state, some of these are state centric. Check with the state and then see, if you can use the receipts.

  4. Rose Oliveira

    Hello I was in Ohio for two weeks and asked at the Outlet if they refunded our taxes and they looked at me like I was a crazy person. And I flew via Boston Airport ad I has asked in the past if the had a tax office but again got the crazy look. Then to top it off I was stopped by our local customs at the airport and treated like a criminal for over an hour and paid 96 euros. This is crazy there should e an easy process to receive our taxes. We shouldn’t have to pay taxes twice like I did.

    1. administrator

      Sorry to hear about your situation. Taxes are paid only once. Duty free is not common in all US states and can vary..Now, what exactly happend at airport ? Why did you had to pay again, if you already paid taxes ? Please share the details for the community benefit.

  5. Ana Maria Ortega

    Shocking!!! So many versions about Tax Refund but at the end of the day, they will try to discourage all tourists. I was in NYC two weeks ago and neither of the Airports has Tax refund offices.
    But in contrast, when they come to Europe, they expect to get all of it refunded, so is this FAIR????

    1. administrator

      Unfortunately, it is not very consistent in US across the states. Many countries do tax refund as you said…Well, wish everyone did it…

  6. Mandy M

    Im from London and just came back from New York City after doing some Christmas shopping. I was shocked to discover JFK airport does NOT have a tax refund office. I would have thought it was a major airport?

    None of the major store workers knew anything about how to claim and no-one had forms available in store.

    1. administrator

      It varies by state. If they are not aware of it, then that state does not offer it. Let me write up an article on this by state.

  7. vas

    I am an Australian visiting US. I have placed an online order with Lenova for a laptop to be delivered in LA, which I will collect. I will be leaving to Australia from New York on the 30th of December.
    Can I get a tax refund for this from the NY airport and what is the process. Any info will help. Thanks

    1. administrator

      You need to check with New York Airport. They had it in Houston Airport, not sure about NY. Write to them or search online. Do update here for community benefit after you research.

      1. Amoi

        Hi Guys, do you have any Update regarding New York Tax refund for tourists? im traveling soon and trying to find out more about this, but none of the airports (Laguardia or JFK) knew what I was talking about… Maybe in some malls or government offices?

        1. administrator

          No, New York also does not seem to have the tax refund thing. You can double check, when you shop, but I highly doubt it.

  8. Allan

    Hi! I’m from Costa Rica, I’m planning a trip to Florida by the end of November, and I want to buy many goods to export them to my origin country.

    Do I have to do something on every shop when buying? Show my passport? Is there a specific office in the airport for ask this refund? Thanks!

  9. Jorge

    I’m form Mexico, I bought a laptop in bestbuy online to pick up at the physical store, I went to the store from Monterrey, Mexico to McAllen, US in car, in other words, I didn’t went to the airport so how would I recover the taxes of the laptop? I’m in Mexico already and I picked up the laptop 3 days ago.

    1. administrator

      It is probably not possible now as you have already exited the country. They need to see the product and receipt before you exit the country.

  10. Konstantin

    I’m citizen of EU. I purchased some items on US internet pages while being in US. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any receipts or invoices with my delivered goods. Is there a way to get Tax Refund when I leave US?

    1. administrator

      You need receipts or some purchase proof to claim the same in airport. If you have no proof, then you cannot claim anything…

  11. Luis

    I’m a Mexican citizen and resident, who plans to by a Mac at San Antonio. Yet, I need to use it during my 4-day visit. Does it mean I won’t get a refund, even if I show the case, ticket and wrapping? Best regards!

    1. administrator

      In general, they look at the Receipt and the item that you are exporting out of the US. If you do it in a week and carry it, should be fine. You may use it, as it is computer, it does not matter…You just need to show the product that you bought at the airport, when they ask.

  12. Dave

    I’m a Canadian citizen travelling to Seattle by car. What if you’re not flying out from US but using a port of entry by a car? Are you still eligible for VAT refund at a Port of Entry?

    1. administrator

      It totally varies by state, most of the times, they are at Airports…you need to check, if they have something on your way back to Canada…

  13. RAJU

    I am from Texas! I am thinking to take an iphone which i want to take to my home country. I checked with stores of tax refund. They were asking for my passport and making some copies of my receipts. Will that affect any of my status here.

  14. Tejas Kumar

    Hey planning to take the new iPhone from Indiana state USA to India. Will i be able to get a tax refund and if yes where can i avail that. tried to find the locations but couldnt find any. Can you please help me out on this?

  15. angel

    I’m a US resident, flying to Australia in 2 weeks. I want to buy a new, expensive camera to bring to my extended family in Australia. I checked and Chicago Ohare doesn’t list a tax desk and neither does LA. Is it possible to get the tax back at all?

    1. administrator

      Everything varies by state. Some states like texas has it, I have not come across that for IL. You can try calling any of the outlets and inquiring, if there is such practice. The Outlet malls would tell, if there is any provision as such.

  16. Brolu

    California does not provide Sales Tax Refund. See this Q-n-A on Quora

Leave a Comment

Comments Policy :
  • Comments are to drive conversation, add your thoughts, experiences, ask questions!
  • Do NOT write hate speech, swear words, or get into fight. Maintain etiquette
  • Enter your Name, valid Email, URL(optional - Facebook, LinkedIn profile URLs).
  • Your email will NOT be published. Do NOT post any phone numbers, email-ids
  • Do NOT post any links from other websites, unless official sites, University websites.
  • By submitting your comment, you agree to Term and Conditions of our website.