Foreign citizens visiting Taiwan can take advantage of the government’s sales-tax (VAT) refund system if they spend more than NTD3,000 in a single day at any participating shop no more than 30 days before leaving the country. Taiwan’s VAT rate is a mere 5% but on big-ticket items the savings could be significant. It makes no difference whether you pay with cash or a credit card.
As you’d expect, tourists are required to take the goods with them when they depart. Qualified businesses include almost every department store in the major cities, some computer and jewellery shops and several opticians. Taking cost, quality and the speed with which they’ll get your glasses ready, getting a pair of spectacles made while in Taiwan is a pretty attractive option. When touring Taiwan, you’ll probably notice a lot of locals wear glasses. If you buy indigenous handicrafts from a small shop in Taiwan’s east or south, likely no VAT will be charged, so there’ll be nothing to reclaim.
If you’re considering getting a laptop or a camera, bear in mind that any guarantees or warranties could be problematic when you’re outside Taiwan, and that you’re unlikely to get an English-language manual. An English-language list of participating shops can be found here. It’s probably not complete because more businesses sign up to the scheme each month.
It’s also worth knowing that if the total amount to be reclaimed is below NT$1,000 (for example, if the tourist spends less than NT$20,000) he or she may apply directly to the store for an on-the-spot refund. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait until they’re about to leave the country. Applications for refunds can be made at either terminal in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (Terminal 3 should be ready in 2020), or at Kaohsiung, Taichung or Hualien airports. Those leaving by ferry or cruise ship can do the paperwork and get their money in the passenger terminals at Kaohsiung, Keelung, Hualien or Taichung harbours. There’s still no refund counter in Kinmen County or the Matsu Islands, nor in Tainan Airport, which now has a handful of international connections. The relevant government webpage is here.