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I found this page explaining how to apply for a tax return on goods in Singapore.

However, it specifies that you can only get it when leaving from an airport (Changi Airport or Seletar Airport) or from a harbour (HarbourFront or Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore at Marina South).

The problem is that I am leaving by bus to Malaysia.

After reading more carefully, I saw that the process seems to be straight forward in Changi Airport because you can do it all using a machine, & this machine is located in the check-in hall.

So I'm wondering: can I simply turn up at Changi Airport & do the refund process, then just leave the airport?

I quoted the relevant text below, the only risky part seem the one where Customs Inspection counter, where customs officers may ask to see your purchases for further verification. At that point, if they ask for a plane ticket, I'm worried they will not be amused when I show them a bus ticket to Malaysia instead.


Relevant parts of the web page

  • Collecting eTRS tickets when purchasing goods:

    If you don’t have a credit/debit card, or don’t wish to use your card as a Token, you must remember to collect an eTRS Ticket from the retailer when you make a purchase. When you apply for your refund at the airport or cruise terminal, go to an eTRS self-help kiosk and scan all your eTRS Tickets one by one. You can then claim your refund by following the instructions on the kiosk.

  • Location of the eTRS kiosk:

    If you are leaving by air, apply for your GST refund using the Electronic Tourist Refund self-help kiosks (eTRS kiosks) found at Changi Airport Departure Check-in Hall (before departure immigration)

  • Process at the eTRS kiosk:

    At The eTRS Self-Help Kiosk: At the kiosk, swipe your passport and the credit/debit card that you have chosen as your eTRS Token. This will call up details of all your purchases. Alternatively, scan your eTRS Tickets individually to retrieve your purchase details.

    After you have called up your purchase details, follow the instructions on the eTRS kiosk to apply for your GST refund. At this stage, you will be asked to choose whether you want your refund to be made to your credit card or in cash (for tourists departing from Changi Airport)

    When you are done, the kiosk will issue you a Notification Slip. Read it to see whether you need to go to the Customs Inspection counter, where customs officers may ask to see your purchases for further verification.

  • Get the actual money back:

    Collect Your Refund: If you are departing from Changi Airport, you can choose to receive your refund in cash, or have it credited to your credit card.

    If you choose to have the refund credited to your credit card, you may proceed to boarding after completing your claims at the eTRS kiosk. The money will be credited to your specified credit card within 10 days.


Resources

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TL;DR: Possible? Sometimes. Recommended? No.

Due to complex hysterical raisins, Singapore applies different Customs rules for visitors to/from Malaysia. So legally, the answer is clear:

You may qualify for tourist refund if the following conditions are satisfied: ...

Depart with the goods via Changi International Airport Departure Hall / Seletar Airport Passenger Terminal / Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore/ International Passenger Terminal at Harbourfront Centre within 2 months from the date of purchase;

Land border crossings do not apply.

Now, is it physically possible to apply for a GST refund with the automated kiosk in Changi, get it refunded to your credit card, and depart by land anyway? Yes. However:

  1. If you're required to present your item for Customs inspection, you will be required to present "your boarding pass or confirmed air ticket" for endorsement. Oops! Of course, if you get the "Not Approved", you could just skip the inspection and forfeit the GST, no real harm done. But...
  2. The Singaporean Government loves Big Data. If you get a GST refund and then don't leave Singapore by air within those two months, it's not out of the question that the government would notice this and have some questions for you if you ever return. (Although to be frank, this is pretty unlikely, especially if you're a bona fide tourist and not a resident.)
  • thanks for this very informative answer. The page linked by the text different Customs rules throws an error (502 bad gateway), is this normal? Also, what part of the wikipedia page linked by the text complex hysterical raisins is relevant? – Adrien Be May 28 '15 at 3:30
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    @AdrienBe The link works for me? And the Wikipedia article just provides some background about why Singapore and Malaysia still occasionally treat each other like they're kinda-sorta the same country. – jpatokal May 28 '15 at 3:41
  • oh I see, I was not aware of that fact at all! Interesting. – Adrien Be May 28 '15 at 11:29
  • Especially, the duty free option won't apply if you are traveling between SIngapore and Malaysia, air or otherwise. If you decide to leave the airport at Malaysia, when transiting, you have to forfeit the goods. – Anish Sheela Jan 21 at 9:17

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