SINGAPORE [19 November 2019]—Singapore-based digital rewards platform UTU is providing tourists and shoppers across the globe with the means to receive 85% of their Value-Added Tax (VAT) refund amount back—a significant increase from the 55-60% refund that tourists currently receive.
Usually faced with long queues at multiple tax-free operator counters, tourists can now utilize UTU Direct, a tax-free app, to consolidate all their purchases and track transactions throughout the refund process, until they receive the money and cashback to their preferred credit card.
UTU is co-founded by Asad Jumabhoy, a VAT refund veteran with 25 years’ experience who has played a pivotal role in creating the shareholder value of both dominant companies in the space, Global Blue and Premier Tax-Free (now Planet).
Together with seasoned teams across France, Italy and Singapore, UTU’s focus is customer-centricity for VAT refunds – paired with a new business model designed to deliver additional value to shoppers and shops in the digitally liberated world of mobile connectivity.
Bringing fairness to Singaporean shoppers in Europe
As Singaporeans name Europe as one of their top travel destinations, local travellers are also projected to double their spend in the continent in the next six years.
According to VISA’s Mapping the Future of Global Travel and Tourism, Singaporeans will increase their travel spend from USD $22.5 billion in 2015 to USD $44.9 billion in 2025. Additionally, Singaporeans plan to increase their spend overseas in general by 55% – more than other traveller groups in the Asia Pacific.
This increased spend within Europe means an uptick in travellers claiming VAT refunds and potentially not receiving fair amounts – leaving a gap that UTU fills. Tourists from all over the world will benefit from a disruption in today’s tax-refund market where many complain about the system, but few recognise the significant portion of fees they pay to receive the balance of their VAT refund.
“Most shoppers are not aware of their rights or that they even have a choice in how they claim their VAT refunds to get the best outcome for themselves. The goal of UTU has always been to innovate the tax refund process, which has remained mostly unchanged for decades as a complex, paper-based and commission-ridden system. Our solutions ensure tourists the choice in how they wish to receive their refunds, getting more for their VAT Refund every time,” says Sanjay Chinchwade, SVP of Marketing at UTU.
Shopping in Italy
In Italy, shoppers can receive 85% of all tax refunded back with UTU Direct, versus approximately 55-60% currently on some €1 billion spent by Singaporeans in Europe annually.
To use UTU Direct, tourists simply need to bring the tax refund form issued by any tax-free shopping operator to UTU Customer Service Counters at airports, city centres or UTU’s lounge at via Montenapoleone in Milan—all of which can be easily located using the UTU Tax-Free app. Using this service to consolidate all tax refund forms from various operators offers tourists convenience to go directly to Customs and skip the queues at tax refund booths at major Italian airports. UTU Direct provides shoppers with greater fairness and freedom in receiving their tax refunds.
“Consumers should think of UTU Plus as a VAT refund companion product, which can be used with any VAT refund form belonging to any VAT refund operator in any eurozone country,” says Chinchwade. “UTU’s aim is to move VAT refunding from a ‘shopper-pay’ to a ‘shop-and-shopper-benefit’ model that has been designed by an innovative and strong management team that comes from a tax refund, payment and loyalty background.”
UTU is also in the process of beta testing its 100% VAT Refund product in Italy at selected stores, pending a general rollout. -/TISG