Tax free shopping and how to get a tax refund in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi airports in Georgia

Tax free tax return counter in Tbilisi airport in Georgia

Georgian Revenue service is providing information on tax free shopping and the VAT refund on their website, but unfortunately in Georgian only. As the process is quite different than in other countries, we decided to share our experiences about it.

How to get a VAT return?

Before buying, make sure that the shop is eligible for tax free shopping. It is possible that the merchant has a Tax free sticker on their door or window, but they are not necessarily willing to make you the necessary paperwork. Georgian Revenue service is selling tax free stickers to merchants for 0.35 GEL each, and on top of that they pay 200 GEL/year for the status. In most cases, it is merely for marketing purposes.

When you find a real tax free shop and want to do your purchase, the shop will give you a signed and stamped paper called Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund Receipt. Filling out the form will usually take some time, as not many people ask for it and the salespeople are unfamiliar with the process. They might need to call their manager for help. When the paper is ready, you need to sign it in order to accept the rules. Then they will package your product into their shop's bag and seal it with tax free label. You may not open the bag or use the product before you leave Georgia. This rule is quite extraordinary. We have not seen a similar restriction anywhere else in the world.

Once the purchase is made, you must leave the country within 90 days by airplane as tax refunds are given only in the international airports in Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi. At the airport, go to the tax free counter before checking in, present them the VAT refund receipt and the sealed product, and they will inspect your product. The process can be slow, so make sure you don't arrive at the airport last minute. After that, you will get another paper, which you need to take to a bank. The bank will give you the refund in cash in Georgian laris (GEL).

An example Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund Receipt

Tax refund is not 18% but 13,46%

The sum they will give you is not 18 per cent — the value added tax — as there are several fees that are deducted from the refund. Revenue Service takes 22.22 per cent of the refund and the bank 3 per cent. The rest, 13.46 per cent, is what you get back calculated from the tax free price, or 11.41 per cent when calculated from the purchase price including VAT. The refund calculation is available in your "Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund Receipt".

An example of a VAT refund calculation

Price including VAT200,00 GEL
VAT30,51 GEL
- Revenue service fee6,78 GEL
- Bank fee0,92 GEL
VAT refund22,81 GEL

In this example, the difference between the VAT and the refund is 7,69 GEL (4,54%). If you have questions, Georgian Revenue service can help you by email info@rs.ge with 1-8 days delay, but their answers are in Georgian only. However, questions may be presented in English.

Georgian tax free shopping rules in a nutshell

  • The minimum purchase is 200 GEL from one shop at one time.
  • You may not use the product before tax free inspection.
  • The tax return is only partial, not the full 18 % VAT.
  • You have to leave Georgia within 3 months of the purchase.
  • You need a stamped and signed VAT refund receipt from the seller.
  • The product must be in a plastic or a paper bag sealed by the seller.
  • You must exit the country from an International airport (Tbilisi, Kutaisi or Batumi).
Tax free refund seal sticker used in Georgia

We would love to hear about your experiences on tax free shopping in Georgia and are happy to answer your questions. Please leave us a comment below!

Comments

Anonymous said…
Thanks to this blog post, I found another story you wrote about Georgia which helped me to save a lot of money: Invest in Real Estate, Buy or Rent a Flat in Batumi, Georgia. So much useful information!
Anonymous said…
What If my fligth at nigth time how could i do this . Please advice.
They have kept the refund kiosks open when there are departing international flights. You can not get refund before you have checked-in to your flight, so going to get the refund much earlier might not work. However, if you want to be absolutely sure, you might not want to trust them and use their tax free. Their systems are not the most reliable.
Anonymous said…
Please tell me, is it possible to get a refund when crossing the Georgia-Armenia border on foot?
Unfortunately not. Refunds are available only in airports.
Anonymous said…
« you might not want to trust them and use their tax free. Their systems are not the most reliable. » Please can you explain it more. We are flying tonight and we want to get a tax refund on an iPhone we bought here.
Everything in Georgia, including tax free returns, is not the most reliable. If the person who is responsible for processing tax refunds decides not to go to work that day, or the bank who is supposed to give you the return money has no internet/electricity, or they decide that you have opened and used the product before getting tax refund, you will not get your tax money back. The minimum requirement, other than good luck, is that you got the tax refund papers from the seller. Without those there is absolutely no hope. Happy travels and good luck!
Andy said…
Hello , thank you for giving information. If we buy it cash, they also give refund to bank? And they ask us to bank account?or shoul we buy something with credit card?
Hi Andy, thanks for your question. We've got them back in cash only from a bank in the airport. I doubt they will be able to do wire transfers or refund to a credit cards, at least for free.
Andy said…
Thanks for fast reply ! So I should buy the product with a cash than take refund back as a cash ,is it logical ?
Payment method does not really matter. You will get the refund in cash anyway.
Anonymous said…
People had to wait at sarp border to get their refunds. First they stamp the papers you get from shops, it took like 45minutes, then you get in another line to get your refund. We waited like 30more minutes and just gave up. The system went offline and nothing was workind. By the way, the person who stamps the papers also gone away and people were told to wait 2 hours for her to come back. Georgia looks like a country where no one really does the job correctly.
Counting on getting a tax refund is not smart in Georgia, or in general counting on anything. Georgia is not one of the most reliable countries and it is more like a latin american country with african understanding of time than a punctual, uptight european country.

Georgians are proud to be unreliable and late. That also makes Georgia more relaxed which iwe loved there. If you break a law for example, you just bribe the police or talk yourself out of the situation and that's all.
Anonymous said…
Hi! Thank you so much for this informative blog post. Do you know if the airport bank is open at all hours for the refund?
Hi, You are welcome. They should be open, at least one of the banks. They are usually timed so that when there are departing flights, services are available. However, we didn't test trying to get a refund a lot before the flight or at night. Askng that before hand from the airport or taxation is probably waste of time. No matter what they promise, anything can and will happen. Good luck!
Anonymous said…
I bought iPhone in tibilisi and I will leave Georgia from another border to turkey. I am not leaving by plana. Can I go and get VAT from AirPort and come back to city center.
In principle you need to buy a flight ticket to out of Georgia and go to the airport and check-in to our flight before you can apply tax return and get your VAT back. You are not obligated to board your flight. Not sure if it works this way in all airports, but in Kutaisi this was the procedure. If you manage to get the return without air ticket from some airport, please let everyone know by replying to this comment. Thanks and good luck!
Anonymous said…
Hie thanks for your blog post it’s really help me
As I want to know that I buy an iPhone, AirPods &Apple pencil so is there any problem to get the vat in all products. Or I get only on one item.
As long as each purhase is over 200 GEL there are no other limits. You can have as many refunds and as much as you want. However, if you buy them all at once with one receipt, the processing will be faster in the airport.
Anonymous said…
Hey I have a doubt. I am an international student. Let’s say I buy a MacBook in zoommer and get VAT bill as well. But I am not travelling but my friend is travelling. Is it possible that he goes and claims the refund and hands it over to me before he travels or it’s not possible. But I know for a fact that you collect your boarding pass downstairs in Tbilisi international airport. And then you have to take escalator and go up with checking. But this refund is downstairs. And also everybody is allowed to wait with friends or family in the boarding pass area. Is it possible to get it from them ?
That will not work unless you buy the devices for your friend and the receipt and tax return papers are written for them. We do not know how Tbilisi airport returns are organised nowadays. In Kutaisi that would have been possible as the returns are processed before check-in. It would be easy to do there. Good luck!
Anonymous said…
Alright. If I buy this mac on my friends name and he is travelling to his country then I can get the money as well as laptop in the airport if returns are processed before check in. Am I right ?
Yes, that should work. You could ask the shop to make you 2 stes of papers and tell that your friend will be taking it over the border, but it will be for you. They are quite flexible in shops if you want to close the sale. This way you could register the device and guarantee to yourself.

By the way, cheapest MacBooks are at the moment in North America. They are generally 25-35% cheaper than in the rest of the world.
Anonymous said…
True. It is cheaper in North America. I can buy a Mac through usa2georgia but I have to pay 18% and some charges for shipping. That’s almost the price of Georgia itself. Right now there are some offers going on in zoommer so thought about it using it. Thank you for the information. Do you know if in Tbilisi airport we can proceed with customs first and then with checkin ??
We don't know. You could just go there and see. There used to be a cheap city bus to the airport from the city center (bus 337, cost 1 GEL for 90 minutes).
Anonymous said…
🙏✨🖤
Anonymous said…
Hey there. I went to the airport. I asked the lady in the counter. She said she needs the bill and boarding pass. Should we present the product as well or only bills are good. And another thing is that she said I have to collect the cash upstairs. That’s not a problem. But should my friend take the product with him upstairs too where they will give the cash ?
Thanks for checking the airport and sharing the information. Sounds like it might work. When they inspect the goods, they need to see the stuff you bought and it must look like new and not used. When the product and papers are inspected, you get a paper for getting the tax money. When we got money back, it was from a bank booth that just took the papers, checked them and gave money. This was a few years ago but it is likely that the system still works the same way.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for this post finally I did it today. I bought tha laptop in Tbilisi last week and I bought it through my friend who is travelling today. I’m zoomed we got the VAT refund bill. And today in the airport they asked him only for the bill and his passport. And then they gave him a form to collect the money. I took my laptop and boxes from him and then he went upstairs and he claimed the full money. Upstairs neither downstairs they asked him to show the product. Thanks to this blog honestly.
Anonymous said…
Guys it worked. My friend travelled to airport and he got money. All he did was have my laptop on the VAT station and they asked only for bill and his passport. Once done he went up and collected the money from bank. They didn’t ask for anything upstairs. I had the box and laptop with me the whole time.
Thank you for the update and happy to help.

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