A revolutionary smartphone app can now consolidate and streamline tax refund paperwork on Europe purchases to claw back unprecedented VAT savings.

A digital rewards platform based in Singapore 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 cash back to their preferred credit card.  

International shoppers in Italy can also bring any tax refund form issued within Italy by any tax refund operator to the UTU Service Counter, and using UTU Direct receive 85% of the tax refund amount back.

Working with various card schemes and bank-issued cards, this product has been created to bring innovation and increased fairness to the tax-free shopping sector, which has long been operating through a paper-based system shrouded in opaque commissions, meaning shoppers do not receive as much VAT refund as they are entitled to. 

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 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 recognize the significant portion of fees they pay to receive the balance of their VAT refund.

Said Sanjay Chinchwade, SVP of Marketing at UTU: “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.” 

Greater fairness and freedom in tax refunds

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.

Chinchwade added: “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. 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.” He also added that the Pound Sterling and Swiss Franc variants for UTU Plus will augment the Euro offering in the first quarter of 2020.

The launch of UTU Direct paves the way for the company’s introduction of more innovations. In coming weeks, UTU also plans to launch UTU Plus, a VAT refund product available to all travelers and shoppers across 19 Eurozone countries, providing up to 5% more on all qualifying VAT refunds.

UTU is also in the process of beta testing its 100% VAT Refund product in Italy at selected stores, pending a general rollout. The UTU Tax Free app is now available on all major app stores.