Alipay, the payment arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has entered into partnership with Swiss tax-refund company Global Blue to launch a service that will allow Chinese tourists to receive tax refunds directly into their Alipay accounts when they are shopping in Europe.
According to the company, the service will be available from mid-July at 5,000 stores in France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, as well as South Korea. More countries are expected to roll out the service in the coming month, the company added.
[Update] (In addition to the countries mentioned above, the company planned to roll out this service in Switzerland, Netherlands and Spain in the near future. The users can receive the applied refunds in Chinese yuan in their Alipay accounts after ten working days at the earliest.)
Chinese tourists making purchases at Global Blue’s retail partners can ask for a tax-free form which they then fill out with their Alipay user information. Upon exiting the country, they submit the forms and receipts to the customs desk to get it stamped before mailing it to Global Blue. Alternatively, they can apply for a Global Blue Card that will negate the need to fill out forms.
Alipay had already launched a tax reimbursement service for Chinese tourists shopping in South Korea since October last year. The users only need to fill in the mobile phone numbers they registered with Alipay, passport number and English name getting it stamped and dropping off at specified post box at airport customs. The users can receive the refunds in their Alipay accounts after seven working days.
European Union has become an important and popular destination for Chinese travelers thanks to lower taxes and huge variety of consumer products, especially for cosmetics and luxury goods. However, Chinese visitors to Europe did not collect 1 billion yuan (US$161.02 million) in tax refunds in 2013 due to the troublesome and prolonged (up to 3 months) tax refund application procedure, according to NetEase.
Founded in 1980, Global Blue is a tax free shopping service provider which cooperates with 27,000 retailers in 37 countries. Tourists who purchase items from Global Blue retail partners can apply to get the local sales tax charged on their products refunded to their credit cards, allowing them to shop tax-free.