UTU, the Singapore-based digital rewards platform company, has announced a world first digital offer that provides tourists and shoppers across the globe with an 85% tax refund amount of their Value-Added Tax (VAT) refunds compared to the 55-60% of the total amount that tourists receive today.
International shoppers can now bring any tax refund form issued in Italy by any tax refund operator to UTU Service Counters and using UTU Direct, and the newly launched UTU Tax Free mobile app, will receive 85% of the tax refund amount. UTU Service Counters will be rolled out starting with Italy at major cities namely Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. Following Italy, UTU plans to enter the UK market in Q1, 2020 starting with London and Gatwick Airport.
Working with various card schemes and bank-issued cards, this game-changing digital product has been created to bring innovation and increased fairness to the tax-free shopping sector, which has been operating through a paper-based system shrouded in complex and secretive commission structures, meaning shoppers do not receive as much VAT refund as they are entitled to, and where consumer transparency has been undermined.
UTU was 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 supporting France, Italy, the UK and Singapore, UTU’s focus is customer-centricity for VAT refunds, coupled with a new business model designed to deliver additional value to shoppers and shops in the digitally-liberated world of mobile connectivity.
Sanjay Chinchwade, SVP of Marketing at UTU, said, “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 have a choice in how they wish to receive their refunds, getting more for their VAT Refund every time.”
Bringing fairness to shoppers in Europe
As tourists name Europe as one of their top travel destinations, 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.
The launch of UTU Direct
Starting today in Italy, with UTU Direct, shoppers can receive 85% of all tax refunded versus the 55-60% on offer in the market, on for example, the €1 billion spent by Singaporeans in Europe annually. UTU Direct is easy to use, as the shopper simply needs 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 these can be easily located using the UTU Tax Free app. Using this service and consolidating all tax refund forms from various tax refund operators offers tourists convenience to go directly to Customs and skip the queues at various tax free operator booths at major Italian airports. UTU Direct provides shoppers with greater fairness and freedom in receiving their tax refunds.
The launch of UTU Direct paves the way for the company’s introduction of more innovations, which will become available in the coming months and during 2020.
UTU’s aim is to move VAT refunding from a shopper-pay to a shop-and-shopper-benefit model. Its ability to innovate is powered by a strong management team that has come from the tax refund, payments and loyalty spaces, as well as experience running UTU’s shopping rewards program in Thailand over the past two years.
UTU is in the process of beta testing its 100% VAT Refund product in Italy at selected stores, pending a general roll out during 2020. The UTU Tax Free app is now available on all major app stores.