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Duty-free shops (or stores) are retail outlets whose goods are exempt from the payment of certain local or national taxes and duties, on the requirement that the goods sold will be sold to travelers who will take them out of the country. Which products can be sold duty-free vary by jurisdiction, as well as how they can be sold, and the process of calculating the duty or refunding the duty component.

However, some countries impose duty on goods brought into the country, though they had been bought duty-free in another country, or when the value or quantity of such goods exceed an allowed limit. Duty-free shops are often found in the international zone of international airports, sea ports, and train stations but goods can also be bought duty-free on board airplanes and passenger ships. They are not as commonly available for road or train travelers, although several border crossings between the United States and both Canada and Mexico have duty-free shops for car travelers. In some countries, any shop can participate in a reimbursement system, such as Global Blue and Premier Tax Free, wherein a sum equivalent to the tax is paid, but then the goods are presented to customs and the sum reimbursed on exit.

These outlets were abolished for intra-EU travellers in 1999, but are retained for travelers whose final destination is outside the EU. They also sell to intra-EU travelers but with appropriate taxes. Some special member state territories such as Åland, Livigno and the Canary Islands, are within the EU but outside the EU tax union, and thus still continue duty-free sales for all travelers.

Tax Free World Association (TFWA) announced that in 2011 Asia-Pacific, with 35 percent of global duty-free and travel retail sales, beat Europe and Americas, with these regions accounting for 34 percent and 23 percent respectively. 31 percent of sales came from the fragrances and cosmetics category, followed by the wine and spirit category with 17 percent and then comes tobacco products.[1]

The world's largest airport by duty-free sales is South Korea's Incheon Airport, with US$1.85 billion in 2016,[2] narrowly overtaking Dubai Duty Free with 2016 sales of $1.82 billion.[3]

History

Brendan O'Regan established the world's first duty-free shop at Shannon Airport in Ireland in 1947;[4] it remains in operation today. Designed to provide a service for trans-Atlantic airline passengers typically travelling between Europe and North America whose flights stopped for refuelling on outbound and inbound legs of their journeys, it was an immediate success and has been copied worldwide. Thirteen years later, two American entrepreneurs, Charles Feeney and Robert Warren Miller, founded what is now Duty Free Shoppers (DFS) on 7 November 1960. DFS started operations in Hong Kong and spread to Europe and other places around the globe. Securing the exclusive concession for duty-free sales in Hawaii in the early-1960s was a commercial breakthrough for DFS, which enabled the company to focus on Japanese travelers. DFS continued to innovate, expanding into off-airport duty-free stores and into large downtown Galleria stores; it grew to become the world's largest travel retailer. In 1996 LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquired the interests of Feeney and two other shareholders and as of 2012 jointly owned DFS with Miller.

In this same period, several locales grew as duty-free shopping destinations. They are exemplified by Saint Martin and the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, Hong Kong and Singapore. Still others claim prices competitive to duty-free. Generally, goods are free of duty and tax levied on imports for sale anywhere in the shopping destination. Merchants may pay inventory/business or other taxes, but their customers usually pay none directly.

The mere absence of duty or other taxes on goods being sold does not assure that they are bargains. Costs of identical goods from different duty-free sources can vary widely. They often depend on the presence or absence of nearby competition, e.g., airport stores, especially if all at any airport are owned by a single firm such as Dufry.[5] Also, prices can often be driven upward by the costs of buyer convenience, e.g., in-flight sales by airlines. Many airlines, such as Emirates,[6] El Al,[7] Singapore Airlines,[8] Middle East Airlines,[9] Ukraine International Airlines,[10] Delta,[11] and Avianca,[12] offer duty-free sales on their flights.

Duty-free shopping away from ports

Some duty-free shops operate in central business districts away from airports or other ports. In Japan, for example, any visitor whose passport indicates that they have been in the country for less than six months can buy items without paying consumption tax, so long as the total purchase value exceeds ¥5,000 and the items will not be consumed in Japan. Duty-free shops are a mainstay in the Akihabara electronic shopping district of Tokyo.

In Thailand, the King Power chain has shops where duty-free items are pre-purchased and delivered separately to the airport to be picked up on departure. For certain other purchases, a VAT refund may be claimed at the airport upon departure.[13]

In the Philippines, there is one shopping mall called the Duty Free Philippines Fiestamall, which is located a few miles away from Ninoy Aquino International Airport as opposed to being at the airport itself. It is the only shopping mall of its kind in the world. The goods that are sold in this mall are often imported products which come from around the world (mainly from United States, Asia and Australasia) and are not found in any other shopping malls in the country

However, some countries impose duty on goods brought into the country, though they had been bought duty-free in another country, or when the value or quantity of such goods exceed an allowed limit. Duty-free shops are often found in the international zone of international airports, sea ports, and train stations but goods can also be bought duty-free on board airplanes and passenger ships. They are not as commonly available for road or train travelers, although several border crossings between the United States and both Canada and Mexico have duty-free shops for car travelers. In some countries, any shop can participate in a reimbursement system, such as Global Blue and Premier Tax Free, wherein a sum equivalent to the tax is paid, but then the goods are presented to customs and the sum reimbursed on exit.

These outlets were abolished for intra-EU travellers in 1999, but are retained for travelers whose final destination is outside the EU. They also sell to intra-EU travelers but with appropriate taxes. Some special member state territories such as Åland, Livigno and the Canary Islands, are within the EU but outside the EU tax union, and thus still continue duty-free sales for all travelers.

Tax Free World Association (TFWA) announced that in 2011 Asia-Pacific, with 35 percent of global duty-free and travel retail sales, beat Europe and Americas, with these regions accounting for 34 percent and 23 percent respectively. 31 percent of sales came from the fragrances and cosmetics category, followed by the wine and spirit category with 17 percent and then comes tobacco products.[1]

The world's largest airport by duty-free sales is South Korea's Incheon Airport, with US$1.85 billion in 2016,[2] narrowly overtaking Dubai Duty Free with 2016 sales of $1.82 billion.[3]

Brendan O'Regan established the world's first duty-free shop at Shannon Airport in Ireland in 1947;[4] it remains in operation today. Designed to provide a service for trans-Atlantic airline passengers typically travelling between Europe and North America whose flights stopped for refuelling on outbound and inbound legs of their journeys, it was an immediate success and has been copied worldwide. Thirteen years later, two American entrepreneurs, Charles Feeney and Robert Warren Miller, founded what is now Duty Free Shoppers (DFS) on 7 November 1960. DFS started operations in Hong Kong and spread to Europe and other places around the globe. Securing the exclusive concession for duty-free sales in Hawaii in the early-1960s was a commercial breakthrough for DFS, which enabled the company to focus on Japanese travelers. DFS continued to innovate, expanding into off-airport duty-free stores and into large downtown Galleria stores; it grew to become the world's largest travel retailer. In 1996 LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquired the interests of Feeney and two other shareholders and as of 2012 jointly owned DFS with Miller.

In this same period, several locales grew as duty-free shopping destinations. They are exemplified by Saint Martin and the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, Hong Kong and Singapore. Still others claim prices competitive to duty-free. Generally, goods are free of duty and tax levied on imports for sale anywhere in the shopping destination. Merchants may pay inventory/business or other taxes, but their customers usually pay none directly.

The mere absence of duty or other taxes on goods being sold does not assure that they are bargains. Costs of identical goods from different duty-free sources can vary widely. They often depend on the presence or absence of nearby competition, e.g., airport stores, especially if all at any airport are owned by a single firm such as Dufry.[5] Also, prices can often be driven upward by the costs of buyer convenience, e.g., in-flight sales by airlines. Many airlines, such as Emirates,[6] El Al,[7] Singapore Airlines,[8] Middle East Airlines,[9] Ukraine International Airlines,[10] Delta,[11] and Avianca,[12] offer duty-free sales on their flights.

Duty-free shopping away from ports

Any traveller living in a country outside the EU VAT area is entitled to shop tax-free at participating shops in the EU. Tax free shopping differs from duty free shop

Any traveller living in a country outside the EU VAT area is entitled to shop tax-free at participating shops in the EU. Tax free shopping differs from duty free shopping as the traveller pays the VAT on goods in the shop in the usual way, and can then request a refund when exporting the goods. There are a number of tax-free operators who can support both the stores and the traveler through this process. To qualify, the traveller must:

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