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Travelers Having Issues With VAT Refunds At Cancun Airport

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If you’ve recently traveled out of Cancun International Airport and tried to claim your VAT refund, it’s likely that you encountered some issues getting your refund. Due to some technical issues with the Cancun Airport’s digital pass initiative, international travelers have been having problems getting their VAT refunds at the airport. We’ve got all you need to know in the post below.

tourists browsing the shops at Cancun International Airport.

What’s Happening At The Cancun Airport With Tourists’ VAT Refunds? 

Local reports have noted that it’s an “operational problem” with the Cancun International Airport’s digital pass pilot program. Because the current system in place no longer gives international arrivals the sealed Multiple Migration Form at the airport, they are not able to get any of the VAT refunds that they try to submit when they leave the country.  

the issue needs to be fixed if tourists want to start properly claiming their VAT refunds for products purchased while on vacation in Mexico. 

cancun beach hotel zone aerial

Airport Authorities Are Aware Of The Issue, Noting This Hurts International Tourism

It was also mentioned in the report a partner of MPI Caribe Mexico, Darío Flora Ocampo, has notified Quintana Roo state authorities of the problem, which needs to be resolved quickly so that this doesn’t hurt international tourism. Incentives like VAT refunds can help local tourist industries, as it means that travelers from the United States and Canada can claim some deductions on certain consumer products bought during their travels in Mexico.

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tourists at kiosks checking into their flights at Cancun Airport.

So the problem, Ocampo noted, is that because tourists from Canada and the U.S. can’t show some form of physical proof of their arrival in Mexico, which was possible under the previous manual system with the FMM form, they cannot claim their VAT refunds when they are leaving the airport.

VAT refund signage for tourists put up in front of the store.

What Is VAT, Anyway?

VAT stands for “Value Added Tax.” It basically means a refund on any sales tax paid by the traveler on certain products purchased on their trip. To get some cash back from your shopping spree abroad, you have to keep the receipts from the items you bought on your vacation that fall under the VAT refund category. You can then claim the sales tax return at the VAT counter on your way out of the airport. 

Lots of countries issue VAT refunds for tourists, including Mexico, Canada, the U.K., all nations in the E.U., Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and more. 

Busy Cancun Airport with people walking around and waiting.

Cancun Launched New Electronic Arrival System At End Of Last Year

In an effort to speed up the arrival process for international tourists coming into Cancun Airport, a new electronic system was launched at the end of 2022. The updated arrival process initially sped up what was becoming some longer wait times for international tourists to Cancun for the busy winter travel season.

As Cancun continues to break records with flight arrivals and tourists visiting during pretty much any time of the year at this point, Quintana Roo authorities work on the best ways to accommodate the thousands of travelers that visit every week to explore and enjoy the Mexican Caribbean.

Cancun airport passengers in terminal waiting on flights

Under the previous immigration system at the Cancun Airport, tourists had to manually fill out the green FMM card upon arrival. Following a successful trial period for a few months prior to the launch in December, new digital immigration machines were installed at various kiosks at the airport, and this new arrival system was quickly adopted for travelers coming in from the U.S. as well as Canada.

The system means that incoming international tourists from those two countries can be processed in about 30 seconds after their passports are scanned and the biometric data submitted.

Inside view of one of Cancun airports terminals

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Wednesday 22nd of February 2023

I really enjoy your articles, lots of good information! I’m very impressed how the tourism industry is managed so well in Quintana Roo! From speeding up the arrival process as the airport to handling the Taxi/Uber situation and being on top of the safety of the tourists!!

Silvia Pennisi

Monday 27th of February 2023

@Liz, have you been to Cancun or Quintana Roo recently? I got back from Cancun last Thursday, 23 Feb. Do you know that they don't let you Check in if you don't pay an airport tax, they say, of 1700 mxpesos = € 85,-!!!!!!! Looking up the Website, I only could find visitax at the amount of USD 48,--. Can you explain the difference?