Korea, like most countries, has both national and local taxes. If you are living and working in Korea, you are subject to Korean income taxes. Many purchased items are tax free or have no added tax. However, you will pay a value-added tax (VAT) on processed food products, luxury items as well as as restaurant bills over a certain value and/or in hotels.
Groceries: If you look at the itemized receipt you’ll notice that there are two totals at the end. The subtotal for taxeable items (foods that have been processed in some way) usually appears first, followed by the 10% tax and then by the subtotal of non-taxeable items.
Restaurants: You will usually not pay any tax at Korean food restaurants, unless they are high end expensive ones. Most restaurants with a foreign, especially Western, menu (American, Italian, French cuisine, etc) are obligated to add 10% VAT to your bill. Some will also add a 3-5% service tax that ostensibly is given to staff. Hotel restaurants/bars charge what is called ‘plus plus’ referring to the 10% VAT and the 10% service tax. Since the latter is applied to the total charge plus VAT, the tax ends up adding about 21% to the bill.
Value Added Tax: Most businesses and service providers charge a 10% VAT on their products or services. Sometimes the tax is included in the price, but most often it is not. Price quotes do not always clarify this.
Air fare: When quoting air fares, travel agents generally say “X won + tax”. If you have for the tax amount, they will give you an approximate figure since the amount changes from week to week, and apparently from airline to airline. The sum includes a fuel surcharge and airport tax, so it can sometimes end up being almost a quarter of the air fare. (Travel agency feels are now paid separately from the fare as airlines no longer pay commission.)
Income tax: Everyone is supposed to pay income tax, including foreign workers and the appropriate deductions will be made from your paycheck. You will want to make sure you receive a print copy of your salary and tax payments and keep them in your records until you leave Korea.
For details on income taxes for foreign employees, go to this K4E page.
For more on Korea’s taxation system visit the NTS website.
For more information or to ask specific questions, you can contact the NTS via:
- International Tax Resource Management Office of the NTS at (82-2-397-1444).
- Foreign taxpayer advocate service - questions asked online (for many government sites Internet Explorer still best. Note that you are likely to be required to download ActiveX.
- English 'helpline' - 1588-0560 (82-2-1588-0560)
Editor's Note: The information above is based on the information K4E has available at the time of writing. Given how difficult it is to obtain clear and complete information in Korea as well as how quickly rules can change, please see this as a guide and do follow-up with the appropriate Korean government bodies to confirm its accuracy and/or to get the most current answers. K4E would appreciate your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org should you find out that our information is out-of-date.
Last Updated on 2015-01-27
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