Flying to and from Australia whether you’re a visitor or a resident, can sometimes be expensive, so why not utilise the often forgotten/unknown tourist refund scheme to help save those extra few $ for more important purchases. The important element to saving 10% is to understand how the scheme works to avoid any complications. This refund can be utilised by both tourists leaving Australia as well as residents departing from Oz.
For example if you bought an engagement ring for $10,000 including GST, you would receive a refund of $909 (i.e. $9,091 for the cost of the ring plus $909 in GST). So to find out how you too can make savings using this scheme, continue reading.
The Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) does vary depending on whether you are an Oz resident or a tourist. However, both are eligible. Here are some of the most important rules you must obey:
- Buy your goods no more than 60 days before travelling
- Items must be bought with your own money
- Keep the original tax invoice to prove your purchase was over $300
- Goods must be taken within your hand luggage / carry on
Australian Residents Departing Australia
This is how to claim if you’re an Australian resident departing from Australia using the TRS scheme.
The items you buy must be bought a maximum of 60 days before you depart. Make sure you request a tax invoice from the company you purchase your item or items from. The total amount of the invoice must exceed $300, so if you want to buy multiple items, which are individually under the value of this amount, buy them all at the same time.
Next, as an Aussie you are entitled to claim the GST component back on your invoices. This is done on the assumption by customs that you will not be re-entering Australia with that item on your person.
Take note: Customs will be able to view whatever items you have claimed a refund on when you arrive back to Australia. So be aware of the fact that they may spot-check to see if you have the goods on your person. If they do find the item / items, they have the power to charge you the GST again, but on occasion may let you through without.
So if you do need to bring the item back into Australia here are a couple of my tips to avoid getting caught out. Consider packing the item in a family or friends luggage. If it’s cost effective, have the item sent to your address in Australia. Or if the item is small enough, hide it well within your suitcase; e.g. in socks, shoes, toiletry back etc. (If you have any other recommendations, please let me know in the comments.)
Tourists Permanently living in Australia
This is how to claim GST back on purchases as a tourist leaving Australia.
Very similar to a resident of Australia leaving the country, you also have to purchase your items within a maximum of 60 days before you disembark. Your invoice must also be equivalent or of greater value than $300. However, your situation differs slightly, because you do not have to worry about returning to Australia with your purchased items. But remember all items you claim TRS on, must be in your hand luggage or carry on.
Items Not Eligible for the Tourist Refund Scheme
- Alcohol products
- Items that are not with you when leaving Australia
- Goods that do not have GST included
- Services (car hire, tours, hotels, sight-seeing etc)
- Gift cards
How to claim the Tourist Refund Scheme Money Back
Always allow plenty of time to claim your refund at the airport, the process is not a quick one. When arriving at the airport, look out for the Australian customs, most major airports have the TRS facility. If you struggle to locate customs, go to your closest information point for assistance.
When you arrive at the customs desk, present the goods you want to claim GST back on, their respective invoices and your outbound travelling documents. (Boarding pass and passport)
Another, probably more convenient option, is to use the Customs and Border Protection mobile and web Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) applications which allow you to enter the information required to lodge a TRS claim (see here). Basically, you can upload the required information needed to submit a claim ahead of time using the app, after which this information is stored in a QR code. This QR code functions as your TRS claim code. All you then need to do is simply present this code to a Customs and Border Protection officer at the TRS counter on your departure from Australia.
If all information meets the requirements, you will be given 3 choices; to have the refund deposited into an Australian bank account (ideal for Oz residents), personal cheque or the refund applied directly onto a credit card of your choosing.
If you have any personal experience re-claiming GST or know somebody who has and feel I have missed out any important details, please let me know in the comments below. Thank you.