Tax refunds on goods taken overseas

The Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) offers tax refunds to international travellers for products that are purchased in Australia, then taken out of the country. International passengers are entitled to a refund of the GST or WET (wine equalisation tax) on almost any product purchased in Australia, which they don’t intend to bring back into the country. The scheme offers some nice financial rewards to overseas travellers. But are there any catches to be aware of?

Firstly, tax can only be refunded if you are claiming at least $300 worth of goods from the same retailer. These products do not necessarily need to have been bought in the same transaction, however all goods must have been purchased from the same store within the last 60 days. Secondly, you will need to present the goods for inspection at the TRS office in the airport. Thirdly, you must have purchased the goods yourself and have a valid tax invoice. Other than that, it’s a fairly straightforward process.

Our members have reported mixed experiences with the tourist refund scheme. In particular, it is noted that there are often very long queues. However there is now a trick to skip the queue. By downloading the TRS app and filling out the form in advance, travellers no longer need to wait with everyone else. A number of our members have reported success with using this method.

I took a morning flight ex-SYD a few weeks ago and certainly having the app and completed QR code would have saved me 30 mins from lining up in the regular queue as the ‘app’ queue was empty except for one guy who was processed right away. It was 7am so there were only two custom officers processing which didn’t help proceedings. I will definitely be using this from now on.

Goods that are brought back into the country will be subject to tax, however there are a few loopholes here. Firstly, each passenger has a concession of $900 meaning they can bring back up to $900 worth of products without paying tax. This includes goods bought overseas and goods that were taken out of Australia having had the tax refunded. This amount can actually be pooled, so a couple travelling together would have an allowance of $1,800. Finally, the value of the goods brought back into Australia can be reasonably depreciated. So, if you bought something for $1,000 but can reasonably prove that it is worth under $900 when you return, then you won’t need to pay any tax back. However, if there is doubt it is important to declare the goods. One member did so after returning from overseas, and was rewarded for their honesty.

Being a bit nervous on the way back thinking he might have flagged me in the system I decided to tick the box on the customs card so when we arrived at the airport the customs officer asked what we were claiming, showed him the ring said it was a bit over $1000 and he said don’t worry about it and welcome back home.

Have you used the Tourist Refund Scheme? Find out more or share your own experience HERE.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]