Claim Tax Back with the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS)

Claim Back GST with the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS)
TRS office at Sydney Airport. Photo: Matt Graham.

Whenever you travel overseas from Australia (including to New Zealand), you may be able to claim a tax refund for items you recently purchased in Australia and are carrying out of the country with you.

The Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) allows anyone departing Australia, including Australian citizens leaving temporarily, to get a refund for the Goods & Services Tax (GST) or Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) paid on items bought in Australia. You can claim a tax refund at the airport when you leave the country, as long as you export the item/s and show the receipt/s.

Here’s how the Tourist Refund Scheme works…

What items are eligible for a TRS tax refund?

You can claim back the GST or WET on any items you’ve purchased in Australia, provided the following criteria are met:

  • You’ll need to show the physical item/s at the TRS office at the airport
  • You purchased the item/s within 60 days prior to leaving Australia
  • The item/s are worth at least AUD300 (you can claim multiple smaller items with a total combined value of $300 or more, but they would need to be bought from the same business – i.e. the ABN number on the receipt/s is the same)
  • You must show the original receipt/s in English with the date, retailer’s name & ABN, and the amount of GST/WET paid, clearly showing
  • If you spent more than $1,000, your full name must be on the receipt

The following items are not eligible for a TRS refund:

  • Items bought for a business
  • Items bought by other people (i.e. when someone else’s name is on the receipt)
  • Alcohol, except wine with an alcohol content of less than 22%
  • Tobacco products
  • Goods already consumed or partially used in Australia (e.g. food, opened cosmetic products, etc.)

You also cannot make a TRS claim if you are an operating air crew member or travelling to an Australian external territory such as Norfolk Island.

There are various other exemptions, which you can read about on the Australian Border Force website.

How to claim your TRS tax refund

To claim your GST or WET refund, visit the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) office at the airport at least 30 minutes before your flight is due to depart.

You’ll need to show the original receipt/s and the physical products to the Border Force officer who will process your claim on the spot. In order to get the tax refunded, you’ll also need to provide your credit card, debit card or bank account details. Refunds can take up to 60 days to be processed.

If you have oversize items or liquids (such as wine) which can’t be taken on board the flight as carry-on luggage and therefore need to be checked in, you can have your items sighted by a Border Force officer before you pass through airport security (see TRS website for a list of locations). The officer will stamp your receipt, which you’ll then need to take to the TRS office after clearing international passport control.

TRS receipt stamps
Your receipts will be stamped by the Border Force officer processing your TRS claim. Photo: Matt Graham.

TRS offices are found at most Australian airports that normally handle scheduled international flights, except for Melbourne’s Avalon Airport (AVV), Townsville (TSV), Port Hedland (PHE) and Norfolk Island (NLK).

This is where you’ll find the TRS offices at Australian airports:

  • Sydney (SYD) – near gate 9 in Terminal 1
  • Melbourne (MEL) – within the main duty-free store after security in Terminal 2
  • Brisbane (BNE) – just after international security, to the right of the Lotte Duty Free store entrance
  • Perth (PER) – between passport control & security in Terminals 1 & 3
  • Gold Coast – in the international departures lounge
  • Adelaide (ADL) – after passport control
  • Cairns (CNS) – Terminal 1, after passport control
  • Darwin (DRW) – near gate 10
  • Hobart (HBA) – TRS claims can be processed by customs officers
  • Canberra (CBR) – international departures area

Completing a TRS application online or via the Tourist Refund Scheme App

To save time at the airport, you can complete your TRS application online using the My TRS Claim service, or by filling out your details in the Tourist Refund Scheme mobile App. You’ll then be given a QR code which you can then scan at the airport TRS office.

But pre-filling your information and uploading your receipts online is merely a way to save time – you’ll still need to visit the airport TRS office on the day of travel.

Can you bring items back into Australia after claiming a tax refund?

The reason you’re allowed to claim back tax via the Tourist Refund Scheme is that you’re exporting the items from Australia – and therefore are not liable to pay tax on them. But if you bring the item/s back into the country, you may need to declare this.

The good news is that you have a duty-free concession of AUD900 (or foreign currency equivalent) when returning to Australia. So if you’re bringing tax-free items (either purchased overseas or purchased in Australia with the tax refunded) worth less than $900 into Australia, you don’t need to declare this or pay tax.

This allowance can be pooled between family members travelling together. The allowance for adults is $900, while for children and crew members it is $450 each. (Note that children do not receive any concession for alcohol or tobacco products.) So if you’re travelling as a family of four with two adults and two children, you could bring up to AUD2,700 worth of goods back into Australia without needing to declare this.

Goods could also be depreciated. For example, a phone that originally cost $950 could be considered to be worth under $900 by the time you return to Australia if it has been used for several months while you were overseas and now has a lower resale value.

If in doubt, you should declare “yes” on your inbound passenger card to importing goods worth over AUD900 as the government has cracked down on people importing goods over their duty-free allowance in the past.

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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]

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Phillip Livingstone

The problem is that often the time between domestic to international boardings is so short, there isn’t time to claim OR the line of people and the slow processing from the counters makes it impossible to claim as you run the risk of missing boarding times. The process perception is that it is staffed to discourage use.

rayB

With long queues and very few staff processing claims, it would take several hours to get a refund. Why bother, which of course, is the whole idea