Traveller Tax refunds – should I declare on return?

One of the benefits of heading overseas is the ability to claim back GST (and some other taxes) on departure, thanks to the Tourist Refund Scheme. This nice little perk applies for both residents and visitors. While it may not seem much, GST can add up to a bit of money, especially on expensive goods. That refund can help offset the cost of the trip. But there are a few traps to be aware of!

The first trap is getting the goods inspected. While sealed bag sales are a thing of the past, you still need to get your purchases checked that you intend to make a claim on within 60 days of purchase. If it’s a big item normally not suitable for carry on, there are locations before customs at major airports for this listed here. Otherwise you must attend the refund booth airside, with claims able to be made up to 30 minutes before your flight departure time. It’s recommended you allow 90 minutes as the refund office can get popular at times.

With that done, one of our members asks an interesting question about what to do after the claim, when returning home with the goods

She scanned the receipt, and my passport and I assume wrote down my details. The receipt also contained the serial number for the laptop. I will be bring the laptop back into Australia, I was wondering if it was likely that I would be flagged/searched and if I should take the precaution of declaring the laptop again?

Just because the goods have been exported, and GST refunded, does not make them GST exempt on return. You still need to declare all goods (including those exported) on return above your tax free limit of $900 per adult. That amount is based on the price paid. But all is not lost when it comes to keeping that refund

goods only depreciate 20% in the first 3 months for customs purposes

Let’s look at that in a typical scenario. If you are to buy a $1100 Laptop, you have received a $100 GST refund on leaving the country. On return it needs to be declared as its “price” was above the $900 threshold. Assessing it value for tax payable, customs uses its valuation on return, which is $1000-20%. This takes it to around $800 and below the threshold for payment. Refund kept and no more tax paid. Sometimes you can be lucky, and be rewarded for your honesty on more expensive items

I bought my lap top last year… All up I think it cost about $1600. … declared it on the way back in. Customs looked at the receipt, had a chat, went away for a bit and then waved me through no dramas

It seems like always, honesty pays. Risking anything else with the computer tracking power the authorities have does seem foolhardy. What has been your experience with claiming GST back on items, join the discussion HERE.

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