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Travel trip: how to claim the TRS airport refund on Australian GST

By David Flynn     Filed under: shopping, airport, duty free

An estimated 1.3 million Australians fly overseas each year, and almost half of those are on business trips. Yet we have to wonder how many of these travellers realise they can get a full GST refund on everything from laptops, smartphones and cameras to watches, jewellery and shoes.

It’s called the Tourist Refund Scheme or TRS. Created for tourists but also available to locals, the TRS provides a full GST refund issued at any Australian international airport.

Provided you follow a few simple guidelines the TRS will see that 10% GST sales tax land right back in your pocket or purse. (Did we mention that purses are also eligible for the GST rebate?)

There are four simple rules for claiming the TRS refund.

1. The goods have to be over $300 in value. This can be one item costing over $300, or several products totalling over $300 which have been bought from the same retailer (with the same Australian Business Number). 

2. They have to be bought within 60 days of your departure. So if you’ve got an overseas trip coming up, this could be the right time to buy your new laptop or camera. You can use this gear before you fly – it doesn’t need to stay sitting sealed in the box.

3. You have to bring the goods to the airport as carry-on baggage. You can’t stow them in your checked luggage. That's because you need to present the gear at the airport TRS office.

4. You have to bring the invoice with you. There's no special GST refund paperwork or duty-free forms to be issued at the store, just the everyday invoice. However, any tax invoice exceeding $1,000 will need to include your address. This isn't normal practice at many stores, so don't get caught out.

The TRS refund offices are located past customs at the airport (called ‘airside’, in travelgeek-speak) so you’ll need to check in for your flight and make your way through customs before heading to the TSR refund office.

There can be a bit of a queue, especially in the mornings, so allow plenty of time – consider making the TRS refund office your first stop, even before you hit the lounge.

Show the TRS officers your purchases and your invoice, and hand over your credit card or bank account details so the 10% GST can be refunded (you can also ask for a cheque, but that can take three weeks to be processed and posted to you).

Here’s where we have to sound a caveat: the TRS is intended for products that are not coming back into Australia.

In the case of locals this usually means you’ve bought a gift for family, friends or colleagues overseas.

For more on the TRS rebate scheme, visit the Customs.gov.au site or download this PDF.

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 23/3/11 by ashnallawalla

Until my trip on Christmas Eve I didn't realise how much time would be lost standing in the queue in MEL. At least 30 minutes. The actual processing time was about one minute. I didn't know about the address requirement but my $1100 invoice was accepted with a friendly mention about that rule.

A clarification about "The TRS is intended for products that are not coming back into Australia." - I can't see that in the Customs PDF but it's really saying that while you will get a GST refund while leaving Australia, you may have to pay it when you return. In my case, I was travelling with my family and the item was a lens that I used on the trip. I declared it on the incoming Customs form and did not have to pay GST on the return trip. Had I been alone, who knows, since they usually treat the item as "used" and you avoid GST.

The other learning for me is that I need not have carried the lens packaging, which was a pain to carry in the hand luggage. The TRS employee told me that they only needed to check the make and model of the item and there is no need to carry the packaging.

2 on 10/7/11 by echa2949

Last year, I queued up in the TRS line at Sydney Airport. I arrived at the airport 3 hours ahead of my scheduled flight to New York, but check-in took 1 hour and customs took another 45 minutes. By the time I finally got to the TRS area, I only had 60 minutes to claim my GST. The TRS line was ridiculous - it snaked inside the room, and also outside the room for at least 5-6 metres out into the corridor. After 35 minutes of waiting, I had only got into the middle of the line. I then made a dash for boarding. It was quite ridiculous.

After arriving in New York, I wrote them an email explaining my situation specifying that I had arrived at the airport with ample time to claim the GST and that but for the unexpectedly long queues for check-in, customs and TRS, I would have been able to claim my GST. There was no fault on my part.

Three weeks later or so, they responded. They were more than happy to process my claim retrospectively (it was probably now almost 2 months since I had bought the product). All I had to do was send them a scanned copy of my passport, the invoice/receipt and my boarding pass. After several days, they got back to me, stating that my GST refund was approved and requesting for my credit card details or address to which they could send a cheque. Within a week, the refunded amount was credited towards my credit card!

I'm not sure how widespread this practice of retrospective GST refund claims, whilst being overseas, is but I was pleased that they were more than willing to offer the GST refund via email.

3 on 25/11/11 by timxyoung

You have to wonder whether Australian Customs deliberately locate their TRS offices airside to put people off using this scheme? Other countries -- such as UK, Singapore -- locate their facilities prior to check-in. Oh how convenient. Get your refund. Check your goods in. Board your flight unfettered by all the goods you just bought in David Jones. Here's a real tip for travellers: don't buy your goods in Australia, get 'em overseas when you arrive.

1 on 17/4/13 by KG

Agreed on the slight inconvenience to have to take any of your purchased goods in your handluggage.

The TRS government website does state that oversized goods or liquids (cases of wine) can be checked in but should be sighted prior to check in  at the Customs and Border Protection Client Services counter.

Not sure if you can rock up there with just any goods (as opposed to oversized goods or liquids) you want to check in to avoid schlepping them around at the airport? Does anybody have any expereicne with this travelling ex Australia?

1 on 17/4/13 by t

Once, I rocked up with a Nespresson Pixie machine which definitely fit inside a carry-on but can't be bothered carrying it through multiple transit points. Not a problem. On another occasion I claimed TRS for the luggage I used and therefore must be checked in. The customs officer didn't even check if the invoice matches the item and just stamped it.

4 on 30/8/13 by Sreypov

Hi! I was wondering on claiming the TRS, do I need to bring the box of the product or not? Is it alright if i bring only the product?

Thanks

5 on 4/10/13 by Brett

Anyone had any experience with much larger items such as a bike?  The customs site says items must comply with carry on size, but I have been told by a couple of people they have managed to claim back gst on a bike they travelled OS with

 

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