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.
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.