GST refunds

When you travel overseas, you can claim a refund of GST paid on items purchased before your departure. Not all items are eligible and the refunds are not paid in cash. Here are the guidelines for claiming refunds as well as what to do when you bring back items you purchase during your trip.

Whether you are on a business trip or simply taking a holiday outside the country, you may want to take advantage of the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS).

Under the TRS, you can claim a full GST refund on a vast assortment of goods ranging from laptops and smartphones, to cameras, watches, jewellery, shoes and briefcases. The refunds are available to all Australian residents as well as overseas visitors. The scheme is not available to working air and sea crew.

There are four basic guidelines for claiming a GST refund:

1. The goods must have a value of more than A$300, including GST. This can be one or several items that have been bought from the same retailer with the same Australian Business Number).

2. The items must be purchased within 60 days of your departure. The goods don’t have to stay sealed in their original box. You can use them before you leave.

3. You must wear or carry the goods on board the aircraft or ship. They cannot be included with checked in luggage. This includes oversized items such as surfboards and golf clubs.

4. Present your claimed goods with your tax invoices, passport and international boarding pass to a Customs and Border Protection officer at a TRS facility when you are leaving the country. Present your claim no later than 30 minutes before your flight’s scheduled departure time or, in the event of an ocean cruise, no earlier than four hours and no later than one hour before the scheduled departure.

Allow time to complete check-in and outwards clearance formalities and for queuing at the TRS facility. 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.

You may buy the items in one or more transactions, provided they purchases are from one Australian Business Number retailer. You may claim separate refunds for goods bought from more than one store, but each claim must be for at least A$300 from the same retailer.

It is important to remember to bring your invoices. Refunds will not be provided them. If you plan to claim a refund on purchases valued at more than $1,000 you must include your name and address on the invoice. This isn’t normal practice at many stores, so don’t get caught out.

You can collect your refund as a:

  • payment to a credit card;
  • credit to an Australian bank account; or
  • cheque.

Credit card and bank account credits generally are made within five business days. Customs and Border Protection aims to post cheque refunds within 15 business days. Refunds are not made in cash.

Some items are excluded from GST refunds, including:

  • beer and spirits (wine and wine products are eligible);
  • tobacco products which can be purchased from duty free shops;
  • consumables wholly or partially consumed in Australia;
  • goods that are prohibited on aircraft or ships for safety reasons including gas cylinders, fireworks and aerosol sprays;
  • unaccompanied goods (including freighted or posted goods)
  • services such as accommodation, tours, car rental and labour charges; and
  • items purchased over the Internet and imported into Australia.

Goods purchased overseas and brought into Australia may be subject to GST. Normal passenger concessions apply and include items for which a TRS claim has been approved. When the value of TRS claimed goods — together with duty-free and overseas purchases — exceeds your passenger concession, the items must be declared on your return to Australia. Penalties apply to undeclared taxable goods.

If in doubt, declare the goods to a Customs and Border Protection officer on your return.

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