Everything You Need to Know About the Australian Tourist Refund Scheme
Post updated September 2018. For the most up to date information on the Australian Tourist Refund Scheme, see the Department of Immigration Website.
“Free Money” is generally the kind of tag line which attracts instant attention for something completely unrelated, but in this case it’s kind of half true! (so only 50% unrelated!!)
I consider myself to be a pretty seasoned international traveller, and thought I knew all of the tricks of the trade when it came to navigating through airports, however I had never heard of the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) until only recently sitting down for lunch with a customs official who doubles as my cousin.
The TRS allows you to claim the GST (Goods and Services Tax) back on any goods purchased within Australia within 30 days prior to your international flight…subject to certain conditions of course!! It works out as an 11% refund of what you paid. Amazing right?! See below for how!
➡ Spend $300 (GST inclusive) or more in the one store and keep the single tax invoice / reciept. (You can buy goods from different stores but each store’s tax invoice needs to total at least $300 including GST).
➡ Tax invoices for purchases of $1,000 need to include additional information like the name and address of the purchaser.
➡ Purchase the goods no more than 60 days before your departure from Australia (you as the traveler have to be the one who has made the purchase)
➡ Wear or carry the goods on board the aircraft or ship and present them along with your original tax invoice, passport and international boarding pass to a Customs and Border Protection Officer at a TRS facility.
➡ Claims at the airport are only available up to 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure of your flight.
I delayed the actual payment of my wedding dress specifically for the purpose of getting my 11% refund, which on a $1800 dress worked out at about $188; a decent amount of spending money for cocktails on the beach once in Hawaii! We ended up sending the wedding dress over in checked baggage however.
Due to the delay in my fiance visa and having to return to Australia for my interview at the Sydney Consulate we thought it would be more difficult to prove I was travelling to the states for the purpose of a family holiday and planning on returning if I tried to walk through immigration with an American fiance and a wedding dress!!
I couldn’t even palm the dress off to my parents because it is a legal requirement that the person who purchases the goods must be the person who makes the claim for a refund of GST. Our ceremony went off without a hitch and I’m happy to report I did not spend my wedding day in a holding cell at the department of immigration!!
Things You Need to Know
Back on track…The TRS doesn’t apply to goods consumed or partly consumed in Australia like wine, chocolate or perfume. However, unlike tourist shopping schemes abroad, most of the goods, such as clothing and cameras, can be used in Australia before you depart.
The TRS is open to everyone; visitors and Australian residents; just not air or sea crew. Just remember to be concious of liquid, aerosol and gel restrictions for hand luggage.
You need to rock up well in advance of departure, at least 90 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time of your flight to ensure you have sufficient time to successfully lodge your TRS claim. You won’t be able to make a claim 30 minutes or less before your flight time.
To find the location of the TRS facility, check the website of the airport where you will depart Australia from. This is the airport where you will clear outwards immigration formalities and not necessarily the airport where you check in your luggage.
Refunds Are Paid As;
➡ Credit to an Australian bank account; or
➡ Payment to a credit card
You can make a claim at a TRS booth past Customs and Immigration outwards processing at international airports in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin and Gold Coast.
So what are you waiting for? Send yourself money to Australia and remember to keep all of your recipets to lodge your claim. Happy Shopping!