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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!

 The Conditions

➡ 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.

You couldn’t possibly dream of better shopping than what is offered by Bangkok’s EM District.

My Experience

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;

➡ Cheque

➡ 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!

    34 Comments

  1. Yes, Megan, this scheme certainly works!

    I got my GST refunded onto my credit card earlier this year when I left Sydney airport heading to New Zealand with my brand new MacBook Pro (bought at the Apple store in Sydney).

    I’m hanging on to buy the new iPad Air until I return to Australia in 2014 for the very same reason :)

    Excellent scheme for tourists.

    • Fantastic!! Well safe travels and a happy new year; glad to hear you can take advantage of the scheme – such a great initiative for the government to put in place!

    • How long does it take to get your Australian VAT refund credited back to your credit card. Mine has been almost 2 months and I still have not received back my credit.
      Where do I make a follow up on the VAT or tax refund.
      Thank you.

    • Hi David. Refunds to a credit card or to an Australian bank account will generally be paid within 60 days. Refunds by cheque can take up to two months.

      I’m not 100% on who you would contact to follow up, however I would start with placing a query on https://www.border.gov.au/about/contact/make-enquiry as I would assume it’s the department of immigration who would be dealing with the scheme. There’s a webform and a phone number on that website, so I would start there, and then at least if they’re not the correct department they should be able to point you to whoever is :)

      Hope that helps!

  2. Just don’t pack the receipt in your checked baggage like I did!

    • Duly noted…good tip!! Lol that would have been so annoying!!

  3. One thing to remember though, is that a lot of good are more expensive here than other places in the world. So in some cases, the GST you get back brings it down to the same price as elsewhere.

    • Very true – Australia is incredibly expensive, so it probably does end up evening out!

  4. Does any body know what is the opening hours of TRS office?

    • It seems like all TRS booths across the country are open for the earliest international flight.

      “The Tourist Refund Scheme office will be open for your flight. You need to attend the office more than 30 minutes before schedule departure time for your flight. The processing of Tourist Refund Scheme monies close 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time for your flight.”

  5. How did you go with getting back into the country with your wedding dress… did you have to declare it on your incoming passenger card?

    • Didn’t have a problem with the dress back into Aus – didn’t have to declare it because I was a citizen returning with something I left with. As a citizen you only need to declare items like clothing etc that you purchased overseas during the course of your trip.

      So basically anything you’re bringing back that you didn’t leave the country with you have to declare – is my understanding.

  6. can u claim your refund after you have left i was flying brisbane via melbourn dublin and didnt have enough time to claim my gst i had only 25minutes to contect to my next flight when i arrived at the gst desk there were 5 people before me i was in a wheelchair and the airport attend ask to put my goods through but she was told i would have to wait in que which i didnt have enough time is there any thing i can do now to get my refore now that i am back in ireland 20 /april/2016

    • Hi Patricia – unfortunately I don’t believe you can make your claim after you’ve already returned home. Has to be claimed by by visiting the TRS facility in an international airport before boarding your flight.

      You can always reach out to the actual department of immigration and border protection and ask (https://www.border.gov.au/about/contact/make-enquiry), but I’m fairly certain it has to be done in Australia.

      Hope you enjoyed your time in Australia :)

  7. Wandering around Australia is too expansive,Free money instantly attracts many peoples.
    Very interested article, enjoyed a lot while reading..
    Hoping for more amazing blogs too.Keep it up1!

    • Glad the article was informative for you Alice :) Happy travels!

  8. “Didn’t have a problem with the dress back into Aus – didn’t have to declare it because I was a citizen returning with something I left with. As a citizen you only need to declare items like clothing etc that you purchased overseas during the course of your trip.”

    This is incorrect, you do need to declare items you are bringing into the country over $900 (or combined allowance with family travelling), or if you have claimed the TRS the item is not meant to be returned to Australia and if it is and is over your limit, you have to declare it and can be asked to repay the applicable GST.

    • Thanks for the correction Kristen. Though in saying that you do need to declare items you are bringing into the country over $900, regardless of whether or not you left with it, that would mean every passenger having to declare their laptop every single time, correct? Of course I don’t know that this ever happens (as a for instance).

      Makes sense re the TRS not being set up to accommodate items returning to the country.

      Thanks!

  9. Can you spend $300 over a few transactions in the same store to claim your GST refund or is it in one single transaction i.e $300.00?

    • When I wrote this post, the $300 had to be on a single tax invoice, though the Australian Border agency website now says that if you bought items from one business, even on separate invoices, that together total AUD 300, these items could be eligible for a tax refund under the TRS.

      So make sure that it’s from the same store, and keep all receipts. More info here: https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Tour/Are-you-a-traveller

      Hope you’re having a fab time in Aus :)

  10. Hi there,
    My son left for an overseas trip this morning with his partner and he had with him an engagement ring (for a surprise proposal),also a receipt from jewellery store with his details on it value $3000.00 purchased 5 days before travelling. At the TRS desk he was told he couldn’t claim back the GST as they will be bringing the ring back into Australia ?? He had to wait for an hour in the queue so had to get going to board his flight.
    I suggested he keep his boarding pass and on his return to Australia he can look into this. Can you give us any advice ?? Thankyou

    • Hi Julie, first of all, congrats on a new daughter in law!! Re the ring, it looks like the Dept of Immigration now includes a cap on the value of goods you can bring back into Australia if you’ve already received the refund.

      The info is on their website here – if you’re 18 + you can bring up to AUD 900 worth of goods back, but if it is greater than this you would need to repay the GST refund. So my guess is that’s why he was told the refund doesn’t apply to a $3,000 ring.

      I’ve updated the post with the new information to make sure it’s clearer. There’s also a TRS mobile and web app now which allows you to enter the information required to lodge a TRS claim so if you still wanted to give it another try you could maybe take that approach. App link here.

      Hope that helps!

  11. Can you open the goods and get GST refund? What time the duty-free office open?

    • Hi Nancy, I do not believe there are any rules which say you can’t open the goods.

      Re timings, each airport has a different TRS office. Sydney airport duty free claims are open 5am–10:30pm. For other airports, google “what time does trs open at XXXX airport”.

      Hope that helps!

  12. Hi there! How long does it take to get the refund paid on a NZ debit card? i read before that up to 2 months??? that´s a long time! can you confirm that it is still that long? thanks!!

    • Hi Mel, thanks for reaching out :) The most recent information on the TRS website lists the refund turnaround as within 60 days. So 2 months should be the maximum amount of time it takes. It does seem like a long time, but I guess that’s all government paperwork and red tape!!

  13. Hi
    Beside to produce the invoice as evidence for refund, is there any printed form that the Shop will have to provide for this purpose?
    As my experience in Ither countries, the shop will print a refund slip along side the invoice or provide a form for you to fill up for the refund purpose which is to submit to the TRS

  14. Hi Mag, to my knowledge, all you need is the original tax invoice (not a photocopy, it must be the original) for the goods.

    A tax invoice / receipt must have the following information:

    *the seller’s identity

    *the seller’s Australian business number (ABN)

    *the date the invoice was issued

    *a brief description of the items sold, including the quantity (if applicable) and the price

    *the GST amount (if any) payable – this can be shown separately or, if the GST amount is one-eleventh of the total price, as a statement such as ‘Total price includes GST’
    the items on the invoice where GST in include and the items that are GST free.

    *tax invoices for sales of $1000 or more must include the buyer’s identity, for example their name or passport number.

  15. Hello Megan,

    We’re getting married in Bali next month but my partner had purchased her wedding dress about 6 months ago. Does it have to be within the 30 or 60 day window before departure?

    • Hi Dean, yes unfortunately it needed to be purchased within the 60 day window prior to departure from Australia (looks like it’s been updated from 30 to 60 since I last updated this post, so will make the amendment above).

      Congrats on your upcoming wedding, Bali sounds magical!

  16. Hi,

    Is it possible to get the refund on my Forex travel card?

    Thanks!

  17. Hi Ritu, my understanding is that refunds will only be made via cheque, credit to an Australian bank account, or to a credit card. You can probably ask them when you’re there if you can put it onto a travel card, but I’m not sure if they treat this in the same was as a credit card. If you need to know for sure before hand you can shoot them an email to trs@abf.gov.au :)

    Happy travels!

  18. Hi there, can I claim for food/meals that I consume at restaurants, purchase groceries, transport/rail/uber, household items that I am not bringing back with me to Kuala Lumpur?

    • Hi Manjit. You cannot claim costs for goods or services that you have consumed / used in Australia, or that you intend to leave here – you can only claim for goods that you are taking with you.

      Hope that helps!

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