Tourist refund scheme

Travellers departing Australia can get a GST or WET refund under the tourist refund scheme (TRS), administered by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS). The scheme applies to certain goods purchased from an Australian retailer that has an Australian business number (ABN) and is registered for GST, by travellers at prices that include GST or WET. It does not apply to services such as accommodation. If a traveller has purchased GST-free goods, they cannot get a refund under the scheme.

The requirements of the scheme are that a traveller may claim a refund under the TRS if they:

1. buy a minimum of $300 worth of goods from one retailer

2. buy the goods no earlier than 60 days before departing Australia

3. hold tax invoices from the same registered retailer for a total of at least $300 for goods

4. carry or wear the goods on board the aircraft or ship as cabin baggage

5. present their tax invoices, goods, passport and boarding pass to the TRS booth when departing Australia.

Residents of Australia's external territories, such as Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, can also obtain a refund of GST where they export the goods to their home territory as unaccompanied baggage. The external territory resident can arrange for goods to be exported home and present their tax invoices, proof of residency in their home territory and proof that the goods have been exported, or that arrangements have been put in place for the goods to be exported within 60 days, to the Tourist Refund facility as they depart Australia. A refund of GST (and WET if applicable) will be paid once all of the documentation is available.

Refunds are available until 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time of the traveller's aircraft, so as not to compromise the on-time airline departure schedules and affect the efficient operation of the airport.

The TRS does not apply to services - for example, accommodation. The TRS is administered by ACBPS. If a traveller has purchased goods GST-free they cannot also get a refund under the TRS.

Customs may refer false or misleading Tourist Refund claims to the ATO. If this happens we may decide to review the claim and even if the traveller did not get a refund they could be penalised.

If a traveller brings goods back into Australia that they have made a claim for a GST refund under TRS and the value of those goods (combined with any other overseas purchases) exceeds AUD $900, they must be declared to Australian Customs and Border Protection Services and the GST refund will have to be repaid. GST is payable on the entire value of the items, not just the amount that is over the AUD $900 limit. Penalties may apply to undeclared taxable goods.

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