The Federal Government is tightening its watch on Australian passport holders who claim a 10% tax rebate on expensive items before flying out of the country.
The Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) allows for a full rebate of the 10% GST on goods worth $300 or more and purchased within 60 days of leaving Australia.
While the program is obviously aimed at overseas visitors to Australia, the Department of Home Affairs – through its Australian Border Force arm – is acting on concerns that the generous scheme is being abused by residents to claw back 10% on everything from smartphones and laptops to jewellery and clothing.
Australian residents are permitted to claim the TRS refund before flying overseas, but are required to declare the goods on their return.
According to the Dept of Home Affairs website: "If you return to Australia with goods for which you have claimed a GST refund under the TRS on departure, you must declare those goods at Question 3 on the Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) if their value exceeds the passenger concession of AUD900."
"GST refunds received on goods exceeding the passenger concession will have to be repaid if the items are brought into Australia."
Australian Business Traveller reader Craig Reiner said he was questioned by ABF officials at Melbourne Airport's TRS office while claiming the GST rebate on a new Apple iPad Pro and keyboard.
"The officer asked if I would be bringing the goods back into Australia, to which I replied no, it was for my Asian sales agent," Reiner said.
"She took a photocopy of my passport and said that my return flight next week had been noted and my bags would be flagged for inspection, in case I brought my purchases back into Australia but didn't declare them."
Reiner said the TRS officer added that this was part of a "clampdown" on Australian passport holders claiming the GST rebate on expensive items.
While declining to comment on specifics, a spokesperson from Australian Border Force told Australian Business Traveller "the ABF actively targets anyone they suspect of attempting to defraud the TRS scheme."
"If an ABF officer considers that this may occur, they will retain copies of claim documents, including passports."
Have you had a similar experience at any Australian airport TRS rebate offices?