Aussie residents and tourists alike can save money on their shopping by claiming a GST rebate at Australian international airport TRS counters before jetting overseas – but the process can often prove quite slow, particularly when travellers aren't properly prepared.
Here's how to spend less time waiting in that long TRS rebate line, and more time in the airport lounge!
New to TRS refunds? Read first: Your guide to Australia’s GST Refund Scheme (TRS)
1. Learn the rules and know what you can claim
Before you shop, know that you’ll need to buy at least $300 worth of GST-inclusive goods from a single Australian business to qualify for a TRS claim, and that your purchase needs to have been made in the 60 days prior to leaving Australia to be eligible.
You don’t need to spend that entire $300 (or more) in a single transaction: you might spend $200 on one day, and return to the same business at a later date to spend more.
Provided the total of all of your purchases from that business is $300 or more and all items were bought within that 60-day window, you’re set.
It’s also acceptable to buy goods from multiple locations of the same business (such as different stores belonging to the same chain), provided the same ABN appears on all of your invoices and the total spent at that business is $300 or more across all of your transactions.
Just keep in mind that the $300 minimum threshold is per business (ABN), not per claim – so if you spend $200 on goods from one business, and a further $200 on goods from a different business which has a different ABN, you won’t be eligible to submit a claim, as you won't have spend $300 or more at a single business.
2. Make sure larger invoices contain your name and address
Any single tax invoice of $1,000 or more is required to include either your name, home or mailing address, email address or passport number (or a combination of the above) to qualify for a TRS claim: without this information, your claim can be rejected.
If you receive a tax invoice without these details, the business you’ve purchased from may be able to provide you with an updated invoice to comply with these TRS rules.
Where a business is unable to include these details on an invoice, we’ve had success in asking store managers to handwrite our name and particulars onto the printed invoice, while also writing their own name and job title, signing underneath and including a store stamp, resulting in a successful TRS claim.
3. Use the TRS mobile app to fast-track your claim
Download and use the TRS mobile phone app to record the details of your TRS claim, including the items and amounts you’re claiming and each business’ ABN details.
On arrival at the TRS counter, head to the separate ‘TRS app’ queue, flash the barcode generated by your smartphone and present your boarding pass, passport and purchased goods for a quick check.
Using the app, we typically find processing times to be 60 seconds or less once reaching the counter – must faster than having TRS staff manually enter all of your details into their computer.
4. Arrive early, allowing plenty of time
There can be extensive queues at the TRS rebate office, particularly in the morning peak...
... so arrive at the airport as early as you can (such as three hours before departure) and make the TRS desk your first stop, so that afterwards you can relax in the lounge.
Another reason to get in early: claims are not available from 30 minutes prior your flight’s scheduled departure time.
5. Have larger goods or liquids sighted before security and immigration
Travellers can claim GST refunds on larger goods like skis and golf clubs which can’t be carried into aircraft cabins – as they can for certain liquids like unopened perfumes – but when transporting these in your checked baggage, you’ll need to have them sighted before ditching your bags.
This takes place at Australian Border Force ‘client services offices’ located before security at major international airports, where you can present oversized or security-restricted goods for inspection.
(Locations of these offices vary from airport to airport: consult local airport maps for locations and hours.)
Once sighted, they can safely be placed in your checked baggage. Complete check-in as usual, head through security and passport control and then swing by the normal TRS claim desk – instead of showing the goods here, just hand over the document you received when your goods were sighted to assist with your claim.
6. Receive your GST refund by bank transfer, rather than by credit card
Approved TRS claims can be paid back to you by electronic funds transfer, cheque, or via a refund onto your preferred credit card.
The credit card option may be tempting, but as these are processed as ‘credit card refunds’ rather than ‘credit card payments’, most banks will treat this like any other in-store refund: reversing any points earned on the refunded amount.
Instead, take your refund by bank transfer to retain your full points haul, or if you must use a card, whip out a Visa Debit or Debit MasterCard which earns no points to avoid losing any when your refund is processed.
7. You may need to declare goods brought back to Australia
When entering Australia, all adult travellers can bring up to $900 worth of goods into the country tax-free, while children can each bring up to $450. Families can pool their allowance, so a couple with one child could bring up to $2,250 of tax-free goods into Australia, per trip.
Those allowances include any goods for which TRS claims were successfully made on the same trip, along with goods purchased while overseas.
In short, if you’re a solo traveller and the value of the goods claimed via TRS was more than $900 (excluding GST), you’re supposed to declare this when you return to Australia: so consider claiming larger purchases when travelling with a partner or family, pooling their allowance with yours to maximise your savings.