Seven easy ways to speed through your TRS airport GST refunds

By Chris C., December 26 2017
Seven easy ways to speed through your TRS airport GST refunds

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.

Also read: Tourist Refund Scheme rules give larger TRS rebates, more time to shop

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

And point no. 7 is AUSBT's "Cover Your Arse" clause, in the name of good corporate citizenship ;)


16 Nov 2011

Total posts 596

Indeed. Make a big claim, they will be watching for you when you come back. 

A friend of mine claimed on a $10k wedding ring when he was flying to his wedding in Thailand. When he returned to Aus he was question at customs about if he had brought the ring back. Lucky for him his wife didn't have a visa yet so he didn't have it and she wasn't with him, otherwise would have been GST paid back and probably a fine for not declaring.

So they must have some kind of matching system when you make bigger claims to alert officers on your return.

She came a few months later on her own, but of course nothing linking her to the claimed purchase so she walked right on in with it.

Seems like a flimsy control though if there is no "custodial integrity" to tie the item to the individual. Not all items (like a piece of jewellery) would have a serial number that can be traced.

I can vouch for the enormous queues at SYD for TRS refunds in the morning, it's mainly all the flights to Asia and all the Asian travellers who have gone on a down-under shopping spree. The thing is, if you've used the TRS app to prepare your rebate you need to be pro-active in making sure you get into the correct line. It's the line to the left at the TRS office. Don't join the main queue which stretches out the door and into the terminal, don't bother about anybody complaining you are 'jumping the queue', just show them the app's screen and that you're using the express lane for 'advance rebates'.


01 Feb 2013

Total posts 26

Even using the App the lines at MEL when heading to LHR at night on QF9 around the same time as tons of flights to Asia is a nightmare. The last twice it was so bad that the App line wait was 50mins and staff just handed out forms to drop off. They system is broken compared to claiming tax back in UK/Europe!


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 353

Agree that TRS offices need to do better, they need more staff and larger spaces. But not sure the UK/Europe approach is 'best practice'. Take the UK for example, you have to do the paperwork (no app!) and then take this to one small airport office where a UK public servant stamps it, that's all they do, just stamp the thing, and then take it to another desk and line up and get back maybe 75% of the VAT amount because the Govt has out-sourced the VAT collection to a private firm.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2014

Total posts 52

Yes, TRS could be run more efficiently - but compared to literally every other place I have ever considered getting a sales tax refund (primarily Asia), the TRS system is amazingly simple! Trying to get a Japanese shop assistant with poor English to complete a Japanese tax refund form at the shop while I'm lining up to purchase, and *then* having to show it at NRT to get the paperwork stamped? That was painful, and that's still simple compared to some other schemes - give me the Australian system any time.

11 Jan 2017

Total posts 1

How does the TRS Refund scheme work if you are going on a cruise, example return Sydney to NZ ?  


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2014

Total posts 52

I believe you go to the TRS office at the seaport terminal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jan 2017

Total posts 73

Thanks Chris. Helpful article especially regarding some of the rule sublties in 1.

06 May 2017

Total posts 1

Hi, so just checking something. My husband will be travelling to UK and taking an engagement ring with him ($4300 ex GST). He is travelling there alone but I am joining him with my son, daughter and her boyfriend a week later and we all travel back together after my daughter's boyfriend proposes in Europe. The invoice for the ring is my husbands name as we used our credit card. Can my husband claim through the TRS? The jewellers said he could. We will be coming back together and my daughter will be wearing the ring - will we have to pay the TRS back or can the 5 of us pool our allowance to a maximum of $4500 even though her boyfriend is not strictly family and my husbands ticket is separate to ours because of his different outbound date (not sure we would classify as being a group) ...Any advice appreciated...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 361

I have never seen a TRS officer in BNE since the renovation. Have done departures different times of the day and never seen one. Always claimed using mails and always had the GST refunded. Each time I brought the goods with me so I didn't do anything dodgy but it can be a potential loophole as no one really sighted my iPad and laptop that I claimed GST back.

SYD is a different story. Queue is always long despite using the app. The officer always checked the goods, carefully and thoroghly.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 9

I have just come back from NZ where we bought an item for $1200 NZ (between 2 of us less than our $900 each so no need to declare and we didn't have anything else other than the obligatory L&P chocolate) - upon departing NZ asked how we can get the NZ GST back - ah nope! there is no GST refund scheme in NZ - you pay your taxes no matter whether you are a tourist or a local. I doubt it deters people from travelling to NZ or buying items there - so why even have it here - just scrap it I say and save the policing and paperwork costs and maybe put the money back into something more useful/productive.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

05 Apr 2019

Total posts 1

Hello guys, any idea how can i claim a 27" iMac with Box? Pretty sure i have to check in because it won't fit the plan cabin.

I found out that goods checked in are not able to claim? So that's mean no hope ?

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