Travel tip: how to claim the TRS airport refund on Australian GST

By David Flynn, April 16 2013
Travel tip: how to claim the TRS airport refund on Australian GST

An estimated 1.3 million Australians fly overseas each year, and almost half of those are on business trips. Yet we have to wonder how many of these travellers realise they can get a full GST refund on everything from laptops, smartphones and cameras to watches, jewellery and shoes.

It’s called the Tourist Refund Scheme or TRS. Created for tourists but also available to locals, the TRS provides a full GST refund issued at any Australian international airport.

Provided you follow a few simple guidelines the TRS will see that 10% GST sales tax land right back in your pocket or purse. (Did we mention that purses are also eligible for the GST rebate?)

There are four simple rules for claiming the TRS refund.

1. The goods have to be over $300 in value. This can be one item costing over $300, or several products totalling over $300 which have been bought from the same retailer (with the same Australian Business Number). 

2. They have to be bought within 60 days of your departure. So if you’ve got an overseas trip coming up, this could be the right time to buy your new laptop or camera. You can use this gear before you fly – it doesn’t need to stay sitting sealed in the box.

3. You have to bring the goods to the airport as carry-on baggage. You can’t stow them in your checked luggage. That's because you need to present the gear at the airport TRS office.

4. You have to bring the invoice with you. There's no special GST refund paperwork or duty-free forms to be issued at the store, just the everyday invoice. However, any tax invoice exceeding $1,000 will need to include your address. This isn't normal practice at many stores, so don't get caught out.

The TRS refund offices are located past customs at the airport (called ‘airside’, in travelgeek-speak) so you’ll need to check in for your flight and make your way through customs before heading to the TSR refund office.

There can be a bit of a queue, especially in the mornings, so allow plenty of time – consider making the TRS refund office your first stop, even before you hit the lounge.

Show the TRS officers your purchases and your invoice, and hand over your credit card or bank account details so the 10% GST can be refunded (you can also ask for a cheque, but that can take three weeks to be processed and posted to you).

Here’s where we have to sound a caveat: the TRS is intended for products that are not coming back into Australia.

In the case of locals this usually means you’ve bought a gift for family, friends or colleagues overseas.

For more on the TRS rebate scheme, visit the site or download this PDF.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 11

Until my trip on Christmas Eve I didn't realise how much time would be lost standing in the queue in MEL. At least 30 minutes. The actual processing time was about one minute. I didn't know about the address requirement but my $1100 invoice was accepted with a friendly mention about that rule.

A clarification about "The TRS is intended for products that are not coming back into Australia." - I can't see that in the Customs PDF but it's really saying that while you will get a GST refund while leaving Australia, you may have to pay it when you return. In my case, I was travelling with my family and the item was a lens that I used on the trip. I declared it on the incoming Customs form and did not have to pay GST on the return trip. Had I been alone, who knows, since they usually treat the item as "used" and you avoid GST.

The other learning for me is that I need not have carried the lens packaging, which was a pain to carry in the hand luggage. The TRS employee told me that they only needed to check the make and model of the item and there is no need to carry the packaging.

10 Jul 2011

Total posts 2

Last year, I queued up in the TRS line at Sydney Airport. I arrived at the airport 3 hours ahead of my scheduled flight to New York, but check-in took 1 hour and customs took another 45 minutes. By the time I finally got to the TRS area, I only had 60 minutes to claim my GST. The TRS line was ridiculous - it snaked inside the room, and also outside the room for at least 5-6 metres out into the corridor. After 35 minutes of waiting, I had only got into the middle of the line. I then made a dash for boarding. It was quite ridiculous.

After arriving in New York, I wrote them an email explaining my situation specifying that I had arrived at the airport with ample time to claim the GST and that but for the unexpectedly long queues for check-in, customs and TRS, I would have been able to claim my GST. There was no fault on my part.

Three weeks later or so, they responded. They were more than happy to process my claim retrospectively (it was probably now almost 2 months since I had bought the product). All I had to do was send them a scanned copy of my passport, the invoice/receipt and my boarding pass. After several days, they got back to me, stating that my GST refund was approved and requesting for my credit card details or address to which they could send a cheque. Within a week, the refunded amount was credited towards my credit card!

I'm not sure how widespread this practice of retrospective GST refund claims, whilst being overseas, is but I was pleased that they were more than willing to offer the GST refund via email.

25 Nov 2011

Total posts 1

You have to wonder whether Australian Customs deliberately locate their TRS offices airside to put people off using this scheme? Other countries -- such as UK, Singapore -- locate their facilities prior to check-in. Oh how convenient. Get your refund. Check your goods in. Board your flight unfettered by all the goods you just bought in David Jones. Here's a real tip for travellers: don't buy your goods in Australia, get 'em overseas when you arrive.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Agreed on the slight inconvenience to have to take any of your purchased goods in your handluggage.

The TRS government website does state that oversized goods or liquids (cases of wine) can be checked in but should be sighted prior to check in  at the Customs and Border Protection Client Services counter.

Not sure if you can rock up there with just any goods (as opposed to oversized goods or liquids) you want to check in to avoid schlepping them around at the airport? Does anybody have any expereicne with this travelling ex Australia?


Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

17 Apr 2013

Total posts 8

Once, I rocked up with a Nespresson Pixie machine which definitely fit inside a carry-on but can't be bothered carrying it through multiple transit points. Not a problem. On another occasion I claimed TRS for the luggage I used and therefore must be checked in. The customs officer didn't even check if the invoice matches the item and just stamped it.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 1

Hi! I was wondering on claiming the TRS, do I need to bring the box of the product or not? Is it alright if i bring only the product?



Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2013

Total posts 2

Anyone had any experience with much larger items such as a bike?  The customs site says items must comply with carry on size, but I have been told by a couple of people they have managed to claim back gst on a bike they travelled OS with

22 Jun 2015

Total posts 1

Great scheme. Poorly managed! The line up at Mascot on the morning of 7 June was much longer than an hour (i  left at that point because my  flight was boarding). The number of service points actually staffed at that point less than 60%. Upshot is that it cost me a legitimate GST refund to the benefit of the Government.....


19 Feb 2012

Total posts 1

AVOID THE QUE   - I'm constantly amazed by comments like "its poorly managed" and you have to carry the goods and can't check them in.   crikey  its your own fault  - R E A D the instructions.  Yes as mentioned above you can get the goods pre inspected, check them in and just claim inside.    But  only those too lazy to read didn't pre claim on line and take a printed document, or use the app on their smart phone.   Every time i see the long slow que, and some pushy types trying to jump the que because they are important back home I flash my competed form, go direct to a special counter and I'm out of there in less than 2 minutes. :) 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 161

My experience has been that even if you've pre-claimed online and have a QR code, the line for holders of QR codes can be just as long as the line without.

I have seen the case where the QR code line is vetted but I think a lot of people are ignorant of the differences. The worst time of the day to submit a claim is when it coincides with the departure of flights to China.

Even with the QR code line, it doesn't always compensate for the lack of counter staff to process the claim.

29 Jun 2019

Total posts 1

Does anyone know if I am carrying clothes and other goods which I need to put in check-in, can I get them pre-sighted by custom officer and claim GST at TRS office?

11 Oct 2019

Total posts 1

You need to create a better system! No form available at Brisbane. Wait 10 minutes for form then line up. Que moved 1 metre in 10 minutes. I recon the que was 8 metres long! 1 hour to departure, you do the maths. Why cant it be done online with todays technology!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 676

Hi Bennord. It can be done online. Might be wise to read the above posts by @garybne and @cssaus.

18 Dec 2019

Total posts 1

What if you buy a $1300+ laptop, use it overseas and bring it back in, will it have depreciated 20% ($750) and therefore be under the $900 limit?

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