Travellers and tourism get a GST boost

While speculation continues apace about possible tax and superannuation changes in the upcoming federal budget, some positive news on the GST front has come to hand.

Customs has announced that changes to the requirements for making a claim under the government’s Tourist Refund Scheme came into effect on April 17, 2013.

The changes will make the scheme easier to access.

The changes to the scheme will allow passengers to claim a refund of GST on purchases made up to 60 days before leaving Australia, whereas previously it was 30 days.

To claim a refund, travellers must, among other things, spend $300 (GST inclusive) or more in the one store and retain their invoices. Travellers may purchase several lower-priced items from the one store, either at the one time or over several occasions within the 60-day period, provided the total purchase amounts to $300 (GST inclusive) or more. The GST refund is calculated by dividing the total amount of the purchase by 11.

Under the latest changes, passengers will also now be able to submit more than one tax invoice from the one retailer to make their claim, provided the total purchase from that retailer amounts to $A300 or more (including GST).

The refund only applies to goods which travellers take with them as hand luggage or wear (unless aviation security measures in regard to liquids, aerosols and gels prevent them from doing so) onto the aircraft or ship when they leave Australia. It does not apply to services or goods consumed or partly consumed in Australia, such as wine, chocolate or perfume.

However, unlike other tourist shopping schemes, most of the goods, such as clothing and cameras, can be used in Australia before departure.

Customs and Border Protection national director passengers, Jeff Buckpitt, said the scheme allows overseas visitors and Australian residents departing Australia to claim a refund on GST and Wine Equalisation Tax on goods purchased in Australia and taken overseas with them.

Passengers will need to present their claim for GST refunds no later than 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time of their flight. For vessel departures, passengers need to present their claims no earlier than four hours and no later than an hour before the scheduled departure time. “It is important for passengers to remember that if the TRS claimed goods are brought back into Australia, they may be subject to GST,” Buckpitt said.

If the value of the TRS claimed goods, together with duty-free and overseas goods exceeds the passenger concession, the goods must be declared to a Customs and Border Protection officer on return to Australia. Penalties apply to undeclared taxable goods. “If in doubt, declare your goods when you return”, Buckpitt said.

It’s not too often we hear some good news concerning GST, so the Customs announcement makes a nice change. With air travel now so comparatively cheap, more travellers need to be aware they may be able to claim GST refunds on goods they purchase. And remember that if you don’t claim the refund, you don’t get it.

Terry Hayes is the Editor-in-Chief of tax news reporting at Thomson Reuters, a leading Australian provider of tax, accounting and legal information solutions.

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