Ask LH: Should International Airport Restaurants Be Charging Me GST?

Hi Lifehacker, I was just reviewing receipts for a work expense claim and noticed that the meal and beverages that I purchased when in the international departures lounge of Melbourne Airport (after going through customs) included a small portion of GST. I was under the impression that once outside of customs, retailers should not charge GST. Is this actually the case? Thanks, Broad Base

Dear BB,

That's not our understanding of how it works. It's true that you can apply for a GST refund on any goods purchased in Australia up to 60 days before travel under the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS). You have to carry the goods with you on the plane, but you'll escape the GST that way. GST also isn't payable on duty-free goods purchased within the airport.

However, those rules don't apply to all the retailers which operate in an airport. Those are Australian businesses renting premises in Australia, and the normal GST rules apply here. Go to a newsagent and you'll see magazines at the same price as any other retailer. The same goes for food from restaurants — and indeed the rules for the TRS explicitly note that they don't apply to "items that have been used", including food.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    The Tourist Refund Scheme is supposed to only cover things you're taking out of Australia permanently or for a reasonably extended period, so you shouldn't be using it to e.g. buy a camera or laptop locally and then take it on a 2-week holiday & claim the GST back. Technically when you bring it back into the country it counts against your $900 per per passenger limit, and if the object is worth more than that it's included with the things you're required to declare.

    Of course, hardly anyone actually does that and it's hard to enforce, but it's the sort of technicality they can catch you out on and you really don't want to take risks with Customs.

    In the case of food, GST (or VAT or whatever else there is in other countries) should be charged because you ate it in the country you bought it in, didn't you?

    Last edited 11/02/15 3:52 pm

    Go to a newsagent and you’ll see magazines at the same price as any other retailer.
    LOL, right - aren't most things past customs more expensive than anywhere else?

    isn't the TRS unrelated to duty free shopping after customs? the usual australian rules dont apply.... eg $900 limit, $300 minimum purchase.

    The premise not being able to consume the goods before departure remains the same though. from the trs faq:

    "What is the difference between buying duty-free goods and the TRS?
    Duty-free purchases can only be made from a selected number of duty-free stores and the range of goods are limited. Goods purchased are sold in a sealed bag and cannot be used prior to your departure.

    Goods purchased for which a TRS refund can be claimed can be purchased from any retailer registered for GST and can be used (except consumables) prior to your departure. In addition, the range of goods is almost unlimited."

    i guess i shouldnt have eaten that massive toblerone in the airport lounge...

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