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.


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