Guide to getting cash back on trips

Are you baffled by the numerous regulations surrounding tourist rebate schemes around the world?

Have you been unsuccessful in getting a rebate when buying something overseas – such as clothes, wines, duty free and souvenirs – or even been held up at customs for purchases that don’t meet the rules?

Financial comparison site has uncovered some rules for Aussie travellers to follow, if they want to successfully claim on tourist rebate schemes across the globe.

Foreign visitors can claim a rebate for GST and VAT (Value Added Tax) on particular items such as fashion, goods and technology.

VAT is the equivalent to the goods and services tax, applicable in some countries, that is assessed according to the value of goods purchased. These purchases, however, must meet strict rules.

For instance, the Australian Tourist Rebate scheme enables Aussie travellers to claim GST and Wine Equalisation Tax for certain items purchased in their home country, totalling $300-900, and then taken overseas permanently. Claims can be made on purchases within 60 days of leaving Australia, you must have the original tax invoice, and must also be worn or carried as hand luggage on the aircraft or ship as you leave Australia.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the rebates on offer around the world.

Know the minimum spend required
In each country and region, there are specific minimum spend thresholds to enable you to successfully claim for a tax rebate. For example, in most countries in Europe, the minimum spend threshold is 175 euros ($284), while in Australia it’s $300 AUD. In the UK, though, each store can also impose different spend thresholds for the VAT refund claim.

Know the maximum spend
Overseas purchases that are brought back to Australia must not exceed $900 (your ‘passenger concession’) if you want a rebate. However, you can combine the $900 purchase limit of all your adult travel companions to get your claim accepted. For example, if you buy a laptop for $2200 and are travelling with two others, your combined passenger concession is $2700 so you will still be eligible for a rebate.

Know what goods are included
Every country has rules for which purchase categories tourists can and can’t claim against. In the UK, for instance, you can claim a 20 per cent VAT refund on most goods and services, except for basic food items, books and children’s clothing. In Australia, you can’t make claims on items such as alcohol, gift cards and vouchers.

Have your passport ready
To be able to claim a tourist rebate, you will need to prove that you are a tourist. In countries such as Europe, UK and Japan, you must have your passport with you at the point of purchase or provide your passport with any receipts and the items you have bought at the international airport.

Know where to claim
Making claims at the right place and time is important because this differs from country to country. Foreign visitors to Japan can receive an eight per cent tax exemption for purchases when they are bought at a tax-free store. The tax exemption application must be filed on the day to be eligible for the rebate. In many countries, including Thailand, South Africa, Singapore and Europe, you can only make a claim at a major or international airport.

Don’t wait too long
In certain countries, you need to purchase an item within a particular time frame to be eligible for a rebate. In Australia, your item needs to be purchased within 60 days of departure. In Europe, you must leave the EU with the goods you are claiming a rebate on within three months of purchase.

Know which stores offer rebates
Even if a country offers VAT refunds, you need to check with individual stores to find out of if they participate in the scheme. For example, in Thailand you can only make claims from stores displaying the ‘VAT Refund for Tourists’ sign, whereas in Europe and the UK, you need to ask each store provider if they offer this service.

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Written by Ben


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