TRS - Friend Claims That They Were "Interrogated" and "Threatened" about Bringing Goods Back

Hi all,

Sorry if this question had been asked before.

My friend who went overseas and claimed TRS over the counter was "interrogated" if he would bring back his goods back to Australia. He was even "threatened" that his arrival back to Australia will be marked and his luggage will be searched for the item, and he would be fine if he brought it back. However, that didn't happen.

My question is if that is common occasion with TRS claim nowadays? If memory serves we are allowed to claim $900 per adult and $450 per child and can combined per family. So if the claim is within that limit, it's still legal to bring back the goods to Australia.

Any opinions/thoughts/experiences? Thanks in advance.

Related Stores

customs.gov.au
customs.gov.au

Comments

  • +3 votes

    https://www.ato.gov.au/business/gst/in-detail/your-industry/...

    The information are there.

    If memory serves we are allowed to claim $900 per adult and $450 per child and can combined per family. So if the claim is within that limit, it's still legal to bring back the goods to Australia.

    Travellers bringing goods back into Australia for which they have already claimed a TRS refund
    ABF may refer false or misleading Tourist Refund claims to us. If this happens we may decide to review the claim and even if the traveller did not get a refund they could be penalised.

    If the total value of the goods a traveller is bringing into Australia that they have purchased overseas or for which they have claimed a refund under TRS is greater than their passenger concession (exceeds AUD$900):

    they must declare all of these goods on your incoming passenger card
    they will need to repay the GST refund back on the goods they claimed under the TRS
    duty and GST will apply to all items purchased, not just goods over the limit of their passenger concession.
    Penalties can apply if travellers don't declare that they have goods in excess of their passenger concession.

  • +48 votes

    "interrogated"

    LOL I doubt that.

    They were probably informed about the actual rules of declaring the good on returning to Aus if over a certain value.

    • +4 votes

      How threatening!

    • +15 votes

      To be honest, I am finding customs officers in Melbourne/Sydney are deliberately framed to be intimidating and has little regard to customer service. You can see the difference between Melbourne or even Sydney Airport vs Changi Airport

      Someone in one of the forums said that once you are in an airport, THEY are the law.

      So if someone felt "intimidated" or "threatened", I wouldn't be surprised.

      • +5 votes

        they are government employees, of course they are not big on customer service, its a struggle for them to turn up to work every day.

        •  

          What's with the negs? Lol

          •  

            @berry580:

            they are government employees, of course they are not big on customer service, its a struggle for them to turn up to work every day.

            Government employees get paid much higher than what you'd expect.
            There were adverts on buses advertising a career as a bus driver will get you 70K as starting salary (base).
            Regardless of the pay, they should really act like they are representatives of the government body.

            Look at the way Japanese train ticket officers conduct their ticket checks as they go through the trains, when compared to Sydney Transit Officers who have been labelled people who think they have the powers of a police officer but didn't make it (thus they travel in mob literally, like a gang)

      • +15 votes

        Lol, I watched them bring the AFP in to give an Asian kid of all of 5' 2" a very stern talking to/warning because he'd brought in one of those stupid little credit card multitool things with toothpicks and tweezers. Nothing malicious, he'd just completely forgotten it was stowed in the back of his wallet.

        They're often not friendly people. Granted, it's a reasonably important job, but the uniform and feeling of power goes to the head of plenty.

        • +1 vote

          If that was in NSW it'd be because they consider that to be a prohibited weapon not unlike hand grenades and flame throwers. ie. it's a "knife" that "is capable of being mistaken for something else that is not a weapon".

          So by their interpretation a swiss army knife that's vaguely in the form factor of a credit card conforms to that description as it's capable of being mistaken for a credit card, therefore it's not only against the rules to bring it into an airport, it's also against the law to posess in NSW.

          •  

            @zambuck: I don't think state matters, given airports are governed by federal law?

          •  

            @zambuck:

            If that was in NSW it'd be because they consider that to be a prohibited weapon

            Interesting link.

            The prohibited weapons list includes:
            - Taser Self-Defence Weapon
            - Extendable or Telescopic Baton
            - Handcuffs

            Talk about throwing stones while living in a glass house!

            •  

              @cwongtech: Don't forget bulletproof vests are prohibited weapons too. And at least under the NSW legislation anything that's a "replica" of a prohibited weapon is also a prohibited weapon. So a replica of a bulletproof vest would also get you in trouble. I think we call that "a vest". :)

      •  

        I'm in and out of PER International many times a year and I've nearly always found the TRS staff to be friendly and helpful.

        In General, I find customs/immigration/quarantine people at Australian airports to be pretty good.

        • -6 votes

          You must be white.

          • +5 votes

            @billy77: Asian here and have never had issues at the airport. Fluent English speaker and quite sociable, and I do put on a bit of a thicker Ocker accent when I'm dealing with them though, so maybe for them it's a relief to be talking to an "Aussie". Either way, have never had any bad encounters with airport staff in Melb/Syd.

            • +1 vote

              @Munki: Waiting for the TRS in Melbourne has been interesting. Watching the staff have to deal with overseas people cutting in line constantly. It is always interesting to hear the confusion with visitors disrupting the line consistently with their claim and watching visitors get aggressive.

              Furthermore, their actions are kind of understandable. I found Australia immigration is quite tough. But i found Malaysia to be twice as strict.

              In my experience it would be from least to most strict (only counting recent holidays)

              Phuket
              Japan
              Singapore
              Australia
              Malaysia (having three officer staff check my ID and looking me up and down) This happened to about 50% of people in the line) - Felt like a private school moment where they have to check everyone's hair and uniform to see if it conforms with the rules

          • -1 vote

            @billy77: A pathetic answer

        • +1 vote

          From the experience I've had with TRS, I think they're ok as well.
          For the record, I'm an Australian Born Chinese.

      • +3 votes

        I don't expect immigration anywhere to be particularly friendly, but what stands out to me more is that Sydney airport seems to only hire immigration staff who look like bouncers.

      • +2 votes

        i've always thought they were pretty ok, they probably have to put up with a lot of nonsense and work/staff ratio is probably different to Changi too.

        Cant blame them for the poor design of melbourne airport

      • +2 votes

        Except they are not customer service

    • -2 votes

      I've been given a fake citation before from Customs. Some of them are real power-trippers.

    •  

      Nothing like a bit of fake rage on the internet over something which are the rules from the beginning that most people have likely exploited (yes me too). The loudest ones are usually the worst offenders :P

  • +2 votes

    There was an audit of the TRS back in September that concluded that up to 556 million dollars in revenue leakage had occurred over the life of the scheme. There's pressure from above to minimise this, hence the warning to your friend. Based on anecdotes from frequent flyer forums they will actually flag people claiming high value items on their return trip for inspection.

    • +13 votes

      556 million dollars in revenue leakage had occurred over the life of the scheme

      TRS was introduced in 1999. It's been 20 years. $500M over 20 years is a drop in the bucket. I can't believe they wasted money even calculating that.

      • +6 votes

        The best part of the report was that apparently between 2013 and 2018 they didn't even bother fining people when they caught them because it wasn't worth the trouble.

        • +5 votes

          Interesting, Don't know if i want to try my luck for $100 refund.

          • +5 votes

            @Bargain-er: Keep in mind you have a $900 concession per person - and anecdotally I've heard they apply 20% depreciation if you declare the item, so odds are pretty good they'll just wave you on.

      • -2 votes

        $500M over 20 years is a drop in the bucket.

        $500M is still a substantial sum of money.

        For example, if the leakage hadn't happened then the funding of the first home loan deposit scheme could have been doubled.
        Coalition pledges $500m for First Home Loan Deposit Scheme

        It's just a rort. The regulations clearly say that you must repay the GST if you bring the item back into Australia. But, almost no one does this, because the law isn't properly enforced.

        It's the honest taxpayers, the ones who don't misuse the TRS, who lose out.

        • +1 vote

          The regulations clearly say that you must repay the GST if you bring the item back into Australia.

          The regulations clearly say that you must repay the GST if you bring items back totaling more than the concession ($900 per person).

          • +1 vote

            @Amaris: I think this is another case of the word vs spirit of the law.

            The spirit of the law is that you can claim a GST refund for items purchased in Australia that are leaving and not coming back.

            To be honest I don't even know why they let you claim the GST back in the first place - everyone in Australia involved in the manufacture, distribution and sale of that item have had to "pay" GST on it, so why do you get it back just because you're taking it out of the country? Is it really just to encourage you to buy it in Australia rather than trying to dodge the GST overseas?

            • +5 votes

              @Chandler:

              Is it really just to encourage you to buy it in Australia rather than trying to dodge the GST overseas?

              Yes.

            •  

              @Chandler: "that are leaving and not coming back." Please tell me which law says that?

            • +2 votes

              @Chandler: Um…the business pays the GST, then claims the GST back…it's the end consumer that pays for the GST, on the final retail price which is a higher gst amount.

            • +1 vote

              @Chandler: “ everyone in Australia involved in the manufacture, distribution and sale of that item have had to "pay" GST on it”

              Actually none of them did. Any GST a business pays would be claimed back.

      • +1 vote

        The trick is you don't know how much you're missing out on unit you've calculated it :P So not a waste of money regardless, but $500M/20years is still $25mil/year, assuming inflation/some kind of growth its probably above that for the 2019 year. Cut that down by 10% ($2.5m) and you'd have paid for your report.

        • +1 vote

          The $500M isn't really a 'cost' though, it's tax collected and then refunded, so the 'cost' doesn't really exist.

          Also the $500M tax means ~$5B of sales. A substantial chunk of that $5B would go straight overseas without the TRS scheme, hence the scheme.

      •  

        I believe there is a HOLE in the bucket as well:)

    •  

      I "exported" a phone as a present to my nephew, and the lady at TRS was not exactly charming, but I did not feel threatened or Interrogated.
      Probably depends on what is on your ticket: If you fly to Bali for 5 days vacation, it's more likely you bring your new GoPro7 Black back, than if you go home to France to visit relatives for 3 Weeks.

  • +1 vote

    Thanks for all answers, he didn't claim much… like $800. And he was asked why the item is not in sealed box and who he would give it to, etc etc. Enough to scare him from what he said.

  • +3 votes

    My friend means OP? :)

    •  

      This time, it's not. I'm planning to claim trs in 4 weeks but his story scares me… :)

      • +1 vote

        You shouldn't be scared. As long as you are keeping in line with the regulations and allow plenty of time to line up and claim then you will be fine.

        I did a claim last month for one $600 (without the box because I was intending to use it during my travel) item without a hassle.

      • +2 votes

        Its all depend on the time of the day and the airport.

        "interrogated"

        That's sounds like they did their job.

      • +3 votes

        If you're not bringing over $900pp of goods back into Australia, you'll be fine - you're not doing anything wrong. I used to travel every three months for work and I'd always have something to claim.

        Fill out the TRS claim form online in advance and have the following ready for the TRS officer when you get to the counter:

        • The item(s) being claimed
        • A printout of the QR code you get from the online TRS claim form
        • Tax invoices for each item being claimed
        • Your passport and boarding pass

        They'll just be thankful that you've made life easier for them, at least for a few minutes!

  • +3 votes

    It's normal, some of them just take their jobs too seriously, wearing an officer like uniform does things to people's mentality. Just keep smiling and say no to all their questions.

    Whether you bring the item back or declare it on arrival is a totally separate issue to claiming TRS. People's intentions change all them time.

    • +5 votes

      Yeah best not to escalate those guys. They can really screw you over then as well as forever onwards (eg flag your profile)

  • +1 vote

    It usually happens when you claim something really fancy like $2k+
    Then they mark your passport which will write 'G' on your arrival card so that they can send you the designated search area.
    There are even rules about instant deprecation so things like mobile phone get 20% instant depreciation so you can claim like $1.1k phone.

    •  

      How would they even know it's the same item?

      •  

        It seemed like they take some note about item description + you do submit the tax invoice.
        When I asked for this, they were very specific about what item they are trying to find and what's the consequence if they do etc.

  •  

    Interrogated and threatened definitely a exaggeration. They just informing your friend the facts. Happened to me before, and told them I understand the rules etc. They were fine and even complemented my new bag.

  • +2 votes

    I remembered my partner telling me she overhead the TRS agent ask someone "are you bringing this back into Australia?", and the idiot responded "yes".

    •  

      Try to beat this. My friend bought a laptop in Singapore and went to Australia and declared that stupid laptop.

      Naturally he had to pay GST… twice. One in Singapore and One in here.

      •  

        once while lining up, i saw some asian granma pulled out 1 meter length of invoice, three of them in front of the agent.

    •  

      I responded yes as well because it was my phone that I was claiming. If I replied no, that would put a flag on me because who isn't going to bring their phone back with them. If the TRS agent further questioned me, I could just say I'll declare it on the depreciated value of the phone. I had no trouble coming back home.

      •  

        And what would be the depreciation rate you would apply and thus, the depreciated value you would put in on the way back to Australia on the Arrival Card?

        •  

          I read other forums and people have mentioned around 10-20% off the original value. I’ve personally never been asked about my gst refunds as they’re more concerned about the food I’m bringing in.

          •  

            @garffi: In other words $1,125 worth of goods could be brought back after factoring 20% depreciation.

            A family of four could therefore then bring in $4,500.

            •  

              @burningrage: Maybe? However, I'd assume depreciation rate is dependant on how the border control officers calculate it. Travellers can try at their own risk…

    • +3 votes

      I remembered my partner telling me she overhead the TRS agent ask someone "are you bringing this back into Australia?", and the idiot responded "yes".

      So committing fraud is the way to not be an idiot?

  •  

    I've been asked about bringing items back (this was in November) and warned I'll get flagged. Nothing happened upon my return though.

  • +4 votes

    "Interrogated"

    Questioned about the purchase

    "Threatened"

    Advised of the rule and warned

    •  

      yeah I must say nothing in the OP's post sounds like interrogation or threatening. Sounds like they were doing their job.

  •  

    I've taken a Mavic drone overseas (Greek Islands - the father-in-law wanted to play with his new b'day toy on holiday with us, but my name was on the receipt).

    Had the Mrs come with me, refund of GST on $1600-odd purchase with no trouble. Said we'd be returning as a couple on the same plane etc. & all good.

    If you know the rules (& aren't a smartarse about knowing 'em), they seem to be fine. Or at least in my experience, anyway.

  •  

    remember the items are used when you bring them back in the country after a weeks holiday so are only probably worth half the original value

  •  

    I give up

    What is TRS?

  •  

    Just declare it when you get back. I brought back $2.5k laptop and declared it. The officer asked how long ago did I buy it and i told him almost 3 months ago. Didn't ask me for the receipt and said it has depreciated below the limit $900, thank you for your honesty and you can go.

    •  

      I agree. MOST Australian residents would not be taking out high value items as 'overseas gifts'. And so they will be re-importing them.
      IMHO Customs should set alerts for Aust residents for any refunds over $100 ie item cost price $1100 or more.
      I suspect that anyone caught trying to scam the system will have to repay the whole TRS amount, as well as getting a record in the customs system. However such goods could also be seized by Customs and forfeited.

      •  

        How would they know it's the same item?

        They would need a complete inventory of everything you have when you leave, and then cross check upon return?? lol

  • Top