Under the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS), travellers leaving Australia can claim a refund of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) that they have paid on goods that they have purchased in Australia within the previous 60 days. Refunding the GST and WET reflects the fact that they are domestic taxes levied on goods or services that are consumed in Australia and so do not apply to exports. Around 60 countries around the world also have such schemes and promote the availability of refunds as an incentive for tourists to spend money in their countries. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) believes that Australia is the only country that allows its citizens and residents to participate in the scheme.
The use of the TRS is growing rapidly. Since July 2000, the TRS has paid refunds of more than $1.6 billion in GST and WET ($229.6 million in 2017–18) with the expectation that the scheme would boost tourism and sales by Australian retailers to international travellers. Around 41 per cent ($683.4 million) of all refunds are paid to Australian citizens and residents, with the balance ($989.5 million) paid to non-residents. This audit aims to provide assurance to the Parliament about whether the TRS is being administered effectively, and will improve transparency of the scheme’s management and performance.
The objective of this audit was to examine whether the TRS is being effectively administered, with the appropriate management of risks.
To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO applied the following high-level audit criteria:
- Do Home Affairs and ATO governance systems and procedures support the effective administration of the TRS?
- Have Home Affairs and ATO established suitable controls to identify and mitigate delivery risks?