The best laid plans of mice and men

Tax accountant
Image by midom via Flickr

This week we had a discussion with our soon-to-be-former tax accountant. It turns out our tax bill is significantly larger than we expected. I have spent a few days in shock and now I’m desperately trying to save our travel plans. We are determined still to go to Europe, the question at this point is do we forge ahead in August or do we cancel and start again next year? It’s a very tough call. If we do go ahead, then the game plan on the trip will have changed significantly. We will be looking for much cheaper accommodation, transport and sigh seeing activities. It’s not going to be he holiday we imagined at all.

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D.I.Y. Compliant Passport Photos

Don’t ask me how much we’ve spent on wasted passport photos – I might cry. It’s definitely a downside to have multiple citizenships. This web site however looks very promising – it allows you to size and download free compliant passport photos (based on different countries requirements). The hardest part is taking a photo with a plain white back ground and no shadows, after that the rest is easy.


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Duty Free, Tourist Refund Schemes & Exporting Gizmos – oh my!

I’ve done a bit of research lately on current duty free regulations for Australia. They have  changed the way things work since we last went overseas (shortly after the ice melted) – there is now a Tourist Refund Scheme which works like the VAT refund scheme in the UK.           
Things I’ve found out:

1. It’s possible to pre-order duty free stuff for collection on arrival back in Melbourne. 

Duty Free is pretty much a waste of time for gizmos unless you can’t find the ones you want on Staticice (who hopefully will be working again soon). There is no duty as such on most goods imported into Australia, only GST (Goods and Services Tax). There is however a WET (Wine Equalisation Tax) on some alcohol. It must have been Friday afternoon when they came up with that acronym. Somewhere out there is a public servant whose career highlight so far was naming that tax. Actually, it’s so lame I bet they outsourced it to a marketing department *sigh*. Anyway, I have no idea what that’s on about because my eyes glazed over, but the gist of it is, alcohol may be cheaper duty free. Unless you buy it on sale in a liquor shop, or buy clean skins, or direct from the Vineyard etc
2. The TRS is a GST refund, but the way it works is that you must buy up to 30 days before departure and carry in hand luggage. This is different from the “you must not use before hand” policy that used to be in place.
“Bringing the goods back into Australia”
“If the goods are to be brought back into Australia, please be aware that they may be subject to GST. Normal passenger concessions apply and include any items for which a TRS claim has been approved (excluding most personal items such as new clothing, footwear and articles for personal hygiene and grooming). If the value of those goods together with overseas purchases exceeds the passenger concession, the goods must be declared to Customs on your return to Australia. Penalties apply to undeclared taxable goods.”

If in doubt you should declare the goods to Customs on your return.

This is the really important bit…

3. For stuff that you already own and are not claiming TRS on, you need to fill in a form (we will need to do this with our iphones and cameras and widgets and wodgets)

This is the critical form to ensure that you don’t get stung with duty and GST for stuff you’ve already paid for. It means these items are not counted in your duty free allowance either.