Tourists subject to new goods and services tax Down Under

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SYDNEY, Australia -- Tourists to Australia are now subject to a new tax.

The 10% nationwide goods and services tax, which went into effect July 1, will be passed on to travelers who pay for packaged tours, hotel rooms and other services.

International and domestic air tickets bought overseas are exempt, but domestic air tickets bought in Australia are subject to the tax.

There is a refund system in place at international airports for tourists, but it only applies to goods taken as hand luggage when leaving the country.

The tax replaces a wholesale goods tax and various hotel bed taxes that ranged from 5% to 10%.

Tour operators like Newmans South Pacific Vacations and Inta-Aussie South Pacific Tours already added the 10% to their Australian packages.

Prices will rise for independent travelers, but not by more than 10%.

"We have proposed that international visitors to this country contribute to the tax revenue of this country, just as Australians contribute to taxes of other countries when they visit there," said Jackie Kelly, Australia's minister for sport and tourism.

Kelly made the comments during the annual Australia Tourism Exchange here in June.

Visitors who get a tax invoice on request from retailers -- not a cash register receipt -- can get a refund in cash or in the form of a check, credit to an Australian bank account or payment to a credit card, which will be paid in 30 days.

The refund does not apply to goods and services consumed in Australia, such as a hotel room or food, and is only available on goods that total more than $300 in Australian currency.

In getting the refund at the airport, tourists will be asked to show the tax invoice, their passport and an international boarding pass.

Cruises that include a port other than Australia are exempt from the tax, but those that visit only Australian ports will be subject to the 10% tax.

International travel insurance is not subject to the tax.

There are several Web sites that have information on the new tax.

Australian Tourist Commission: www.2000.australia.com

Australian Taxation Office: www.taxreform.ato.gov.au

Tourist Refund Scheme: www.customs.gov.au

Ansett Australia: www.ansett.com.au

Qantas Airways: www.qantas.com.au

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