Finnish backpackers could get Australia tax refund

Australia's Federal Court ruled the 15% tax should not have been charged to Finns, or citizens of seven other countries.

File picture of kangaroo in Australia / Credit: iStock

Finns who have gone on working holidays to Australia could be in line for a tax refund, after a court ruled taxes had been illegally levied at backpackers from Finland and seven other countries.

The case centres around two very similar visas that Finnish people can apply for:

  • Category 417 is a temporary visa for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia;
  • Category 462 is a visa for young people aged 18-30 who want to have an extended holiday in Australia up to a year, supplemented by short-term jobs.

In 2017 the Australian government imposed a 15% tax rate on those two visa categories. It was controversial at the time because it covered all money earned, whereas Australians only start having to pay taxes when their income is more than A$18,200 / approximately €11,250.

A British waitress in Sydney took her case to the Australian Federal Court, which ruled on Wednesday the tax should never have been applied to tourists from Finland, UK, USA, Germany, Chile, Japan, Norway and Turkey because it breaches existing treaties.

The judge in the case described the tax as “a disguised form of discrimination based on nationality.”

Anyone from those countries affected by the ruling could now be entitled to a refund of the taxes they were illegally charged.