An excessive rotor axial thrust in any turbomachine can cause critical operational problems, and rotor axial thrust balancing has always attracted much attention. The present numerical study is focused on axial thrust balancing for a cryogenic liquid turbine expander, whose axial thrust balancing is typically challenging because of its small impeller size and large axial thrust. A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation is conducted in a real turbine expander environment constituted by main and gap flow domains with allowing for the thermodynamic effect of liquefied air. The balance hole influential mechanism on the main and gap flows is explored, and its influence on the expander axial thrust and overall performance is quantified. The results show that the use of balance holes creates a highly swirling gap flow, and the static pressure over the impeller disk back-side surface decreases to produce a small axial component force and axial thrust, but the turbine expander overall efficiency drops by 1.1 and 2.8 points at 100% and 50% design flow, respectively, due to an increased internal leakage loss and distorted impeller flow. In addition, a parametric study is conducted to analyze the effect of balance hole diameter, circumferential position and radial position on expander axial thrust and overall performance. The results indicate that the axial thrust is sensitive to both the balance hole diameter and circumferential position but less sensitive to its radial position, while the overall efficiency is influenced by all three parameters.