On 01 July 2017 the ATO implemented formal changes to how they recover “overseas HELP debt”. If you live overseas for more than 6 months and have a HELP debt, read on… You may need to make HELP repayments – regardless of where you live.
What has changed with how the ATO recovers overseas HELP debt?
Previously, Australians with a HELP or TSL debt did not have to repay the debt if they lived overseas.
Not anymore! Now, any Australian who lives overseas and meets the relevant income criteria will be required to repay their debt.
Do the overseas HELP debt changes apply to you?
The ATO’s overseas HELP debt recovery program will affect you if you live overseas and meet these criteria:
- Have a HECS/HELP (Higher Education Loan Programme) debt
- Have lived overseas for more than 6 continuous months
- Earn the equivalent income above the HELP repayment threshold ($AUD 55,874).
How to repay your HELP debt from overseas
You should notify the ATO via MyGov that you live overseas if:
- You have a HELP or TSL debt, and
- Leave Australia to work overseas for more than 6 months.
Even if you’re not earning Australian income, you still need to lodge a tax return each year to advise the ATO of your total ‘worldwide’ income. If you meet the criteria, the ATO will issue you a request for payment.
If you already live overseas and have any outstanding tax returns from 2016-17 onward, you should get up to date as soon as possible.
Penalties can apply for those who continue to avoid the “overseas help debt” recovery program. If you don’t disclose your income information, the ATO can issue fines up to $3,600 when you return to Australia.
Voluntary payments help reduces your debt
You could also consider making additional voluntary HELP repayments. This will lower your overall HELP debt and consequently, lower the compulsory repayment and interest levied by the ATO.