Overseas debts - FAQs

I have a Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt and I am moving overseas. What do I need to do?

From now:

If you intend on going overseas, or have been overseas for six months or more (including if you are travelling on holiday, studying or working), you have an obligation to notify the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) using the ATO's online services via myGov. Officially, the 6 month time period is 183 days or more in any 12 month period.

This means you will need to register for a myGov account and link it to the ATO online services so you can update your overseas contact details. To find out how to create a myGov account and link it to the ATO's online services, visit the ATO's overseas repayments webpage.

Next year:

From 1 July 2017, if you have a HELP debt and live overseas, you will be required to report the worldwide income you received for the 2016-17 income year to the ATO. If your worldwide income exceeds the minimum repayment threshold, a repayment levy will be raised.

Returns can be lodged and repayments made using the ATO’s online services via myGov. Your lodgment will be due by 31 October each year. If you choose to engage with a registered Australian tax agent to lodge your return, your lodgment date is that of the tax agent.

*Useful tip: through the ATO’s online services via myGov, you can also view your HELP account balance and make voluntary repayments online.

For more information about overseas repayments, visit the ATO’s Overseas Repayments webpage.

What repayment thresholds will apply to my HELP debt if I am overseas?

Your HELP repayment obligations remain the same overseas as in Australia. If you earn more than the minimum repayment threshold (A$54,869 in 2016-17), you will be required to make a compulsory repayment based on your worldwide income, known as an overseas debtors repayment levy (repayment levy).

If you have not worked during that year, or if your worldwide income is below the threshold, you would still need to submit your income details to the ATO but you would not need to make a repayment levy.

Please see the Paying Back My Loan tab at the top of this page for general information about paying back your loan.

What if I cannot afford to repay the overseas debtors repayment levy while I am overseas?

From 1 July 2017, if you have a HELP debt and live overseas you will be required to report your worldwide income to the ATO and a repayment levy may be raised if your income exceeds the minimum repayment threshold.

The repayment requirements will be the same as if you were in Australia, so if you earn below the minimum repayment threshold (A$54,869 in 2016-17), you do not need to make a repayment.

If you earn above the minimum repayment threshold but believe that making a repayment levy would cause you serious financial hardship, you can apply to the ATO to defer your repayment.

To complete the deferment form, you will need to visit the ATO's deferring repayments webpage.

If I have a HELP debt and live overseas, when do I need to start repaying my debt?

From 1 July 2017, if you have a HELP debt and live overseas you will need to report the worldwide income you received in the 2016-17 income year to the ATO. If your worldwide income exceeds the minimum repayment threshold, a repayment levy will be raised.

This means you will need to log on to the ATO’s online services via myGov to lodge your worldwide income. Your lodgment will be due by 31 October each year in the same way as an Australian resident lodging their tax return.

If you choose to engage with a registered Australian tax agent to lodge your return, your lodgment date is that of the tax agent. Returns can be lodged and repayments made through the ATO’s online services via myGov. You can also make voluntary repayments at any time to reduce the balance of your debt through the myGov.

I am going to reside in country X / Y / Z. Will I have to repay my HELP debt if I live in this country?

Yes. Whichever country you are residing in, you will have to repay your HELP debt if you earn above the minimum repayment threshold. There are no exceptions. From 1 July 2017, if you have a HELP debt and live overseas you will be required to report your worldwide income to the ATO and a repayment levy may be raised if your income exceeds the minimum repayment threshold.

Are existing HELP debts (i.e. incurred prior to 1 July 2017) affected by this change to the HELP repayment requirements?

Yes. These new repayment arrangements will apply both to new and existing HELP debts including HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP, SA-HELP and OS-HELP. The repayment arrangements will also apply to Trade Support Loan (TSL) debts.

I have been living overseas for 10 years. Will I have to start repaying my HELP debt?

Yes. From 1 July 2017, if you live overseas with a HELP debt and earn an income that exceeds the minimum repayment threshold, you will be required to report your worldwide income to the ATO and a repayment levy may be raised (remember - if you are already overseas, you will need to update your contact information via myGov before 1 July 2017).

These arrangements will apply to all five loan schemes (HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP, OS-HELP and SA-HELP) and TSL debts.

To find out more, visit the ATO's overseas repayment webpage.

What about a debtor who is overseas but is still an Australian resident for tax purposes?

If you have a HELP debt and live overseas but remain an Australian resident for tax purposes, you will need to lodge an Australian tax return and declare your Australian and foreign sourced income. You would continue to lodge an Australian tax return and make compulsory HELP repayments based on your repayment income.

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