Early Childhood

HECS‑HELP Benefit for early childhood education

Eligible early childhood education teachers who work in regional or remote areas, Indigenous communities or areas of high socio‑economic disadvantage (as identified by postcode location) may apply for the HECS‑HELP Benefit.

The HECS‑HELP Benefit will reduce a compulsory HELP repayment, or when an income is below the minimum repayment threshold and a compulsory repayment is not required, the HECS‑HELP Benefit will reduce the accumulated HELP debt.

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Expansion of the Benefit

On 1 December 2011 the Australian Government announced the expansion of the HECS-HELP Benefit for early childhood education.

The changes include:

  • An expansion of the number of eligible postcodes to include all rural and remote areas, including regional cities. Areas with a high Indigenous population as well as areas of socio-economic disadvantage will continue to be targeted.
  • Removing the current requirement that a teacher spends 50 per cent of the week ‘teaching’. This will allow eligible qualified early childhood teachers who are providing pedagogical support to other staff, but not carrying this level of teaching workload, obtain the benefit.

Early childhood education teachers can apply for the expanded Benefit for the 2011-12 income years and later years.

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Am I eligible?

You are eligible for the expanded Benefit if you:

  • are applying for the 2011-12 income years and later years;
  • completed an early childhood education teaching course;
  • were a Commonwealth supported student or HECS liable student for some or all of that course;
  • had a HECS or HELP debt at course completion for that course;
  • still have a HELP debt to repay in the income year for which you are applying;
  • were employed for at least one week (in the income year for which you are applying) in an:
    • eligible facility; and
    • 2011-12 ongoing postcode location;
  • provided education or childcare services to children prior to their commencing formal schooling and/or pedagogical support.

If you are applying for the 2010-11 income year (noting that you have two years from the end of the income year for which you are applying to submit your application), you are eligible for the Benefit if you:

  • completed an early childhood education teaching course;
  • were a Commonwealth supported student or HECS liable student for some or all of that course;
  • had a HECS or HELP debt at course completion for that course;
  • still have a HELP debt to repay in the income year for which you are applying;
  • were employed for at least one week (in the income year for which you are applying) in an:
    • eligible facility;
    • eligible postcode location; and
    • in a position where you spent more than 50% of the time during that week providing education and/or childcare services to children who have not commenced formal schooling.

There is a lifetime limit of 260 weeks for the Benefit as an early childhood education teacher. That means eligible applicants could receive this HECS‑HELP Benefit for 5 years of eligible employment.

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What is an early childhood education teaching course?

It is a course that leads to the award of a qualification that is recognised by a state or territory government as meeting the requirements to teach early childhood education.

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What is an eligible employment facility?

Your employment must be at a facility providing education and/or childcare services to children prior to them commencing formal schooling. The names assigned to the first year of formal schooling vary by state and territory. You should check the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website (opens in a new window).

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What are the eligible postcodes?

This Benefit aims to encourage early childhood education teachers to work in specified locations in rural and regional areas, Indigenous Australian communities and areas of socio‑economic disadvantage as identified by postcode.

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How much will my reduction be?

The Benefit is calculated on a pro‑rata basis according to the number of weeks worked in the income year period. The amount of HECS‑HELP Benefit that you can receive depends on your HELP debt when you completed your course and the number of weeks worked in an eligible occupation.

The maximum HECS‑HELP Benefit as an early childhood education teacher is:

  • $1,693.99 for the 2010–11 income year;
  • $1,744.81 for the 2011‑12 income year;
  • $1,795.41 for the 2012-13 income year; and
  • $1,831.32 for the 2013-14 income year.

The maximum amount will be indexed in later years.

Example 1
Max completed an early childhood education teaching course of study in 2010. He was employed as a preschool teacher in an eligible remote area for the entire 2011‑12 income year. Max lodges his 2011‑12 income tax return in July 2012 and applies for the HECS‑HELP Benefit at the same time. His repayment income is $38,000 and his accumulated HELP debt is $10,000.

As Max’s repayment income is below the minimum repayment threshold no compulsory HELP repayment is required.

Max is eligible for the maximum HECS‑HELP Benefit as an early childhood education teacher, which is $1,744.81. The ATO reduces Max’s accumulated HELP debt by $1,744.81 to $8,255.19.

Example 2
Anna completed early childhood teaching degree in November 2011 and worked as a preschool teacher in an eligible remote area from January 2012 to June 2012 for a period of 26 employed weeks in the 2011‑12 income year. Anna incurred a HELP debt of $12,000 upon completion of her degree. Anna lodges her 2011‑12 income tax return in August 2012 and applies for the HECS‑HELP Benefit at the same time. Her repayment income is $50,000 and her compulsory repayment is $2,000.

Anna’s HECS‑HELP benefit amount is calculated as follows:

Maximum Benefit* ÷ 52 x weeks employed = Benefit received

$1,744.81 ÷ 52 x 26 = $872.40

*Maximum HECS‑HELP Benefit amount for the income year for a early childhood education graduate.

Anna’s accumulated HELP debt, through her compulsory repayment, is reduced by $872.40. Anna is required to make a HELP debt repayment of $1,27.60 ($2,000 - $872.40).

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Additional benefit as an education graduate

If you have completed an education course of study after 30 June 2009 and have a compulsory repayment included on your income tax notice of assessment for the income year in which you are applying, you may also be eligible to claim an additional benefit as an education graduate, at the same time.

Further information can be found on the Nursing and Education HECS-HELP Benefit webpage.

Example 3: Multiple benefits

Michelle completed a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood and Primary) at the end of 2011. She worked as an early childhood education teacher in an eligible remote area for 20 weeks in the 2011-12 income year.

Michelle’s accumulated HELP debt is $28,000. Her repayment income for 2011-12 is $50,000 and her compulsory HELP repayment is $2,000.

Michelle is eligible for the HECS-HELP benefit in the 2011-12 income year as both an early childhood education teacher and an education graduate.

Michelle applies for both benefits for the same employment period with the same employer.

Early childhood education teacher

$1,744.81 ÷ 52 x 20 = $671.08

Education graduate

$1,635.75 ÷ 52 x 20 = $629.13

Michelle’s compulsory HELP repayment is reduced by $1,300.21 ($671.08 as an early childhood education teacher and $629.13 as an education graduate).

Michelle’s entitlement weeks are reduced by 20 weeks as an early childhood education teacher and 20 weeks as an education graduate. She has a balance of 240 entitlement weeks to claim for each type of benefit. If you are applying for multiple benefits, the maximum number of weeks you can claim in an income year is 52 weeks for each type of benefit.

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How do I apply for the Benefit?

Applications for the early childhood education HECS‑HELP Benefit may be made to the ATO, preferably at the same time that you submit your income tax return. More information on applying for a HECS‑HELP Benefit is available on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website (opens in a new window).

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