What is the initiative and how does it work?
Applications are now open for waiver of indexation on your accumulated Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt while you are employed in a teaching position at a school in a very remote location of Australia (as defined by the ABS Remoteness Structure) from or after the 14 February 2019. Once you are no longer teaching in a very remote location, indexation on any remaining HELP debt will recommence.
This initiative will also remit all or part of your accumulated HELP debt after you have been engaged in a teaching position, including as an early childhood teacher, for four years in a very remote location in Australia. If you commenced in a teaching position at a school in a very remote location during or any time after the start of the 2019 school year, you may be eligible to apply. Applications for remission of accumulated HELP debt will be available from 1 January 2023.
What is indexation and how is it waived?
Indexation maintains the real value of your debt by adjusting it in line with changes in the cost of living as measured by the consumer price index (CPI). On 1 June each year, indexation is applied to the part of an accumulated study and training debt that has remained unpaid for more than 11 months. More information is available on the Australian Taxation Office website.
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment will advise the ATO of the dates that you are eligible for a waiver of your indexation. Within 90 days of that advice, your account will be adjusted to remove any relevant prior year indexation.
Please note that the ATO applies indexation on the 1st June each year to the part of your accumulated study and training debt that has remained unpaid for more than 11 months.
If your application for waiver for the 2019 year of indexation is approved, and includes days before 1 June 2019, the indexation applied on 1 June 2019 will be adjusted if applicable. However for the period following 1 June 2019 to the end of 2019 you will see no change to your account until after 1 June 2020 when the Indexation for 2020 is added to your account.
Example: If you lodge an indexation waiver application in April 2020 for the period 01/02/2019 to 31/12/2019, you will see an adjustment to your indexation as at 01/06/2019 for the period 14/02/2019 to 31/05/2019. The waiver of indexation for the remaining period - 01/06/2019 to 31/12/2019 - will not be adjusted until the annual indexation date (01/06/2020).
What is my accumulated HELP debt and how will that be remitted?
Your accumulated HELP debt refers to the HELP debt that remains unpaid at a point in time. HELP debt is incurred through study in a Commonwealth supported study place (HECS-HELP), a full fee-paying place (FEE-HELP), and can include OS‑HELP, SA‑HELP, VET FEE‑HELP and VET Student Loans.
For the purpose of this measure, the HELP debt incurred during the course of obtaining your initial teacher education qualification is the portion that is eligible for remission.
How much of my accumulated HELP debt will be remitted?
The debt to be remitted is limited to the HELP debt outstanding at the commencement of your teaching position, and to a maximum of five years of initial teacher education qualification related tuition costs.
The amount to be remitted will be the lesser of your HELP loan incurred for this study, and the outstanding HELP debt at the commencement of your four years employment as a teacher in a very remote location. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment will advise the ATO of this amount following the approval of your application. Your HELP account will be credited by the ATO within 90 days of this advice.
Example: If you completed a non-Education related undergraduate degree, and a post‑graduate qualification in Education, both of your courses will be eligible for remission if completion of an undergraduate degree was a requirement of the post-graduate qualification.
Example: I have HELP loans of $50,000, but have repaid $5,000 before moving to a very remote location. The maximum that can be remitted would be $45,000, which is the accumulated HELP debt prior to commencing placement in a very remote school.
What is meant by initial teacher education qualification?
The term initial teacher education qualification refers to the first teacher education qualification obtained that satisfies the minimum academic requirements for registration as a teacher by an authority of a state or territory.
Information about initial teacher education programs and the teacher regulatory authority in each state/territory can be found on the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership website.
How is a very remote location determined/defined?
A very remote location is determined using the ABS Remoteness Structure. Information on the ABS Remoteness Structure, along with how remoteness is determined, can be found on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website - https://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/home/remoteness+structure
Where can I find a list of schools considered to be very remote?
The lists of very remote schools, preschools and centre based day care services can be found on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.
How do I know if I am eligible to apply for waiver of indexation on my accumulated HELP debt?
If you are working in a school on one of the following lists (commencing on or after the start of the 2019 school year) and can answer yes to the three eligibility questions on the application form and meet all relevant eligibility criteria for your application to be approved by the department, you are eligible to apply.
- Very remote centre based day care services
- Very remote preschools (NSW/NT/QLD/SA)
- Very remote schools
How do I know if I am eligible to apply for remission of my accumulated HELP debt?
You will be able to apply for remission of accumulated HELP debt from 2023 onwards. If you have been working in a school on one of the following lists for four years or more (commencing on or after the start of the 2019 school year) and can answer yes to the three eligibility questions on the application form you are eligible to apply.
- Very remote centre based day care services
- Very remote preschools (NSW/NT/QLD/SA)
- Very remote schools
I am already employed as a teacher but I’ve only just finished my initial teacher education qualification. From what date can I apply?
You may apply for waiver of indexation on your accumulated HELP debt from the date you complete your initial teacher education qualification, obtain registration as a teacher with the relevant association (if relevant) in your state and commence employment as a teacher, providing that date is after the beginning of the 2019 school year.
This same date applies in order for you to be eligible for remission of your accumulated HELP debt - your four year (or a six year part-time equivalent) teaching period will commence when you obtain registration as a teacher with the relevant association in your state and commence employment as a teacher, providing that date is after the beginning of the 2019 school year.
I have already been teaching in a very remote location for a period of time - will this time count towards my four year teaching period?
This initiative commenced from the beginning of the 2019 school year. Any service prior to that will not count towards your four year teaching period time.
I’m teaching part time or casually in a school in a very remote location – Can I apply?
Yes, casual and part time teachers can apply.
You may apply for waiver of indexation on your accumulated HELP debt, commencing during or after the 2019 school year.
To be eligible for remission of your accumulated HELP debt, you will need to have worked in a school in a very remote location for a four year or pro-rated part time equivalent, over no more than a six year period.
Am I still eligible if I have been on leave e.g. maternity leave?
Yes, in accordance with the Very Remote HELP Debtor Guidelines 2019, paid maternity leave, as with other types of paid leave, is counted as ‘service’ and will be included.
If I work across a number of different schools, preschools or centre based day care services in very remote locations and across a number of states, will I still be eligible?
Yes, you will be able to work across different educational settings provided that the school, preschool or centre based day care service you are working at is included on one of the lists and all other eligibility requirements are met.
I work at a school that does not appear on one of the lists for very remote schools, preschools, or centre based day care services. What should I do?
Only schools, preschools and centre based day care services that appear on one of the published lists are eligible.
These lists will be updated every five years in line with the ABS Remoteness Structure updates, or more frequently if new schools are opened that meet the very remote definition.
If the very remote school, preschool, or centre based day care service you are working at is not included on one of these lists, please contact email@example.com for further information on eligibility.
If I expect that I will be eligible for my accumulated HELP debt to be remitted am I still required to make compulsory repayments?
The requirement to make compulsory repayments on your HELP account remains, and you are still required to advise your employer that you have a HELP debt. Your employer will continue to withhold additional tax from your fortnightly pay to cover any compulsory repayments.
Further information can be found on the Australian Taxation Office website.
If you become eligible for remission of HELP debts related to your teaching qualifications after working in a very remote area for four years, you may also be remitted your compulsory repayments you have made while you have been teaching in a very remote area.
This will happen if, on or after the beginning of the 2019 school year (whichever is later that you start teaching in a very remote area) your HELP debt only relates to your eligible teaching qualification(s).
I am not employed by a school listed as a ‘very remote school’ but I teach students in ‘very remote’ locations through distance education. Am I still eligible?
No. The important factor is that the location that you are normally resident in and the location of the school campus where you are teaching must be in very remote Australia. Please refer to the Very Remote HELP Debtor Guidelines 2019 for more details.
How do I find my CHESSN?
Further information about CHESSNs is available on the StudyAssist website.
Is there a deadline for applying for the waiver of indexation on my accumulated HELP debt for previous years?
No, you may apply for the waiver of indexation at any time; however, you are encouraged to apply as soon as possible if you consider yourself eligible.
Wavier of indexation will be applied for the approved period on or before 1 June of the year following your application.
I had already paid off some of my accumulated HELP debt prior to starting work in a school in a very remote location – will this be refunded to me?
No. The debt to be remitted is limited to the accumulated HELP debt at the commencement of your four year teaching period and can only relate to debt incurred for your initial teacher education qualification course of study.
When can I expect my refund and how will I receive it?
The ‘very remote HELP debtor reduction’ that is owed to you after four years teaching in a school in a very remote location, will be applied to reduce your ATO HELP account balance. If your HELP account balance is less than zero as a result of the reduction, and you do not have other primary tax or commonwealth debts, the credit will be refunded via the usual ATO refund mechanisms.
Will I receive notification of my updated or revised HELP debt?
No. You will be able to check your HELP debt via myGov.
I disagree with the outcome of my application or I have further questions. What should I do?
You may email the Department of Education, Skills and Employment at firstname.lastname@example.org