44. Waiver of HELP debt

There is already a process available for a person to seek a remittance of their HELP debt, for units in which they were enrolled, but could not complete, under the ‘special circumstances’ provisions (see Appendix J). The person’s provider is then responsible for assessing whether their application meets these provisions. If the person wishes to escalate their complaint, they can use the internal and external review mechanisms of the special circumstances provisions. Failing this, the person’s option of last resort is to contact the Department of Finance and request their debt be waived, as a debt to the Commonwealth. The waiver of debt power is discretionary. This means there is no automatic entitlement to a waiver of debt.

A waiver of debt is a special concession granted to a person that extinguishes a debt owed to the Commonwealth. This means that the debt is completely forgiven and can no longer be recovered by the Commonwealth.

The waiver of debt mechanism is generally an avenue of last resort and is used only where there is no other viable avenue to provide redress. In general, this assistance may be granted where it is considered the Commonwealth has a moral responsibility to provide assistance, rather than a legal responsibility.

The waiver of debt power is found in section 63 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). It allows the Finance Minister to waive amounts owing to the Commonwealth. The waiver of debt power has been delegated to officials within the Department of Finance.

Debts are usually waived where the decision-maker considers recovery of the debt would be inequitable or cause ongoing financial hardship and that other options are not appropriate. In this context, ongoing financial hardship is likely to be taken to exist when payment of the debt would leave a person unable to provide food, accommodation, clothing, medical treatment, education or other necessities for the person or their family, or other people for whom they are responsible.

However, even if the person demonstrates financial hardship, the decision-maker may still consider their debt should not be waived.

Any individual, company or other organisation can apply for waiver of a debt owed to the Commonwealth, either for themselves or for an authorised third party. Claims are made in writing and face-to-face meetings are generally not conducted. All relevant evidence in support of an application, e.g. correspondence between the applicant and the relevant Commonwealth agency, medical certificates etc, must be included. If an application for a waiver of debt is on the grounds of financial hardship, the additional Statement of Financial Details must be included.

Application forms are available on the Department of Finance website. Once completed, they should be sent to:

Discretionary Payments Section
Risk, Insurance and Special Claims Branch
Department of Finance
1 Canberra Avenue
Forrest ACT 2603

For further information on waiver of debt, see the Department of Finance website.