How to manage HECS or HELP debt when you live overseas
The tax office has issued a warning to people with a higher education loan program (HELP) or trade support loan (TSL) debt who plan to move overseas for more than six months: they must report their overseas contact details within seven days of leaving the country.
It is part of a crackdown announced last year on Australians who take out the loans and then move overseas either temporarily or permanently. Often they stop making repayments because they are no longer in the Australian tax net.
From July 1, 2017, anyone living overseas and earning above the minimum repayment threshold must make loan repayments, just as if they were living in Australia.
The ATO says, at a minimum, you must report your international residential and email addresses within the seven days. If you don't yet have those details, you must provide the best contact address while you are away - for example, your parents' address - and update it when you are settled. Either way, the ATO wants to know where you are so it can correspond with you. (If you already reside overseas, you must update your details by July 1, 2017.)
The new system of repayments doesn't start until July 1, 2017, and at present there's no word on how those affected will need to report their income and make repayments.
Mark Chapman is director of tax communications with H&R Block.