HELP loans for Higher Education in Australia

HELP loan management
HELP debts do not attract interest (in the normal sense), but are instead indexed to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on 1 June each year, based on the annual CPI to March of that year. The indexation rate applied on 1 June 2006 was 2.8% and 3.4% on 1 June 2007. Indexation applies to the part of the debt that has been unpaid for 11 months or more. Thus, indexation is calculated on the opening HELP debt balance on 1 July of the previous year plus any debt incurred in the first half of the current year (usually for first semester courses) less any compulsory and voluntary repayments, with bonus. Any HELP debt incurred on second semester courses (usually determined in June) will not be subject to indexation until the next year. After indexation, the new balance is rounded down to a whole dollar amount.

As of 1 January 2017 the Commonwealth Government removed the 5% voluntary repayment bonus on all HELP debt repayments.

If a person with an accumulated HELP debt dies, any compulsory repayment included on their income tax notice of assessment relating to the period prior to their death must be paid from their estate, but the remainder of their debt is cancelled.

HELP debts are administered by the Australian Taxation Office and will be repaid compulsorily over time through the taxation system. If the HELP Repayment Income (HRI) of a person with a HELP debt exceeds a certain threshold, which for the 2014/15 financial year is $53,345, a compulsory payments will be deducted from the person's tax for the year. To work out the HRI, the ATO will add back to the person's taxable income any net rental loss claimed against that taxable income and add fringe benefits and exempt foreign income received, which have not been included in the taxable income. Unlike marginal tax rates, the repayment rate applies on the full HRI, so that a person with a HRI of $39,500 in the 2007/08 tax year would not have to make any compulsory HELP repayment, but a person with a HRI of $40,000 would make a payment of $1,600. This is 4% of the HRI (not taxable income or the debt balance) of $40,000. The compulsory repayment amount cannot exceed the balance of the HELP debt.

It is also possible to make voluntary payments to further reduce the debt. Until 31 December 2004 voluntary payments over $500 earned a 15% bonus, from 1 January 2005 this was reduced to 10% and from 1 January 2012 this was reduced to 5%. From 1 January 2017 the Government removed the 5% repayment bonus.