Recovering student loans from overseas residents

People who have benefited from Australian student loans and now live overseas will pay for them the same way as they would if they lived in Australia following the passage of legislation through Parliament late last night.

Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said it was estimated that up to $30 million was lost annually due to graduates moving overseas.

Senator Birmingham said the passage of the (Overseas Debt Recovery) Bill 2015 and the Student Loans (Overseas Debtors Repayment Levy) Bill 2015 would ensure Australia’s world-class, income-contingent student loans scheme was fairer and more sustainable into the future.

“Until now, people who took out a loan under the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) or a Trade Support Loan (TSL) and moved overseas were under no obligation to repay their debt as long as they remained offshore residents,” Senator Birmingham said.

“The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring the future sustainability of Australia’s student loans scheme and to ensuring it is fair for all Australians.

“From 2016-17, anyone who has a Higher Education Loan Programme or Trade Support Loan debt who earns above the minimum repayment threshold (currently $54,126) will be required to make repayments regardless of where they live.

“As well as making the scheme fairer and more equitable, the Government’s changes will improve the sustainability of the scheme with taxpayers to benefit by $150 million over the next decade.”

Australian taxpayers have lost an estimated $400 million to $800 million due to non-repayment of debts from students living overseas since the student loan scheme started in 1989.[1]

“It is estimated that around $20‑30 million each year was lost due to graduates moving overseas,” Senator Birmingham said.

“From 1 January 2016, all Australians with current and new HELP and TSL debt who move overseas for six months or more will be required to notify the ATO via the myGov website to facilitate repayments.

“And from 1 July 2017, Australians with HELP and TSL debts who are non-residents for tax purposes will be required to assess their total Australian and foreign-sourced income in order to make income-contingent repayments, starting with the 2016/17 financial year.”

Senator Birmingham said the Turnbull Government’s changes also enabled Australian and overseas authorities to better share data to support debt recovery.

“Data sharing between countries is critical to ensuring the future sustainability of the HELP and TSL schemes, particularly as we seek to honour Australia’s long-standing commitment to give New Zealand citizens who came here as children and have long called Australia home, access to Australian student loans.”

The Government’s legislation (the Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2015) to extend access to student loans to certain New Zealand citizens is currently before the Parliament.

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