Frequently Asked Questions

Fact sheet

Waiver of indexation on accumulated HELP Debt and Reduction of HELP Debt for teachers in very remote areas.

Table of contents

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 area of Australia (as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Remoteness Structure) on or after the 14 February 2019. Once you are no longer teaching in a very remote area, indexation on any remaining HELP debt will recommence.

This initiative will also reduce all or part of your accumulated HELP debt after you have been engaged in a teaching position, for four years full time or the pro-rated part time equivalent in a six-year period, in a very remote area in Australia. If you commenced in a teaching position at a school in a very remote area during or any time after the start of the 2019 school year, you may be eligible to apply. Applications for reduction of accumulated HELP debt will be available in 2023.

What is indexation and how is it waived?

HELP debt 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 reduce any relevant prior year indexation.

How is indexation waived?

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).

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 teaching position in a school or preschool or centre based day care service on one of the following lists (on or after 14 February 2019) 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. Teachers must be normally resident in a very remote area during the period applied for (or temporarily located in a very remote area if temporarily employed).

From what date can I apply for a waiver of indexation?

The date you may apply for a waiver of indexation on your accumulated HELP debt for a period on or after 14 February 2019 is from the date that you satisfy all the eligibility criteria:

  • You have completed your initial teacher education qualification (and have a HECS‑HELP or FEE‑HELP debt in relation to that qualification) and;
  • You are employed as a teacher at a school or preschool or centre based day care service classified as being in a very remote area; and
  • Are normally resident in a very remote area during the period you are applying for (or temporarily located in a very remote area if temporarily employed)

The supporting documentation you must provide as listed in Part D of the application form must support the indexation waiver period you are applying (i.e. the ‘from date’ you have applied for as well as the ‘to date’ in the application form). 

If you currently have a fixed term contract the ‘to date’ cannot be further into the future than the end date of your contract. If you are employed on a permanent or ongoing status as a teacher in a very remote area, you may either specify a ‘to date’ or leave the ‘to date’ blank and we will assess your application on an ongoing basis.

What is my accumulated HELP debt and how will that be reduced?

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 the reduction of accumulated HELP debt  measure, the debt to be reduced is limited to the accumulated HELP debt outstanding at the commencement of your teaching position when you become eligible, and to a maximum of five years of initial teacher education qualification related tuition costs (incurred through either HECS‑HELP or FEE‑HELP). The department will work with you and the ATO to calculate this amount.

How much of my accumulated HELP debt will be reduced?

The debt to be reduced is limited to the accumulated HELP debt outstanding at the commencement of your teaching position when you become eligible, and to a maximum of five years of initial teacher education qualification related tuition costs. The department will work with you and the ATO to calculate this amount.

The amount to be reduced 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 school (or preschool or centre based day care service). The Department of Education, Skills and Employment will advise the ATO of this amount following the approval of your application.

Example: I had incurred a HELP debt of $50,000 for the initial teacher qualification. I have repaid $5,000 before my eligible period of service commences.

This $5000 repaid would not be eligible for a reduction, because the debt to be reduced is limited to the accumulated HELP debt outstanding at the commencement of your teaching position when you become eligible. The amount to be reduced from your HELP debt is the lesser between the amount of HELP debt you incurred for the initial teacher education qualification and the HELP debt at the commencement of your four years employment as a teacher in a very remote school (or preschool or centre based day care service). In this example, the amount to be reduced will be $45,000 (i.e. amount outstanding at the commencement of the teaching position).

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.

Generally speaking, in cases where a teacher has a non-teaching undergraduate course (meaning not capable of leading to registration as a teacher in a state or territory) and a post-graduate qualification, and the completion of the undergraduate course is a pre‑requisite to a post-graduate qualification (leading to registration as a teacher in a state or territory), then the costs of the undergraduate course and the post graduate course may be eligible for a reduction, subject to the applicable limit (as described above), because it will form part of the initial teacher education qualification.

Example: If you completed a non-Education related undergraduate degree, and a post‑graduate qualification in Education, both of your courses may be eligible for a reduction of the accumulated HELP debt if completion of an undergraduate degree was a requirement of the post-graduate qualification.

How is a very remote area determined/defined?

A very remote area 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.

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 a reduction of my accumulated HELP debt?

You will be able to apply for a reduction of accumulated HELP debt from 2023 onwards.

To be eligible for a reduction of accumulated HELP debt, teachers must complete four years of teaching full time, or the pro-rated part time equivalent in a six-year period, at a very remote school/s (or preschool or centre based day care services), commencing on or after the start of the 2019 school year.

Teachers must be normally resident in a very remote area during the period applied for (or temporarily located in a very remote area if temporarily employed). Teachers must also have already completed their initial teacher education qualification for their period of teaching eligibility to commence and have a HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP debt in relation to that qualification.

Lists of schools, pre-schools, and centre based day care service classified as being in a very remote area can be accessed below.

I have already been teaching in a very remote area 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 area – Can I apply?

Yes, casual and part time teachers can apply.

You may apply for waiver of indexation on your accumulated HELP debt for a period commencing after the 14 February 2019.

To be eligible for a reduction of your accumulated HELP debt, you will need to have worked in a school in a very remote area 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 areas 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.

However you must supply supporting documentation (such as an employment contract and proof of residence while working at the remote school) for each different school or preschool or centre based day service you were employed with.

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 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 veryremotehelp@dese.gov.au for further information on eligibility.

If I expect that I will be eligible for my accumulated HELP debt to be reduced 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 reduction of accumulated HELP debts related to your initial teacher education qualification after working in a very remote area for four years, you may also have your compulsory repayments repaid if you have made any while you have been teaching in a very remote area.

The debt to be reduced (including any eligible compulsory repayments) is limited to the accumulated HELP debt outstanding at the commencement of your teaching position when you become eligible, and to a maximum of five years of initial teacher education qualification related tuition costs. The department will work with you and the ATO to calculate this amount.

I am not employed by a school listed as a ‘very remote school’ but I teach students in ‘very remote’ areas through distance education. Am I still eligible?

No. The important factor is that the area that you are normally resident in and the area 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.

Waiver 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 area – will this be refunded to me?

No. The debt to be reduced is limited to the accumulated HELP debt outstanding at the commencement of your teaching position when you become eligible, and to a maximum of five years of initial teacher education qualification related tuition costs.

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 area, 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 veryremotehelp@dese.gov.au