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?

What are the two types of assistance available under this initiative?

There are two types of assistance under this initiative:

  1. waivers of indexation on accumulated HELP debt (applications open); and 
  2. reduction of accumulated HELP debt (applications available from 2023).

A successful application for a waiver of indexation on accumulated HELP debt waives the indexation applied on your accumulated HELP debt for each day that you are teaching in a very remote area for the approval period. 


A successful application for a reduction of accumulated HELP debt reduces your accumulated HELP debt. 

Who is this initiative available to? 

Both types of assistance are available to teachers who are/were teaching in a very remote area of Australia, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Remoteness Structure during their teaching period, at any of the following:

  • a school providing primary or secondary education
  • a centre based day care service
  • a preschool

Lists of eligible schools, centre-based day care services, and preschools is available on our Reduction of HELP debts for teachers in very remote areas page.

To be eligible for either type of assistance, teachers are required to 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 and have incurred a HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP debt in relation to that qualification.

Indexation waiver on accumulated HELP debt 

What does an indexation waiver do?

On 1 June each year, indexation is applied to an accumulated study and training debt that has remained unpaid for more than 11 months. If indexation is applied to your accumulated HELP debt on 1 June, your HELP debt will increase by the amount of indexation. 

The waivers of indexation on accumulated HELP debt will waive any indexation applied to your HELP debt, proportionate to the amount of days that you were eligible during that period of indexation. 

The indexation applied on 1 June will cover the period from 1 June in the previous calendar year until 31 May in the current calendar year. If your eligible teaching period covers every day in that period, the full amount of indexation will be waived.  

If your application to waive indexation on your accumulated HELP debt is successful, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment will advise you and notify the ATO of the dates that you are eligible based on your application. Within 90 days of that advice, the ATO will remove any indexation that has or will be applied to your HELP debt during the approval period. 

The indexation waiver does not reduce your HELP debt other than the indexation amount for that period. The application for indexation waiver does not refund compulsory repayments you have made towards your HELP debt. Your HELP debt may be reduced by the reduction of accumulated HELP debt measure. 

How much will my indexation waiver amount be?

Your HELP debt account with the ATO contains a record of your HELP debt including the indexation that has been applied to your HELP debt. 

You can access this account with the ATO online via your MyGov account.

You can view the amounts of indexation applied to your debt on this transaction record. To estimate your potential indexation waiver amount you can then divide an indexation amount applied on your account by the number of days between 1 June and 1 June in the previous calendar year and multiply that amount by the number of days you estimate you are eligible for.  

Example: $222.89 of indexation is applied to your HELP debt account on 1 June 2020. You become eligible for the indexation waiver for a period of teaching starting 30 January 2020 to 27 January 2023. Your indexation will be reduced for each day during the eligible period between 30 January 2020 and 31 May 2020 inclusive (123 days). 

Indexation waived for 2020 indexation year = 123 eligible days/365 x indexation amount ($222.89) = $75.11

The remaining number of eligible days in your approved period will waive indexation for the following indexation years in the same way as the above. 

If your application is successful, you will be able to view the indexation amount waived on your HELP debt account.  

Why was my indexation only partially waived or not waived at all? 

As the measure only applies for days of teaching on or after 14 February 2019, if your approval period includes days before 1 June 2019, the maximum possible indexation waiver amount for 2019 can only be a partial amount of the total indexation applied on 1 June 2019 (as the indexation applied on 1 June covers the period from 1 June 2018 to 31 May 2019). 

You must have an outstanding HELP debt on 1 June for indexation to be applied. For example, if you commenced your teaching on 14 February 2019 with an outstanding HELP debt of $4,000 but you make a repayment towards your HELP debt on 1 May 2019 of $4,000 then no indexation can be waived for your approval period. This is because at the time indexation would have been applied to your debt in 2019 (1 June 2019), your outstanding HELP debt was $0.

How do I know if I am eligible to apply for waiver of indexation on my accumulated HELP debt?

If you satisfy the general eligibility for this initiative, you may be eligible for waivers of indexation on your accumulated HELP debt for each day of teaching while you are employed as a teacher at a school (or centre based day care service), in a very remote area of Australia 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. Applications for waivers of indexation are open. You can apply for a waiver of indexation via the application form online. 

Reduction of accumulated HELP debt 

What does reduction of accumulated HELP debt do? 

Once you apply for a reduction of accumulated HELP debt, and your application is approved, your outstanding HELP debt will be reduced by an amount determined based on your application. 

How much of my accumulated HELP debt will be reduced?

The amount to be reduced will be the lesser amount between:

Regarding the first amount, you can estimate this amount by checking the HELP debt from your study history using the myHELPbalance portal to work out the loans related to your initial teacher qualification, using the ‘export full statement’ function once signed in.

Regarding the second amount, the ATO also keeps track of any HELP debt you owed to the Commonwealth. Your HELP debt account contains a record of your HELP debt including compulsory repayments you have made. You can determine your outstanding HELP debt at a point time (e.g., when you commenced your teaching in 2019), following the dates recorded next to each transaction record (the dates are on the left-hand side, and the amount outstanding is on the right-hand side of each transaction record, under the heading ‘balance’). You can access this account online via your MyGov account.

Can you provide an example of the amount to be reduced? 

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

This $5,000 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, if no other factors are decisive the amount to be reduced will be $45,000 plus any indexation amounts accrued and not yet repaid (i.e., amount outstanding at the commencement of the teaching position).

How do I know if I am eligible to apply for a reduction of my accumulated HELP debt?

In addition to satisfying the general eligibility for this initiative, to be eligible for reduction of accumulated HELP debts, teachers must complete four years (1460 days) of teaching full time in a six-year period, or the pro-rated part time equivalent, at a very remote school (or centre based day care service), commencing on or after 1 January 2019.

When can I apply for a reduction of my accumulated HELP debt?

Applications for the reduction of accumulated HELP debt will be available in 2023. You must have completed the required 1460 days in your eligible teaching period. For the purposes of this measure the earliest date your eligible teaching period can commence is 1 January 2019, and if you have continued uninterrupted as a full-time teacher for the entire four years the eligible teaching period would end on 1 January 2023. 

Please note that the full period of your 1460 days must be fully supported by your supporting documentation (such as formal employment documentation). If the Department cannot verify periods of your employment as a teacher with your current or past employers your application may be rejected.

I have already been teaching in a very remote area for a period - will this time count towards my four-year teaching period?

This initiative commenced from 1 January 2019. Any service prior to that will not count towards your four-year teaching period time.

If I expect that I will be eligible for the reduction of accumulated HELP debt am I still required to make compulsory repayments?

The requirement to make compulsory repayments on your HELP debt 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.

Once you apply for a reduction of accumulated HELP debt, and your application is approved, the amount determined to be reduced may be inclusive of the compulsory repayments you made while you have been teaching in a very remote area. Compulsory repayments may not always be fully inclusive within the amount to be reduced if you have non-initial teacher education qualification related debts outstanding with the ATO. 

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?

Once you apply for a reduction of accumulated HELP debt, and your application is approved, the amount determined to be reduced will be applied to reduce your ATO HELP debt account balance. If your HELP debt 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.

This means the credit amount will be transferred to your Income Tax account and included as a credit towards your income tax assessment for the relevant tax year. After the income tax assessment is complete, if you are still owed the credit amount, the amount will be transferred to your nominated bank account with the ATO. The ‘credit’ amount will also appear on your ATO HELP debt statement that can be viewed on ATO Online via your MyGov account.

Will I receive notification of my updated or revised HELP debt?

No. You will be able to check your HELP debt via myGov.

Further eligibility questions

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 Reduction of HELP debts for teachers in very remote areas page.

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 for each day you are engaged to teach in a very remote area. 

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 four years, or the pro-rated part time equivalent, over no more than a six-year period.

I’m teaching in a Head of Department, school Principal, or other leadership role – Can I apply? 

Yes, so far as you are engaged to some degree in teaching related duties, and satisfy the other eligibility criteria including holding an initial teacher education qualification, then your position may be eligible for this initiative. 

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. Leave taken at half-pay, provided it is taken as a contractual right, will count as a full day towards both measures. 

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 on the Reduction of HELP debts for teachers in very remote areas page 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 in locations determined as ‘very remote’ according to the latest ABS remoteness structure  (during your teaching period) are eligible.

The published lists will be updated in line with the ABS Remoteness Structure updates, or more frequently if new locations are opened that meet the very remote definition. You can view the Remoteness Areas online using the ABS Maps tool

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.

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 (or temporarily located) 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.

I still have questions about my eligibility, is there someone I can speak to? 

Please contact us at veryremotehelp@dese.gov.au for further information on eligibility

The Application Process 

How do I make an application? 

Please complete the relevant application form and please ensure you attach the supporting documents listed in the application form in your email. Please submit the application form to veryremotehelp@dese.gov.au

From what date can I apply for a waiver of indexation in my application form?

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 full period you are applying for (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.

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 can’t locate my ATO HELP debt statement. What should I do? 

Please contact us at veryremotehelp@dese.gov.au for further instructions.  

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

How can I extend or adjust my indexation waiver approval period? 

If you have completed your approval period from your first indexation waiver application, or your employment circumstances have changed, please complete the extension/adjustment application. This application form is less detailed than the initial application form.  

Glossary

Accumulated HELP debt

Your accumulated HELP debt refers to the HELP debt that remains unpaid at a point in time. 

HELP debt can be incurred through study in a Commonwealth supported study place (HECS-HELP) or a full fee-paying place (FEE-HELP) if you defer payment of your student contribution amount or tuition fee amount. Your accumulated HELP debt can also include OS HELP, SA HELP, VET FEE HELP and VET Student Loan (pre 1 July 2019) debts. 

The ATO keeps track of any HELP debt you owe to the Commonwealth in your HELP debt account with the ATO. Your HELP debt account contains a record of your incurred HELP debts and other transactions made on your account such compulsory repayments or amounts of HELP debt indexation. 

You can determine your accumulated HELP debt at a point time (in other words your outstanding HELP debt at a point in time, e.g., when you commenced your teaching placement), following the dates recorded next to each transaction record on your account (the dates are on the left-hand side and the amount outstanding is on the right-hand side of each transaction record, under the heading ‘balance’). You can access this account online via your MyGov account. We also have instructions in a visual guide about accessing this account. Please contact us for a copy if you have difficulty locating your HELP debt account.  

HELP debt indexation 

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. 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). More information is available on the Australian Taxation Office website

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. The application forms for this initiative will require you to provide a teacher registration number. 

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.

Normally resident or temporarily located 

The term ‘normally resident in a very remote area’ (‘or temporarily located in a very remote area if temporarily employed’) means you must have a residential address where you live in a very remote area during your teaching period.

Very remote area

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.

The lists of very remote schools, preschools and centre based day care services can be found on the Reduction of HELP debts for teachers in very remote areas page.