Student Loans

Studying can be hugely rewarding, but it doesn’t come cheap. If you have a HECS-HELP debt or VET FEE-HELP debt, you’ll have to repay it through the Australian Tax Office (ATO) when your income is above the minimum compulsory repayment threshold.

If you’ve received your Notice of Assessment from the ATO and you’re struggling to pay your debt, follow these steps.

Download PDF

Steps to take to get your student loan debts under control


Work out what you can afford to pay

If you’re struggling to pay back money you owe, the first thing to do is to work out what you can actually afford to pay by doing a simple budget. How to work out what you can afford to pay.

If you can afford to pay something
Start paying the amount you can afford and get in touch with your creditor straight away to put a repayment agreement in place.

If you can’t afford to pay anything
Call us on 1800 007 007 straight away for advice.


Make a repayment arrangement with the ATO

Call the ATO’s individual tax self-help line on 13 72 26 and make an arrangement to pay.

If the payment amounts you can reasonably afford are quite low, you’ll need to go through the ATO’s hardship department to arrange payment. Refer to Tax debts for the process.

The ATO will send you a sheet of payment slips to use once you agree on an amount. Note that you’ll usually be charged interest on the overdue amount of your HECS-HELP debt while you’re paying it off.


  • When you can, make voluntary payments to reduce your debt more quickly
  • You can make voluntary payments even when you are overseas
  • People who have incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt (now called VET Student Loans) because of inappropriate behaviour by some VET FEE-HELP providers have access to new remedies from 1 January 2019. Debts can be waived if the conduct of the provider was inappropriate. If you believe you have incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt inappropriately, make a complaint to the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. For more information, see the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations’ VET Student Loans page.


Ask if you can defer your HECS-HELP payment

You may apply to defer your compulsory repayment if:

  • Making your compulsory repayment would cause you serious hardship (which means you can’t afford to provide food and accommodation for yourself or your dependants)
  • There are other special reasons why you can’t make a compulsory repayment, such as a death in your family, a natural disaster or travel reasons


If you think you have the grounds to defer payment, fill out the Defer Application Form that can be downloaded from the Australian Taxation Office website.

If you applied for deferment due to hardship or special circumstances and don’t get the decision you want, you can appeal. You have 28 days to appeal through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.


Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:00 am to 8.00 pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.

Repaying HECS-HELP debts

What if I get seriously ill or have other 'special circumstances' and can no longer study?

If you have successfully completed a unit of study you will have to pay the HELP debt for each unit completed. If you did not successfully complete, or withdrew from, a unit of study after the HELP census date due to serious illness or other ‘’special circumstances’’, then you may be able to get that debt cancelled. For more information see  cancelling HELP debt under special circumstances.

What is the minimum payment threshold?Refer to the ATO's repayment thresholds.

Refer to the ATO’s repayment thresholds.

What happens if I go and live overseas?

When you go to live in another country, your HECS-HELP debt still exists. If your income is over the relevant threshold you still need to make repayments to your HECS-HELP debt each financial year. For information on this from the ATO see Overseas Obligations.

Will my loan be charged interest?

No, your HECS-HELP debt will not be charged interest. It will be indexed against the Consumer Price Index (CPI) each year. This means your debt will keep its real value.

What happens if I change my mind and no longer want to study?

If you change your mind, you’ll still have to pay your HECS-HELP debt.