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  • Escape from the country, but not your student loans

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will be contacting Australian expats this year reminding them that leaving Australia doesn’t mean leaving their student loans behind.

    As at 31 January, there are over 3.2 million Australians with outstanding student loan debts, totalling over $66 billion. The ATO will be engaging with the Department of Home Affairs to identify those who leave or have already departed Australia. Individuals who leave or have already departed Australia with Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), Vocational Education & Training student loan (VSL) and Trade Support Loan (TSL) debts can expect to be contacted by the ATO in the coming months.

    “We know it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving overseas. That’s why we’re reminding expats about obligations they may have forgotten back home,” said Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat.

    “On average, it takes someone nine years to pay off their HELP debt. But for Australians who travel overseas and don’t make any repayments, it takes significantly longer.

    “Moving overseas does not cancel student loan debts and your repayment obligations do not change with your address. Current laws give us the power to pursue these debts overseas,” Ms Foat said.

    Under new rules, Australians with an income contingent loan travelling overseas need to notify the ATO of their new address and lodge an overseas travel notification. They should also report their worldwide income if they earn over $11,470 (AUD). Expats can lodge their tax returns through ATO’s online services via myGov.

    “Expats should know that once their income reaches the new threshold of $45,881 for 2019–20, they need to be making repayments, just like anyone living in Australia,” Ms Foat said.

    Individuals within Australia who have an income contingent loan are also required to make compulsory repayments against their study or training loan debt. The income threshold for 2019–20 is $45,881. It is important to tell your employer you have a study or training loan debt, so that the correct amount is withheld from your salary or wages.

    More information on overseas repayments:

    More information on study and training support loans:

    Details of the ATO’s data matching strategies are published at

    Accessing myGov from overseas

    If you can't receive security codes by SMS to your Australian mobile number overseas, before you travel download the ‘myGov Access app’ to update your myGov sign-in option.

    If you have a myGov account linked to the ATO and answer a secret question to sign in, you can continue using this option whilst overseas.

    If security codes by SMS are switched on but you don’t have access to your Australian mobile number overseas, you will not be able to login your account. You’ll need to create a new myGov account and link to the ATO, you can do this whilst overseas using the ‘myGov Access app’ as your sign-in option.

    Income contingent loans include:

    Income Contingent loan

    No. of individuals

    Amount owed

    HELP (Higher Education Loan Program)

    2.8 million

    $62.9 billion

    SFSS (Student Financial Supplement Scheme) - scheme closed in 2003


    $2.1 billion

    SSL (Student Start-up Loan)


    $406 million



    $7.2 million

    TSL (Trade Support Loan)


    $631.6 million

    VSL (Vocational Education & Training student loan) from 1 July 2019



    Top 5 international destinations for Australians with income contingent loans

    Top 5


    Number of Australians


    United Kingdom



    United States



    New Zealand






    Hong Kong


    Last modified: 08 Jul 2019QC 59570