With the Federal Government looking for ways to raise its revenue streams, Education Minister Christopher Pyne has announced a new plan to recoup millions of dollars from Australians living and working overseas. According to the minister, HECS and HELP debts are often unpaid by citizens working abroad.

Mr. Pyne has gone on the record to announce changes to the old rules, which allowed certain citizens to dodge their re-payment obligations. From 2017, tens of thousands of Australians working overseas will be forced to pay off their HECS and HELP debts (if they earn more than $53,000 per year).

The new legislation is expected to reclaim more than $140 million over an estimated ten year period. In a carefully co-ordinated press statement, the usually-vicious minister seemed to relish the circumstance.

“Currently, because graduates living overseas don’t have to do an Australian tax return, there is no way to know if they are earning above the threshold that triggers HECS repayments and many get off scot-free,” he wrote. “Others come back to a debt that has been accruing interest at CPI rates while they are away.”

Continuing his hard-line rhetoric, Mr. Pyne affirmed his reputation as ‘The Fixer’.

“No government has ever tackled this obviously unfair situation – it’s been in the too-hard basket,” he explained. “Our plan will enforce the same HECS repayment obligations on Australians living overseas that apply to those who remain on our shores. There is no good reason why someone working as a banker in London or New York and earning over the threshold shouldn’t pay back what they owe Australia.”

Under the current legal framework, those living and working overseas are able to make voluntary re-payments of their educational debts. The scheme quite unsurprisingly doesn’t result in many repayments being made.

But according to the Australian Tax Office, there is no strict legal obligation to do so. The changes, which are expected to come into effect on July 1, 2017, will officially reverse that policy.


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