Paying it back: Expats set to pay their HECS after years of leniency 5



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It’s very strange to thing that under current laws, Australians living and working overseas do not need to repay their tertiary education debt. They can accumulate huge amounts of money and then leave the country, using their new education and potentially not having to a cent.

This could all be set to change if proposed changes to the law are passed. Education Minister Chris Pyne has said that enough is enough and from 2017, the government wants Australians living overseas to be legally obliged to repay their HECS and HELP debts.

The new legislation will aim for those who have lived abroad from over six months and earn more than $53,000 – the current threshold in Australia. Debtors living overseas can make voluntary payments, but are under no obligation once they earn a certain amount.

It’s a matter of fairness, says Mr Pyne, and it is set to raise more than $140 million over 10 years.

“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 said in a statement.

“Others come back to a debt that has been accruing interest at CPI rates while they are away.

“No government has ever tackled this obviously unfair situation – it’s been in the too-hard basket. Our plan will enforce the same HECS repayment obligations on Australians living overseas that apply to those who remain on our shores”.

Do you think this is a good idea? Imagine if every graduate, regardless of income (but obviously means-tested), was obliged to pay $10 off their HECS debt a week? That would also have an enormously positive benefit to our economy and yet, as Mr Pyne said, the government hasn’t wanted to touch it until the going gets tough.

From July 1, 2017, Mr Pyne proposes that Australians with HECS or HELP debts will need to repay it.

“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”, he said.


So tell us, do you think it’s high time that those who have accumulated this government debt pay it off, even if they are living abroad? Or is it unfair to expect that? Who else should they target instead?

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  1. Politicians really have a lot to answer for. Thousands upon thousands of ADF veterans had to borrow from their Defence superannuation to be able to resettle into civilian life after 20 years full time service. Having done so and no matter where they are, or what there income level was or is, they have had money taken from their retirement pay by government to repay that loan. As a result of this totally unfairl act, with other similar acts by governments, has seen many of those veterans forced onto welfare. To demonstrate the true level of respect by government note this. Those veterans will continue to see money taken from their retirement pay until the day they die regardless the loan was paid off years earlier. This is a commercially criminal act except in this case because parliament legislated such a law.

    1 REPLY
    • I agree Colin. The neglect of those who step up & clean up the mess that politicians make is a disgrace.
      What they believe is an entitlement for them & not the ADF ought to be a hanging offense.

  2. Firstly, this will likely be challenged, and rightly so, if it is applied retrospectively. Presumably, this will only apply to debts incurred after the implementation date.

    Secondly, $140m over 10 years is only $14m a year. It’s a rounding error, not a significant budget measure and certainly not likely to “… have an enormously positive benefit to our economy”.

  3. Subsidised if they use the skills here by those who take it OS.

  4. If they can afford an airfare to go overseas, they can afford to start paying their debts! All debts incurred should be paid back, starting as of Day 1 in the work force, or on unemployment benefits. You incur a debt, you have a moral obligation to repay it, no matter how small the repayment you can make. So sick and tired of the “the government owes me” mentality that abounds today. You want a higher education, get off your butt and get a part-time job to help pay for it (after all, uni now seems to be more part-time than it ever was), give up some of those social activities and the latest hi-tech devices you all seem to have! They are not necessities, they are luxuries. Who knows, you might learn some values along the way.
    And before anyone jumps down my throat, I know this doesn’t apply to all the young ones out there.

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