ATO unable to HELP

I’ve spent part of my long-service leave doing a subject through Open Universities Australia. But as well as learning more about statistics, I thought I could use my enrolment to make a point.

Though lending students money for their fees on an income-contingent basis is a good idea, as I have complained before the HELP scheme is now too complex, anomaly-ridden, and expensive for taxpayers.

The particular absurdity I wanted to highlight was that if you do a subject through Open Universities Australia, there is no charge to borrow money under FEE-HELP (students at private providers and TAFEs pay a 20% surcharge). But OUA students still get a 10% bonus on any repayments they make.

I thought I would be able to would be able to take out the FEE-HELP loan, and using the bonus clear my approximately $900 in debt for about $820. I’d then write a newspaper article criticising this free money scheme and call for it to be fixed.

As it turns out, I haven’t been able to do this. When I rang the ATO this week asking for the electronic funds transfer number needed to make my repayment, they had no record of my debt.

‘When did you enrol?’, they asked. ‘Early this year’ I replied. While HELP debts are not officially incurred until a ‘census date’, which I think was at the end of March, it seems it takes quite a while for the ATO to get this data. OUA has sent me an official notice of my debt to the ATO, but the ATO knows nothing about it.

Indeed, the person I spoke to at the ATO said that they didn’t even have the second semester 2009 debt information. What this means is that many people who should be starting to repay will not be, because the ATO has no record of them.

At this level of inefficiency, I might be able to delay repaying until I sort out my 2010-11 tax late next year.

If this is typical, it suggests that improving communication of debt information is another way that the government could reduce the high cost of lending students money.

18 Responses to “ATO unable to HELP

  • 1
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    April 30th, 2010 14:51

    Ohhh yeah, it is typical all right. The ATO is generally one year behind on HECS / HELP data.

    I should also say HELP debt is by far the easiest debt in the world to shirk. You go overseas, you don’t pay, you die, you don’t pay (from your estate), go on an extended holiday, pregnancy, whatever, you don’t pay!!
    Yet Ole Bruce Chapman (creator of HECS) wants to extend the scheme to welfare / farm benefits. Arrghhh, tis all.
    Speaking of students, went to the ANZAC service the other day – cant say I saw too many international students….just sayin, just sayin is all.

  • 2
    Andrew Norton
    April 30th, 2010 15:03

    “Speaking of students, went to the ANZAC service the other day – cant say I saw too many international students….just sayin, just sayin is all.”

    Though unlike Australian students, they are at least making a financial sacrifice for Australia.

    Really Baz, what’s this got to do with anything? Why should temporary residents turn up to these things – particularly if some of the locals seem rather unwelcoming.

  • 3
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    April 30th, 2010 15:45

    Just saying it’s all well and good to pop down to Lygon street and grab an Italian expresso made by an alien student, and slink back on my chair and say, boy I like cosmospolitan society. But will these chaps defend our utopian society? Looking at the current crop of boys in camaflage, perhaps not.
    Now, you might not like the discussion, Andrew, but these are thoughts of ordinary Aussies.

  • 4
    April 30th, 2010 19:37

    Shrug, I just pay up when my bill arrives.

  • 5
    April 30th, 2010 21:35

    ‘just sayin, just sayin is all.’

    Rubbish ‘Baz’.

    You are trying to smear foreign students by implication.

    ‘Not celebrating Anzac Day is suspect behaviour.
    Foreign students couldn’t be seen celebrating Anzac Day.
    Therefore, foreign students are suspect.’

    Your comment was apropos of nothing. You said it for no other reason than to smear foreign students.

    If we still had duelling I’d have put a saber through your heart by now, you grub.

  • 6
    April 30th, 2010 21:48

    ‘But will these chaps defend our utopian society? ‘

    They’re FOREIGNERS. Nobody but you would expect them to fight for a society that they are just visiting.

    Or would you have expected me to have put on a Japanese uniform to defend Japan when I was a foreign student in Tokyo?

  • 7
    May 1st, 2010 05:24

    “But will these chaps defend our utopian society?”
    Baz, you’re still exactly like Rebecca_23. You start with something (Rebecca_23 starts with some stereotypical young female prose), make some comment (generally from the same political persuasion) and then by the end of the paragraph, you choose an entirely unrelated issue to complain about.

  • 8
    May 1st, 2010 08:07

    Peoples, all this talk of sabres through hearts, japanese uniforms (yuk) and loose imagination (corad again), might be best to stick to thread at hand.
    On that note, it’s not so much the payment system of HECS that gets me, but the amount. As someone entering the full time work force, I got credit cards, car loans, hecs and straing at an eight ball on the mortgage. Not looking for sympathy, but its tough you know. So yeah, spose I agree. The more effecient the system, the better for all.

  • 9
    May 1st, 2010 12:42

    Notice, Conrad, how Rebecca didn’t pull up ‘Baz the very ordinary’ for going off-topic with his rubbish about foreign students.

  • 10
    May 2nd, 2010 05:05

    Yes, and now that I’ve point out that Rebecca’s prose typically changes completely after the first first sentence (typically to clear simple writing with short sentences), suddenly the rest of the paragraph gets written more informally for a change.

  • 11
    Matt B
    May 2nd, 2010 18:17

    Consider the savings and interest accrued over the time it takes them to issue an invoice as compensation for the $20 lost in the void of Myki.

  • 12
    Robert Wiblin
    May 5th, 2010 21:45

    What do you make of this Andrew? Self serving modelling or reasonable?

  • 13
    Andrew Norton
    May 6th, 2010 04:58

    Robert – It’s an update of a report I criticised last year. I’ve been travelling and pressed for time over the last week, but may get to blogging on this update.

  • 14
    Andrew McIntyre
    May 6th, 2010 14:36

    I have just started a blog
    It is intended to compliment other conservative blogs, filling in little details and bits and pieces that get missed, and hopefully to amplify them.
    I hope you find it worthy of support.
    Please send me feedback on your initial reaction. It is valued.
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  • 15
    Andrew McIntyre
    May 6th, 2010 14:37

    Have a look at my new blog.
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  • 16
    Andrew Norton
    May 7th, 2010 15:16

    Thanks Andrew. If you are a Crikey subscriber, there is a piece by Greg Barns today on burqa criticism and racial vilifications laws that you might want to look at.

  • 17
    Peter Patton
    May 7th, 2010 17:38


    I don’t know if you’re telling porkies, but I have actually been to about 1/2 the dawn services in Sydney over the past 15 years, and the one massive change, that even the research shows, is the rapidly increasing presence of ‘brown’ faces among the mourners.

    A sociologist acquaintance explained it to me as those kids actually born here whose Asian/Indian/Fijian/Whatever parents emigrated/fled on boats over the past 3 decades. decades.

    The kids most fervently resent constantly being told they are Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Philippino, etc, and that every in their school should know about this and ‘celebrate’ these exotic creatures’ real [cue, NOT Australian] cultural identity, for which multicultural Australia is the envy of the galaxy. Never mind that the poor exotic creatures are in nippers, support both an AFL and NRL team, wear sun-block to school, and speak like Paul Hogan.

    Apparently, the data also shows a sharp rise in ‘brwon’ kid attendance at Anzac dawn services when multiculturalism started turning into a religion into the 1990s.

    Very provocative stuff that shatters the white uni tutor crowd invested in whipping up incidents of ‘racism’ whenever they can, hoping other middle class white people will see that they themselves are surely not ‘racist.’ 😉

    Tim Soutphommasane actually wrote one of the more thoughtful and nuanced pieces on the compatibility of Anzac Day and “new” Australians. His piece chimes perfectly with own experience. Gawd knows who Baz hangs around. Catherine Deveney? 😉

  • 18
    Andrew Norton » Blog Archive » Private higher education providers growing rapidly
    May 15th, 2010 15:40

    […] line with the practice of producing higher education statistics very slowly, DEEWR has recently put first semester 2009 enrolment figures on its […]