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Reporting student HELP debts to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

How is HELP data sent to the ATO?

Every time you submit a student's HELP debt record, the Tax File Number (TFN) will be automatically sent for verification (checking) with the ATO. If the student's TFN and personal details match, the student's HELP debt will be transferred to the ATO.

For higher education students the HELP debt will be sent overnight. VET student HELP debts will be sent to the ATO after the VET provider payment date.

Reporting to the ATO flow chart

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As a provider, one of your primary responsibilities is to ensure accurate and timely reporting of all students' HELP debts. This includes revising any incorrect data as soon as practicable after an error is identified or a debt is remitted in special circumstances. While HELP debts and revisions can be reported at any time, all revisions to student debts must be reported no later than each reporting deadline.

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TFN verification

TFN verification ensures that each TFN is confirmed as belonging to a particular student before their associated HELP debt is accepted by the ATO. The ATO verifies the TFNs by matching the details they have for the student with those you have reported to HEIMS.

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What if the TFN can't be matched?

If a student's TFN can't be matched, you will receive an automated email to advise you that the TFN verification has failed and that the debt will not be sent to the ATO. You will find the details of the failed records in your TFN Verification reports in HEIMS Online.

HEIMS Online Data View TFN Reports

When you open your TFN Revision report you will find the failed records have a Rejection Message.

There are four types of errors that may appear in your TFN Revision report.

In all circumstances, the main course of action is to ask your students to check their personal details and TFN, and provide you with confirmation that their TFN and personal details held by the ATO are the same as the details they have provided to your organisation.

Students can manage their details using ATO online services. To use this service, all students require is a myGov account that is linked to the ATO. If students have difficulties using ATO online, they can contact the ATO Individual enquiries line on 13 28 61.

The table below provides the details of these errors.

No Unencrypted TFN
An unencrypted TFN is not available in HEIMS to send for verification.

This generally occurs if you do not submit a student's TFN when you are revising a pre‑2016 record, when HEIMS had only encrypted TFN values.
A TFN must be submitted through a Revised HELP Due or TFN Revision submission.
Matched to different External ID
The ATO has different TFN for the student.

The ATO may also have different personal details for the student.
The student will need to confirm with the ATO their correct TFN. They will also need to confirm that their personal details match the details held by the ATO.

The updated TFN and student details, as required, must be submitted through a Revised HELP Due or TFN Revision submission.
The TFN and/or some or all of the student details reported to HEIMS do not match the details held for the student at the ATO.
The student will need to check and update where necessary, all of their details including the TFN.

The updated TFN and student details must be submitted through a Revised HELP Due or TFN Revision submission.
Unmatched due to Client Status
The TFN and student details cannot be found.
The TFN and student details must be confirmed by the student.

You can update a student's TFN and personal details using the new TFN revision submission or the Revised HELP Due submission.

There are a number of tools to help you manage TFN verification. These include the:

  • TFN LookUp function that allows providers to check TFNs for new students not previously reported to HEIMS. This allows TFN details to be checked before submitting student HELP data. An automated email will notify providers if any of the TFNs could not be matched
  • TFN LookUp Report that lists students whose TFNs were submitted in the TFN LookUp but could not be verified by the ATO. This check can be used at any time during the year when new students are commencing their studies.
  • TFN Revision Report that provides a list of the students whose TFNs could not be verified by the ATO when you submitted their HELP data. The details for the students in this report must be updated before their HELP debt can be sent to the ATO.

Our resources will assist you with this process.

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How can a student check their HELP debt?

The Opens in a new window: ATO website provides detailed information for providers and students about repaying HELP debts.

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Student Fact Sheet: Tax File Number (TFN) Mismatch

This fact sheet has been created by the department and the ATO to help you with managing students who are providing TFN details that are not passing the TFN verification process. You can give this fact sheet to your students to help them understand why they have to provide a TFN, what happens if the TFN is not valid and what the student needs to do to ensure that the TFN they are supplying can be validated.

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