The implementation of the TFN verification process includes:
- Introducing a new TFN LookUp function within HEPCAT to enable you to check TFNs for new students at any time of the year.
- Modifications to the Revised HELP Due submission to enable you to use this to correct the TFNs for any student whose details couldn't be verified by the ATO.
- Automatic updates to the HELP Due table in your HEPCAT data base to reflect TFN changes submitted through the TR submission.
- Development of new TFN reports to provide you with the details of students whose TFNs could not be verified.
The below are a list of FAQs to clarify the questions you have asked us about this new process.
Q: How can we resolve TFN verification errors when a student has their accountant's address and we have the student's postal address?
A: The TFN, DOB and the student's name details are primary fields used to verify TFN details. Depending if a match is found on the primary fields then the address can be left as it is, in some instances. However, if the address is used to find a match then the student would need to record details of their additional addresses with the ATO.
Q: We have a student who has been legally advised that she can have two separate names. She refuses to change her details in our system as she wants to graduate with a different name than that held with the ATO. What do we do here?
A: For the TFN details to be verified the student must advise the ATO of additional names. The TFN verification process will then check against all names recorded for the student at the ATO.
Q: How should we be securely collecting students TFNs?
A: Each organisation should have administrative procedures for collecting student's personal information including TFNs which comply with the Opens in a new window: Information Privacy Principles of the Privacy Act 1988 (PDF).
Q: Can we continue to use the TFN lookup file to check student TFN details even when students in an earlier file are in error?
A: Yes. You can continue to submit TFN LookUp files at any time irrespective of whether there are outstanding TFN errors from previous submissions.
However, you cannot submit another TFN LookUp submission until the earlier submission has an accepted status in HEPCAT and all the records in the previous file have been processed by the ATO.
Q: Can the TFN Verification report identify a student as a HEP or VET student based on the course code information?
A: The TFN Revision Report will list all of your students who failed TFN verification regardless of the type of course that the student is undertaking. For dual sector providers there is no filter in the report to identify students by study type of either higher education or VET.
Q: The amount of TFN errors has increased compared to previous years, is the ATO checking the data more thoroughly?
A: The data is not being checked more thoroughly, rather it being checked earlier in the process and students and providers are expected to provide verifiable TFN details.
The previous HELP debt data transfer process used only encrypted TFNs and did not include a process to check TFN details before the debt was sent to the ATO. It relied on a manual process well after the transfer of HELP debts.
The new TFN data transfer method provides a more robust process and enables the TFN to be verified on submission of the student's HELP debt.
Q: If a student's TFN cannot be verified and the student does not update their details with the ATO will our organisation receive payment for this study?
A: During the transition period for census dates to 31 October 2017 there is no intention to adjust providers' payments while resolving TFN failure issues with their students. We understand that providers will need sufficient time to contact and support students to update their details.
However, for all subsequent census dates you will be able to verify students TFNs prior to the census date for their units of study.
A student whose TFN could not be verified as belonging to them will not have met the TFN requirements and so will not be eligible for a HELP loan. Providers will not be paid for students who do not meet HELP loan eligibility requirements.
Q: What action can a provider take in regards to a student "deliberately avoiding" enquiries regarding their TFN details?
A: It is a requirement under the Opens in a new window: Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) and the Opens in a new window: VET Student Loans Act 2016 for a student to provide a valid TFN in order to be eligible for a HELP loan. In the event that their TFN and personal details cannot be verified the student is not eligible for HELP assistance.
Q: How are the TFN Revision reports updated? We have students that appear or disappear without submitting any further data for the students.
A: Students can only disappear from your TFN Revision report if you have resolved the error causing the record to fail TFN verification.
The rejection date in your report may update to a later date if your student is enrolled with another provider and fails TFN verification at that provider.
Following sector feedback, we will be updating the TFN revision report to change the rejection date to the date you submit the student's details for verification. This will take effect from February.
Q: We still have an error for a student after checking their details in our student management system and the student has confirmed that their TFN is correct. How do we resolve this?
A: The TFN itself is not the only field used by the TFN verification to verify TFN details. The student's TFN, name and date of birth are the primary fields used to find a match. Where a match could not be found on these primary fields the students address is used.
It is important that the student is able to see the TFN and personal information held by your organisation so that they can confirm these details against the information held by the ATO.
The simplest way for students to check their TFN details with the ATO is via their Opens in a new window: myGov account.
Q: If a student changes their name with our organisation but not with the ATO will this cause an issue with verifying their TFN details in future reporting?
A: Yes. Name details are primary fields used to verify TFNs. To avoid TFN verification errors in future it's important that the student ensures information held by the ATO matches the details given to the provider.
Q: Will TFN verification be included in the government's electronic Commonwealth Assistance Form (eCAF) system and if so when will the forms be available for review?
A: Yes. The department will be implementing TFN Verification in the eCAF system from July 2018.
You can review the 2018 forms by accessing the eCAF training environment. If you require access to this environment please email HEenquiries@education.gov.au.
Further information will be sent to providers closer to the release date via the department's communication channels, newsletters and HELP Communications Working Group.
Q: Will it be mandatory for providers to use the government's eCAF system?
A: VET providers are required to use the eCAF for students seeking a VET Student Loan.
Higher education providers have the option to use the government's eCAF system or their own system, however, there are minimum requirements. For details email HEenquiries@education.gov.au.
Q: How will TFN verification work in the government eCAF? Will it verify the TFN when entered by the student and prevent the student from submitting their eCAF?
A: When a student enters their TFN into the eCAF system it will be will be automatically sent to the ATO for verification. Students will be encouraged to wait for verification to complete and to resolve any TFN verification issues before submitting their eCAF, but will not be prevented from doing so. The eCAF system will flag those eCAFs with TFNs that failed verification so that providers can follow up with the student.
For further information on the eCAF email HEenquiries@education.gov.au.
Q: Are Students now required to complete their eCAF a few weeks prior to the census date to give providers time for the TFN verification process?
A: Providers will need to develop administrative processes to ensure that students provide a valid, verifiable TFN belonging to them by the census date to be eligible for a HELP loan or a VET Student Loan. For further information email HEenquiries@education.gov.au.
Q: If a student has entered an incorrect TFN into the eCAF system should the student resubmit the eCAF with correct details?
A: Yes, the eCAF would need to be re‑submitted with the student's correct details.
For a student to access a loan under the Opens in a new window: Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) or the Opens in a new window: VET Student Loans Act 2016 the student must provide a valid TFN on or before the census date. For further information email HEenquiries@education.gov.au.
Q: When a student's TFN is verified in HEPCAT will the system only check the TFN or will it also check the student's personal details as well?
A: The TFN LookUp in HEPCAT enables you to check both the student's TFN and their personal details. You can use this for all your new enrolments, as well as any students you have not previously reported with a HELP debt.
You can use the lookup function at any time of the year and as many times as you need.
Q: Does only the TFN Lookup file in HEPCAT need to be validated?
A: The TFN LookUp file needs to be validated and submitted within HEPCAT to enable you to check TFNs for new students and any returning students at any time of the year.
Q: Is the file that is imported into the TFN Lookup the same as the HELP Due file or should another file be exported from our student management system?
A: To update a student's TFN and personal details you can either use your HELP Due file records from your student administration system or import this data directly into either the TFN Lookup or TFN Revision Submissions. HEPCAT will ignore the elements it doesn't need and uses the required data fields for these submissions.
Q: What happens if a student's details match with the ATO's, but the student has incorrect details with a different provider?
A: Your student's TFN and personal details will be verified when the details you report for the student matches the information held by the ATO. Your student's data will not be affected by another provider reporting different details for the same student.
In cases where another provider has submitted data which fails verification it is a matter for that provider to resolve their TFN error.
Q: If a student provides a certificate of application for a TFN before the census date will the student be eligible for HELP Loan or VET Student Loan assistance?
A: Yes. For a student to be eligible for a HELP loan or VET Student Loan they must on, or before the census date, provide you with either a valid TFN or a Certificate of application for a TFN. When the TFN is allocated it must then be verified through the standard TFN verification process.
Q: How can providers obtain more information on which details caused the unmatched TFN errors?
A: Outside of the current advice on HEIMSHELP, the department is not able to provide further information on which student details cause the unmatched error in the TFN verification process. The primary fields that must match are the TFN, the student's first and family name and date of birth.
Generally speaking, if the student has the same details for name and date of birth with both the provider and the ATO, the majority of the TFNs will be matched.
Q: We have a number of students in our reported data with a different name to the ATO as the students had updated their details with us but not with the ATO. Is it acceptable to change our data back to the student's previous name to match the ATO?
A: No. It is essential that student's details are reported accurately and not changed to simply pass the TFN verification process. If you have the correct details and the TFN can't be matched, the student will need to update their details with the ATO. Your organisation can then re‑report the student's data for TFN verification once the student has confirmed that their details are correct with the ATO.
Q: If a TFN or personal details cannot be verified and eventually, the record needs to be removed, under legislation can our organisation reinstate the student as full fee paying?
A: If a student has provided a tax file number that cannot be verified by the ATO as belonging to the loan. The provider will need to make alternative arrangements with the student to pay for this study. The student has not met the tax file number requirements to be eligible for a student loan.
Q: Why would our organisation have students listed in the TFN Revision Report when we have not reported any students with 2017 census date?
A: The TFN verification process will check students TFN details for all data reported from 2017 year onwards, any revisions submitted after Mid May 2017 and all duplicate CHESSNs processed.
Q: Can our organisation submit TFN Revisions in small groups, rather than reporting the submission after all errors have been fixed in our Student Management Systems?
A: Yes. You can submit TFN revisions one record at a time or in groups of any size. It is a matter of deciding what works best for you. Ideally records will be revised as soon as possible after the correct information has been provided.
Q: When using the Revised HELP Due Submission to fix errors, do we only include students who failed verification or can we submit all students?
A: Ideally you will only submit the student records that need to be corrected in your Revised HELP Due Submission. But there is no impediment to submitting records for all students.
Once you have submitted the Revised HELP Due, only the data for the students in error will be resent to the ATO for verification.
Q: Could I be getting an unmatched error because a student's address is different, even if their name, TFN and date of birth all match with the ATO?
A: Generally, it is TFN, date of birth and name details that are the primary fields for TFN verification. If a match isn't made with the primary details, the address will then be considered in trying to find a match.
The Unmatched error has most commonly been caused by an incorrect TFN or name, most often the family name.
Q: How does the TFN Lookup process work?
A: The TFN Lookup file in HEPCAT enables you to verify TFNs for new and returning students. This function can be used any time during the year, not just at reporting deadlines. Using this file gives you an opportunity to check TFNs before you report data for these students which will help reduce TFN errors.
Q: How often will our organisation receive the TFN failure emails?
A: Your organisation will be notified to review your TFN errors. This notification email will be sent to staff who report your HEPCAT submissions or have the TFN Officer role. This email will be generated as soon as the department receives notification from the ATO of the failed TFN verification. This will generally occur on the same day you submit your student data.
You will receive the same automated emails and error reports if your TFN LookUp file contains any TFNs that cannot be verified by the ATO.
Q: If the student has the correct details with the provider and has amended their name via the ATO, how do we submit a revision given the details we first reported were correct?
A: Once the student confirms that their details have been updated with the ATO, you can re‑verify their TFN by submitting either a Revised HELP due Submission or a TFN Revision Submission. You will be re‑reporting the same data provided in your earlier submission without changes, as your data was correct.
Q: We are a new VSL provider and will be reporting for the first time, will our students' TFNs be verified in our first submission?
A: Yes, every time you submit a student's HELP debt record, their TFN and personal details will be automatically sent for verification with the ATO. If the student's TFN and details match, the student's HELP debt will be transferred to the ATO after the VET provider payment date.
Q: Can the ATO provide a statement to the student confirming that their details have been updated? This confirmation would assist in knowing that their details have been updated.
A: Students have the ability to confirm any updates previously made and make any additional updates as required at ATO online via Opens in a new window: myGov.
Q: If a student has a middle name recorded with the ATO, but not with our organisation will we received a TFN error?
A: If the other primary fields of TFN, first and family names and date of birth are matching, not having the second name is unlikely to cause an error.
Q: How many email notifications are sent when a TFN LookUp (TL) File is submitted? Is a notification sent when the file is successfully loaded into HEIMS and another sent when TFNs have been successfully verified with the ATO?
A: The TFN Lookup file will work in the same way like other submissions reported with HEPCAT. An automated email is sent when the file has been successfully submitted. Then a further email is sent when TFNs could not be verified and asking you to review your TFN Revision Report.
Q: When is a student's TFN verified?
A: Each time you submit a student record with a HELP debt, the TFN will automatically be sent to the ATO for verification (checking).
If the student's TFN and personal details match, the student's HELP debt will be transferred to the ATO overnight for Higher education providers and after the VET provider payment date.
Q: How do I know if a TFN has not been verified?
A: If a student's TFN can't be matched with the details held by the ATO, you will receive an automated email to advise you that TFN verification has failed. This email will usually be generated the day you submit your data.
New reports are available on HEIMS Online to provide you with the details of the students who could not be matched by the ATO.
The reports are available on the new TFN Reports tab under Data View on HEIMS Online.
The reports are structured in a similar format to the current HELP Due file so that it can be readily imported into HEPCAT if required. Just use the Generate TR Flat File button located on the TFN Reports tab to create a flat file that can be imported into either your TR or HELP Due submission.
The TFN LookUp Report and the TFN Revision Report are in the same format. The only difference is that the TFN LookUp Report will not include the CHESSN.
You can view an example of the TFN Reports from the links below;
Q: What error messages will be provided in the TFN Revision report?
A: 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 Opens in a new window: 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.
Q: How do I correct a student's details?
A: You can update a student's TFN and personal details in two key ways.
- The first is to submit the corrected information for the students who failed TFN verification in the new TFN Revision (TR) submission.
This is a stand‑alone submission, and does not require any other file in HEPCAT when you submit revised TFN information. You do not need to resubmit the student's enrolment or load records when you update their TFN details in this submission.
If your student administration system does not provide you with a TR submission there are several easy options to populate this file:
- use the Generate TR Flat File button on the new TFN Revision Report to create a file to import into HEPCAT
- extract the student records to be corrected in a HELP Due file from your student administration system and import this directly into the TR submission in HEPCAT. HEPCAT ignores the elements it doesn't need and just uses the required data fields.
- manually enter the student details directly into the TR submission grid in HEPCAT.
- The second option is to submit the corrected information using the Revised HELP Due submission. This submission will enable you to update the TFN, date of birth and name and address details for a student whose TFN could not be verified by the ATO.
Once you have submitted the updated student's data using either the TR submission or the Revised HELP Due submission, the data will be resent to the ATO for verification.
Q: What does the TR submission look like?
A: The TR submission includes just the elements the ATO requires to verify a student's TFN. This is a subset of the elements reported in the existing HELP DUE submission and has been designed so that you can simply import an existing DU submission into the TR submission. HEPCAT will only import the required fields for validation and submission to HEIMS.
|Type of record and element name||Element number||Position||Width||Data type|
|Student identification code||313||1-10||10||Alphanumeric|
|Tax file number||416||11-21||11||Numeric|
|Date of birth||314||22-29||8||Numeric|
|Filler 26 spaces||N.A.||30-55||26||Alphanumeric|
|Student given name – first||403||86-100||15||Alphanumeric|
|Student given name – others||404||101-130||30||Alphanumeric|
|Filler 130 spaces||N.A.||131-260||130||Alphanumeric|
|Address of permanent home residence – part 1||410||261-298||38||Alphanumeric|
|Address of permanent home residence – part 2||411||299-336||38||Alphanumeric|
|Residential address – suburb/town||469||337-363||27||Alphanumeric|
|Residential address – state||470||364-366||3||Alphanumeric|
|Address of permanent home residence – postcode||413||367-370||4||Alphanumeric|
|Residential address – country name||471||371-390||20||Alphanumeric|
|Filler 19 spaces||N.A.||391-409||19||Alphanumeric|
Once the TFN has been verified, which will usually occur on the day you submit your student data, the student's related HELP debt records will be sent to the ATO that night for Higher education providers
Q: Can I verify a student's TFN at any time?
A: Yes. We have created a new TFN LookUp function in HEPCAT. As the MQ Link is finalised you will now be able to use this file to verify the TFNs for new students who have not previously been reported to HEIMS. You will be able to use this function at any time of the year, not just at the time of data submission. As an example, you will be able to check the TFNs for new students at the time of their enrolment, well before the census date for the unit.
When you use the TFN LookUp you will receive the same automated emails and TFN error reports for any TFNs that cannot be verified by the ATO.
Q: How does the TFN LookUp work?
A: The TFN LookUp operates in the same way as any other submission in HEPCAT. The only difference is that you cannot submit another TFN LookUp file until all the records in the first file have been processed by ATO.
The status of the file will be updated to "Accepted" in HEPCAT once this has occurred.
Q: Why do I need to include a TFN in the HELP Due submission when I am remitting or deleting a unit of study?
A: Currently every time you submit a student HELP debt record to HEIMS you provide a valid TFN for the student. This is to ensure the debt can be transferred to the ATO for repayment.
These TFNs are encrypted in HEPCAT using your ATO encryption key prior to submitting the records to HEIMS.
The only HELP debt records that can currently be reported to HEIMS without a TFN are records to delete or remit a unit of study. This is because HEIMS finds the original TFN submitted when the student's debt was first reported and uses this to transfer the deletion or remission to the ATO.
For all other revisions to debt records a TFN is required on submission.
HEPCAT has been transferring both the encrypted and unencrypted TFNs in your HELP Due submission to HEIMS. This followed legislative changes in 2016 year. This advice was included in the February 2016 edition of the HEIMS Data Collections newsletter for Higher education providers.
This means that for all new records reported to HEIMS has an unencrypted TFN as well as an encrypted TFN. So in many cases when you are remitting or deleting a student's HELP debt, HEIMS is likely to already have an unencrypted TFN to use to transfer the debt to the ATO. However if you are deleting or remitting a unit of study reported to HEIMS before the legislation changes (HE April and VET November 2016) HEIMS will only have an encrypted TFN. We cannot use this to transfer a debt to the ATO.
HEPCAT has been modified to enable it to transfer an unencrypted TFN to HEIMS as long as you have included it in your HELP Due submission.
If your system does not automatically provide you with a TFN for deleted or remitted records, you can manually add the TFN to your current HELP Due submission or you may extract the record from your original HELP Due submission and include it in the current file.
If you haven't provided the TFN when you report the record to be deleted or remitted through HEPCAT, you will receive an email asking you to include it in the TFN Revision submission.
Q: Will students be able to see their latest HELP debt information reported to the ATO?
A: HELP debt information will be displayed on the student's Opens in a new window: myGov account once the HELP data has been sent to the ATO and processed.
In addition to HELP debt information being available to students much sooner than the current timeframes, another key change is what the students will see on their ATO statement of account. For records with a census date from 1 January 2017 onwards, HELP information will be displayed at the unit of study level rather than as a single debt amount per semester.
Pre‑2017 records will continue to be displayed on students' accounts in the current per semester format.
Q: What data is sent to the ATO?
A: The data sent across on the MQ link is similar to the current HELP data and includes:
- Date of birth
- Given name, other given name and family name
- Residential address
- Provider code
HELP debt transaction details:
- Course code
- Unit of study code
- Loan Type and liability status
- Loan Amount
- Loan Fee
- Census date/payment date
Q: If the TFN is not verified, will the student's unit of study records be rejected or removed from HEIMS?
A: The load records are not rejected or removed from HEIMS when a TFN cannot be verified by the ATO. The records will be flagged as waiting for the TFN to be verified.
Once the TFN is verified the records are ready to be sent to the ATO.
Q: What happens if a record is entered in the TFN Revision (TR) submission that has never been submitted before?
A: The TR submission can only be used to revise a student's TFN or personal details when you have submitted a HELP debt record for the student and the TFN could not be verified by the ATO.
If you submit the details in the TR submission for a student who has not previously been reported to HEIMS you will receive an error on submission.
Q: How will providers be notified to review their TR Submission report?
A: If a student's TFN cannot be matched with the details held by the ATO, you will receive an automated email to advise you that TFN verification has failed. This email will be generated as soon as the department receives notification from the ATO of the failed TFN verification. This will generally occur on the same day you submit your student data.
New reports are available on HEIMS Online to provide you with the additional information you need to identify students that could not be matched.
Q: Will this replace the current hardcopy letter that the ATO sends to providers where a TFN has not been matched?
A: Yes. The ATO's current manual process for advising you of unmatched TFNs will not be required as the students TFN will be verified automatically on submission.
Q: What are the details that are being matched? Is it simply that the TFN is incorrect or is it also looking at personal attributes such as address?
A: The ATO uses a data matching algorithm to verify students TFNs. The primary fields are the TFN, date of birth, first name and family name. Address plays a lesser role in the algorithm, depending on the match found with the primary characteristics.
Q: If a TFN doesn't verify, and is corrected in the TR submission, does the HELP Due file have to be updated as well?
A: No. When you update a student's TFN or personal details using the TR submission, the HELP Due table in your HEPCAT database will automatically be updated with the corrected information. This applies to both locked and unlocked records.
Q: Does the TFN verification have any impact on providers meeting their submission deadlines?
A: No. TFN verification does not affect a reporting deadline. If your data is successfully submitted to HEIMS no later than the due date for the submission you have met your reporting requirements.
If a TFN in that submission subsequently cannot be verified by the ATO you just need to make the appropriate corrections and resubmit the record.
Q: If a student fails TFN verification will it stop a submission being accepted?
A: No, student records are sent for TFN verification after a submission has been accepted by HEIMS. The records are not rejected or removed but flagged by HEIMS as waiting to be verified. Once the student's TFN has been verified the records will be sent to the ATO as part of the next nightly data transfer for Higher education providers and for VET providers after their payment date.
Q: Does the TFN verification change the reporting process?
A: TFN Verification will not impact on reporting your data with HEPCAT, you will continue to submit data using the standard submission processes. This new process occurs after your submissions have been accepted.
Q: Is the MQ link secure for the transfer of students TFNs?
A: The MQ Link provides a secure platform for the transfer of HELP data, in line with TFN guidelines, the Opens in a new window: Privacy Act 1988, Opens in a new window: ATO's privacy provisions and the Opens in a new window: Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA).