Young Australians will no longer be able to flee the country to avoid paying their student loans after the federal government closed a tax loophole.
New education minister Simon Birmingham ushered through the legislation in the senate, which now allows the Australian Taxation Office to collect HECS or HELP repayments from former students now living overseas.
"It is critical that we ensure the sustainability of these HELP programs. You should have to repay that debt if you are meeting the terms of repayment," said Birmingham.
If you make more than $55,000 per year you have to start paying your student debt. But right now, 46,000 Australians living overseas are escaping the repayments.
It's expected closing the loophole will add $150 million to the budget over the next decade.
It's expected to piss off some people living overseas and new Greens senator Robert Simms spoke against closing the loophole, arguing it hurts young people who want to travel.
"Collecting HECS debt from overseas Australians will raise barely $6.5 million per year, whereas every year an estimated $60 billion is funnelled out of Australia by multinationals," said Simms.
"This is an unfair measure that is going to end up with a lot of Australian expats accidentally caught up in trouble with the tax office. It is ludicrous that the onus is going to be put on the individual to report to the ATO before travelling or living overseas."
BuzzFeed News spoke to Steve Hind, 27, who is currently completing an MBA at Harvard University in the US and he supports the government's efforts.
"Going to grad school in the US has reinforced how fair our system is: unlike my American classmates, I'm not saddled with private debt," he said.
Hind said he's saddled with about $35,000 in HECS debt from his University of Sydney law degree which he completed several years ago.
"My government asks that I repay the cost of my world-class education only if I make a decent income. I don't see why it's fair I avoid that obligation by being overseas when it is that very education that has allowed me to be here."
The loophole will be closed from July 2017.
Yes, damn right they should.Nah, let the kids travel.
vote votesYes, damn right they should.
vote votesNah, let the kids travel.
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Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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