Finishing a University course brings with it some important financial considerations you should be aware of. In the case of your finances, it certainly ‘pays’ to be on top of your situation and understand the financial implications of completing your studies.
- HECS - HELP debt
- Pay your debts and claim your credits
- Financial Enquiries
- Selling your textbooks
Your HECS - HELP debt
You should have heard people refer to HECS-HELP throughout your time at University. You would have been eligible for HECS-HELP if you are a Commonwealth supported student and an Australian Citizen, or the holder of a permanent humanitarian visa and you would have paid for your student contribution in one of the three following ways:
- paid all of your student contribution amount up-front and received a discount (20%, 2008-09), or
- received a HECS-HELP loan for the full student contribution amount, or
- paid some of your student contribution up-front and received a HECS-HELP loan for the remainder of your contribution and received a discount (20%, 2008-09) on payments over $500 (e.g. if you pay $500, you will receive $600 off your debt)
If you were not eligible for HECS-HELP, you would have been required to pay your full student contribution amount up-front without a discount.
Paying HELP debts
If you obtained a HELP loan from the Australian Government to pay for your studies, then a HELP debt is recorded for you with the Tax Office. You will repay your HELP debt by making:
- Compulsory HELP repayments through the tax system when your HELP repayment income is above the minimum repayment threshold, which is $41,595 in 2008-09. The amount you pay depends on your income for the year (see the ATO website for this information). If you think your income is going to be over the set threshold, it is best to get onto it early and have your employer take out the repayments so that you do not get a tax bill the next time you have your tax done. If your income is under the threshold you do not need to make any repayments.
You must advise your employer of accumulated HELP debt on your Tax File Number (TFN) declaration, or Withholding declaration. Your ‘payer’ (employer) will withhold additional amounts from your pay once you earn $799 or more per week in the 2008-09 income year.
If you have 2 jobs be careful of your HELP debt not being paid as you probably will be under the threshold with each employer but as a combined income you would be over the threshold. In this situation you would need to make arrangements with one or both of your employers to take the repayments out.
- Voluntary HELP repayments – you can make these on top of your compulsory payments directly to the Tax Office or make them if you under the threshold but want to start paying your debt off.
If you make a voluntary repayment of $500 or more, you will receive a bonus of 10% of the repayment you make (eg. If you pay $500, you will get $550 off your debt).
Besides repaying your HELP debt, there are more things about taxes you might like to know. For a really basic guide to understanding the Australian Tax System visit the ATO website.
If you have questions about your taxes you can go to the following website for a range of ways to contact the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). There is also a free Tax Help service offered by a network of Tax Office-trained community volunteers. Tax Help is aimed at people who have simple tax returns (that is, salary and wages, bank interest, Centrelink payments and dividends) who meet an income test.
Remember to keep track and save receipts of all your study related expenses so that you can claim deductions from your tax work-related expenses.
The ATO also has information available specific to certain occupations which say what deductions they may be eligible for.
Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS)
In the 2008-09 financial year, if you are earning over $50,000 as a single or starting at $100,000 as a couple with 0-1 dependants you will pay an extra 1% of taxes, if you don’t have private health insurance. So, if you are earning over this amount and depending on your financial circumstances and health care needs, you may want to consider getting private health insurance, especially if you can no longer be covered under your family’s plan as you will no longer be a student. More information
There are also ways of reducing your taxable income. Some jobs have the option of Salary Packaging where you pay for certain expenses before tax (speak to your employer about this). Another way is by giving regular donations to registered charities of your choice (charitable donations over $2 are tax deductible).
Pay your debts and claim your credits
Refund of Unused Internet and Printing Credits
Students in their last session of study, can apply for a refund of any unused Internet and printing credits. Details of their Internet usage and any unused credits can be sought online from the Division of Information Technology (DIT) website through my.csu.edu.au or through the Student Services wesbite.
The Division of Finance has a policy in place to refund small credit amounts in cash through the cashiers (up to $20 in 2008), with amounts in excess of this figure being refunded by electronic funds transfer (EFT) directly to the student's bank account. In both instances you must complete a refund claim form and lodge it through for processing through the cashiers.
Students with outstanding charges should be receiving regular eBox statements notifying them of their liability. However, some charges may come on “late” (after physically leaving the campus) like library fines and replacement costs if you have not returned all your books. Also students who have lived on-campus should be aware of residential charges that may come on in the two weeks after leaving accommodation for things such as damage to residential areas.
As a final measure, all students in their last session of study, may wish to check their "Financial Balances" online in case some last minute charges have been raised, as these will affect release of your results and also being able to graduate.
The Division of Finance website lists all acceptable methods of payment:
Selling your textbooks
By the time you have finished your course you have probably accumulated a large number of text books. Most of these you may wish to keep as part of your professional library, but if you have some you will have limited use for it’s best to try and get some money back for them while they’re still current.
A lot of students use their course forums to advertise books for sale to students in the years below them.
Another option is the Text Book Exchange Website, which is a free service used throughout Australia to advertise and buy textbooks.