TFN verification

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.

TFN FAQs

Updated 7 September 2017

Q: Do you have any advice on how universities can make students come back and report that they have changed details at the ATO?

A: The authority by which a provider can require a student to verify his or her tax file number relates to the provisions in Division 187 of the Opens in a new window: Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA) that require a student to notify the provider of their tax file number so that it can be provided to the Commissioner of Taxation for the purposes of accessing Commonwealth assistance. The provider must be satisfied that this is a valid tax file number. If a student has provided a tax file number that cannot be verified by the ATO as belonging to him or her, the student has not met the tax file number requirements to be eligible for a student loan under the Higher Education Loan Program.

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: 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 this transition period when the departments are moving to the new debt transfer process there is no intention to adjust providers' payments while they are resolving unmatched record 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. Students 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.

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: A student has provided our organisation with their correct TFN details but their details are not correct with the ATO. How do we resolve the errors?

A: Your student will need to contact the ATO to update their details. 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.

Q: What happens if our organisation is unable to contact the student to confirm their details or to update their details with the ATO?

A: The department understands that it may time providers some time to contact students to resolve TFN verification errors and that is why at this stage there is no set timeframe. However, as the new verification process is checking data reported with 2017 census dates and any revisions submitted after 22 May 2017 there should be very limited cases where a provider is unable to contact a student.

 

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 student, the student has not met the tax file number requirements to be eligible for a student loan. The provider will need to make alternative arrangements with the student to pay for this study.

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: We have been advised that we can use the HELP DU file to import into the TFN Lookup file however the validations do not ignore duplicate records as students can be enrolled in multiple courses, can this issue be resolved rather than having to manipulate the HELP due file?

A: The department is currently working on providing a solution and the details will be available shortly.

Q: How do I fix verification errors for a student that confirms that their reported data matches their TFN details held with the ATO?

A: When this occurs we ask that providers send through the details to the department so we can investigate further.

 

Q: Can our organisation submit TFN Revisions in small groups, rather than reporting the submission after all errors have been fixed in our SMS 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: There are legislative guidelines regarding cancellation of enrolments within 28 days if a student has not provided correct data, what do we do?

A: During this transition period there is no requirement for a provider to cancel a student's enrolment if it takes the student longer than 28 days to correct their TFN details. Students should not be disadvantaged while they are resolving an unmatched TFN.

For all subsequent census dates, if a student has provided a TFN that cannot be verified by the ATO as belonging to him or her, the student has not met the TFN requirements to be eligible for a student loan under the Higher Education Loan Program.

The TFN LookUp submission will enable a provider to verify the TFNs for all new enrolments, so that students have sufficient time to update their details and ensure they have provided a valid TFN prior to the census date.

 

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.

 

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 in ATO online via myGov.

Q: Is there a status in HEIMS that advises us of the debts that have not been sent to the ATO?

A: The TFN Revision Report lists all students at your organisation who have failed the TFN verification process. Their HELP debts have been transferred to the ATO.

 

Q: Do we need to make changes in the eCAF system after updating a student's first name or surname in HEPCAT?

A: Yes, you will need to ensure these changes are reflected in the eCAF system, as data on your students must be reported consistently across all department systems. Inconsistencies may impact on your provider payments.

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: Must all the records in the TFN Lookup file be successfully verified by ATO, before I can submit another TFN Lookup file?

A: When you submit a TFN LookUp submission, it must have a status of accepted in HEPCAT before you can submit another TFN LookUp.

The status of accepted indicates that the file has been processed and each TFN has been checked. The TFN LookUp Report will advise you of any TFNs in that submission that could not be verified.

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 a student updates their details with the ATO is our organisation required to report a revised submission for the TFN to be verified?

A: Yes. If a student updates their TFN details with the ATO you will need to resubmit their TFN record in either the TFN Revision Submission or the Revised HELP Due Submission.

Q: When a student has corrected their TFN details with the ATO how long does it take for the updates to be automatically filtered into the TFN Revision Report?

A: Once a student has confirmed that their details have been updated with the ATO their TFN can be resubmitted straight away using either the TFN Revisions Submission or your Revised HELP Due Submission.


Return to top

TFN FAQs July

Updated 4 July 2017

Q: Why does the TFN now have to be verified?

Currently only encrypted TFNs can be reported to the ATO. When the new process for transferring HELP debts to the ATO is introduced in July, it will use Microsoft Message Queue (MQ). Only unencrypted TFNs can be transferred on this link.

As part of ATO processing, each TFN must be verified as belonging to a student before their associated HELP debt can be accepted by the ATO.

 

Q: When is a student's TFN verified?

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?

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.

TFN Report

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 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.

Message

Description

Action

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.

Unmatched

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: What do I do if the TFN details do not match the ATO data?

If you have reported a student's HELP data to HEIMS and the details you have submitted for the student do not match the data held by the ATO you will need to update the student's details and submit the corrected information to HEIMS.

If you are checking the student's TFN in the TFN LookUp file you just need to ensure you report the correct student details when you report their data in your Student submission.

 

Q: How do I correct a student's details?

You can update a student's TFN and personal details in two key ways.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

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 surname 402 56-85 30 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: What if I have submitted the correct data for the student?

If the student has provided you with their correct TFN and details but the data held by the ATO is incorrect, the student will need to contact the ATO to update their information.

Once the student advises you that they have updated their data at the ATO you will then need to resubmit the student's TFN and personal details to HEIMS using either the TR or Revised HELP Due submission.

 

Q: Can I verify a student's TFN at any time?

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?

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?

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?

HELP debt information will be displayed on the student's 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?

The data sent across on the MQ link is similar to the current HELP data and includes:

Student details:

  • TFN
  • CHESSN
  • Date of birth
  • Given name, other given name and family name
  • Residential address

Provider details:

  • 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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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: As TFNs are now unencrypted is the ATO encryption key still required as part of the submission process in HEPCAT?

A: Yes, the ATO encryption key is still required for the reporting of your student and revisions data. The department will be reviewing this requirement with the intention of it being removed later this year.

 

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).

Q: How do students contact the ATO to update their personal details?

A: 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.


Return to top