Higher Education TFN verification

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the new TFN verification process. We have updated our TFN fact sheet to reflect your comments.


VET providers please visit our VET TFN verification page.

In addition to the new TFN Revision Submission, we have made several updates to the TFN verification process as a result of your feedback. The key changes from July include:

  • the introduction of a TFN LookUp function 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.

exclamation mark Please note

While the new TFN submissions will be displayed in the HEPCAT list of submissions from the next release on Monday 22 May, you will not be able to use these to submit any data until the new link with the ATO is operational in July/August.

The FAQs clarify the questions you have asked us about this process. We will continue to update these as we have any new information on TFN verification.


1. 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.

2. 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.


3. 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 will be available on HEIMS Online from July to provide you with the details of the students who could not be matched by the ATO.

The reports will be 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.

A draft of the TFN Reports is attached.

4. 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.


5. 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 be modified from July to 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 the student's data using either the TR submission or the Revised HELP Due submission, the data will be resent to the ATO for verification.

6. 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.


7. 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.


8. Can I verify a student's TFN at any time?

Yes. We have created a new TFN LookUp function in HEPCAT. You will be able to use this file from July 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.

exclamation mark Please note

The TFN LookUp function can only be used after the MQ link is implemented with the ATO in July/August.

You cannot check TFNs before this link is operational

While this new function will appear in HEPCAT in this coming release on 22 May 2017, you will not be able to use the file until the MQ link comes into operation in July/August. This is because the ATO cannot receive unencrypted TFNs until this time.

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.


9. 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.

10. 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.

From April 2016, HEPCAT has been transferring both the encrypted and unencrypted TFNs in your HELP Due submission to HEIMS. This followed a legislative change in November 2015. This advice was included in the February 2016 edition of the HEIMS Data Collections newsletter.

This means that for all new records reported to HEIMS since April 2016 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 April 2016 HEIMS will only have an encrypted TFN. We cannot use this to transfer a debt to the ATO.

In the coming release on 22 May, HEPCAT will be 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.


11. Will students be able to see updated debt information through the ATO the day after the providers submit student or revision submissions?

The TFN will generally be verified on the day your submission is loaded to HEIMS, with the student's HELP data subsequently sent to the ATO that night.

This information will be displayed on students myGov account as soon as it is processed by the ATO, which may take several days to complete.

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.

12. 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
  • 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

13. 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 sent across to the ATO as part of the next nightly data transfer.

14. 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.


15. 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 will be available on HEIMS Online from July to provide you with the additional information you need to identify students that could not be matched. A draft of the proposed reports is attached.

16. Will this replace the current hardcopy letter that the ATO sends to providers where a TFN has not been matched?

Yes. From July/August 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.


17. 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.

18. 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.


19. 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.

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