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Resolving un-verified TFNs

Are you still experiencing issues resolving unverified TFNs with your students?


The introduction of a fully automated, near real‑time process for the transfer of HELP debts in July this year has offered genuine benefits for students. This includes providing them with more timely and efficient administration of their HELP debts.

A key part of this new process is verifying a student's TFN prior to transferring their HELP debt to the ATO. Since July, over 99% of the 1.8 million student TFN records sent to the ATO have been successfully verified. Only a small number of records – just under 0.5%, have not been able to be verified by the ATO.

While the number of records that could not be verified is comparatively small, we recognise that resolving these errors with your students has been challenging for many of you.

To support you during the transition to the new process, the department has offered a "grace period" until 31 January 2018 to resolve outstanding TFN errors for students who had a census date up until 31 October 2017 (inclusive).

Please be aware that for all census dates from 1 November 2017, your students must provide a valid TFN that can be verified as belonging to them.

This is one of the most fundamental requirements for every student who is seeking a HELP loan - they must meet the Tax File Number requirements. To meet these requirements, they must be able to provide you with a valid TFN i.e. it can be matched to the details held by the ATO for that student and TFN.

A student who cannot meet the TFN requirements is not eligible for a HELP loan.

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Common errors in TFN verification

The main causes of the overwhelming majority of "Unmatched" TFN errors that we have investigated to date have been:

  • The TFN reported to HEIMS does not match the TFN held by the ATO
  • The students' reported names do not match with those held at the ATO [this has most commonly been the family name].

To resolve these errors, it is important to ensure that the student can see the TFN and personal details held by your organisation so that they can confirm these details against the information held by the ATO.

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TFN errors you may genuinely be unable to resolve

There are three possible situations where you may genuinely be unable to verify a student's TFN:

  1. The student's previously reported HELP data is linked to an incorrect TFN
  2. The student has now left your organisation and cannot be contacted in spite of your best efforts
  3. The student has provided confirmation that their TFN and personal details match those held by the ATO

    How the student confirms this is a matter for you to determine, in line with your administration processes. But you need to be satisfied that the student has been able to access to the TFN and personal details you hold and that they have genuinely checked that their TFN and details are the same in both your system and at the ATO.

These issues are likely to occur in only a very limited number of circumstances in the future. But if you are experiencing any of these situations please let us know and we will work with you and the ATO to resolve the issues. This is particularly important if these are preventing you from resolving your existing TFN errors before 31 January 2018.

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Simplifying TFN verification in the future

To minimise your TFN errors moving forward, we strongly recommend that you:

  • Use the LookUp function in HEPCAT to check TFNs for all your new and continuing students. Use this function at any time of the year and as many times as you need. You can decide where this function fits best with your administration processes. Ideally you can check all or as many TFNs as possible prior to the census date.
  • Enhance the messaging you provide to students when they are completing their enrolment and Commonwealth Assistance Forms to ensure they are aware that their TFN and personal details must meet TFN requirements if they are to be eligible for a HELP loan.

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What is the department doing?

The department is working to:

  • Strengthen messaging to students on Study Assist and in online communications to reinforce that:
    • it is a student's responsibility to give their provider a valid TFN – this means the TFN can be verified by the ATO as belonging to the student because their personal information held by the ATO matches the information the student has given their provider.
    • If the student cannot provide a TFN that can be verified by then ATO they will not be eligible for a HELP loan.
  • Build TFN verification into the Government eCAF. This will be effective from July 2018.
  • Modify the TFN LookUp and Revisions submissions to improve their usability.

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The TFN reports

The TFN LookUp and TFN Revision Reports are real time reports that display the records of students whose TFNs could not be verified. They are being populated from a "live" environment as your file is being processed, so the numbers can subsequently vary during processing. They are reflecting the ongoing changes that occur as TFNS are sent to the ATO and messages are returned.

We are currently exploring how we might be able to display a "processing" message on the reports that helps to clarify this.

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The relationship between the TL and TR reports

There is no direct link between the TFN LookUp and TFN Revision Reports. The records that are displayed in these reports will generally be different as they show the outcomes of two separate processes:

  • the TFN LookUp is a single point in time file which just checks a student's TFN details and lets you know the outcome of that check. It is not linked to the TFN Revision submission and does not update as you correct errors using the TR. Following the latest HEIMS release on 5 December, the TL is displaying only the results from your latest submission. If you submit another TFN LookUp it will replace the existing report with the latest results.
  • The TFN Revision report displays all the students for whom you have submitted a debt record and whose details could not be verified. The date of rejection is the date the ATO processed the CHESSN and found it did not match with their information. A student can only be included or removed from the TR report through your submissions – another provider's actions cannot add or remove a record from your report.

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Your feedback

You have told us over the last three months that these TFN Reports are not as supportive as they could be in enabling you to check students TFNs, particularly when you are trying to verify students' TFNs prior to a census date.

Based on this feedback, we have simplified the TFN LookUp report so that each new submission replaces the previous submission and only the latest results are displayed.

You will also no longer need to use the "File ripper" to convert your HELP Due submission into a TFN LookUp submission. HEPCAT will automatically do this when you open the TFN LookUp and import your HELP Due file.

We are looking to make further modifications to the reports in the next HEIMS release, which is planned for March 2018. These changes include:

  • Summary information – a summary will be added to the reports to provide details on the number of students in the submission, the number of students with errors and those whose TFNs were successfully verified.
  • Updated emails – The current TFN verification emails are generic to all submissions. We will be updating these to provide you with simpler, more accurate messages that are specific to these submissions.

Check our latest TFN Verification webinar. Answers to questions raised by attendees have been updated in our TFN verification FAQs.

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