Good find bear. I just found their facebook page and in only a few minutes read even more horror stories than we have. Seems we are not alone. I can remember back in 2004 thinking I was the only one in a unique situation. How bloody wrong could I have been? I imagine many others think the same, even now. HOW CAN THIS BE? IN AUSTRALIA? This is not Uganda or D.R. Congo. WELL! yes, it is. growl. Sorry, but I often pull a muscle when I do really big growls.
I was reading somewhere yesterday about average working everyday Aussies who have been losing their tax returns over the last few years.
You know that cheque you've always got plans for......well upon contacting the ATO these people are being advised the cheque has gone to Centrelink as part of a Robo Debt Payment and this is the first they've heard of it. Over payments for FTB and stuff.
I must be becoming a miserable old bugger, because in my opinion it couldn't be happening to a more deserving cohort. Afterall, they seem to be the ones always looking down their noses at Genuine Welfare Recipients. Cheers bear
Now getting notifications from occupy Centrelink. makes us look like a picnic with stories of even more horror than we see. malnutrition among other things. Always wanted to go to Ethiopia. Not to see famine though and now we can see it in Australia anyway. It only gets worse with stories of drug testing and the cashless card still being on the LNP agenda. This as scumo cow tows to the Saudi prince who is implicated in killing the journo. Oh yeah, He is filthy filthy filthy RICH.
Vanishing tax returns only clue to Centrelink debt, families say
For Queensland mum Emily Banks, the first sign something was wrong came when her husband’s tax return failed to show up. The entire $790 return had been garnished, and a call to the tax office revealed it was Centrelink who had taken it.This was at Christmas time last year, and the news came as a blow because the cash-strapped family had been counting on the money to help pay for presents and essentials, Mrs Banks said.
But it was about to get even worse for Mrs Banks when she called Centrelink.
It was then that she was told that she owed a further $3000 because of overpaid family tax benefits dating back more than two years ago.
The debt came as a shock, Mrs Banks said, because she had always reported any changes in her family’s income to Centrelink.
Emily Banks's debt notice, which was eventually sent to her new address after she called Centrelink. (Supplied)
“I thought I had done the right thing, I did everything they asked me. I rang them as soon as my husband got a pay rise,” she said.
Nine.com.au is aware of several cases similar to Mrs Banks’s, where the people and families involved did not know Centrelink was claiming they had a debt until their tax returns were suddenly garnished.
This is despite Centrelink claiming it makes concerted efforts to get in touch to inform people of their debts.
Mrs Banks said she was told by Centrelink it was her fault she was not informed of the debt because she had moved homes and failed the tell them her new address.
“I hadn’t received a payment from them in two years, so I didn’t think I needed to tell them. My phone number and my email address hadn’t changed so they did have other means to contact me,” Mrs Banks said.
“We would have paid the debt a lot sooner if we had known, just like any other debt. But fast forward two years and we have just signed a mortgage and we have been under huge financial pressures leading up to this,” she said.
The Banks family has been put on a $10 a week payment plan by Centrelink to repay the debt.
“This has just been so stressful. It will literally be the kids’ tuckshop money,” Mrs Banks said.
‘IT WAS FROM YEARS AGO’
Sydney resident Meg Simmons’ two children are now grown-ups, with one moving out of home and one at university.
But earlier this year, she found out about a Centrelink debt that dated back to when her kids were in prams.
Unbeknownst to Ms Simmons, two of her tax returns were garnished by more than $2200.
Meg Simmons recently found out two of her tax returns had been garnished to pay back money Centrelink said she owed. (Supplied)
After catching up on her tax, it was Ms Simmons’s accountant who told her what had happened.
What made the disappearance of Ms Simmons’ tax money more puzzling was that she had been aware of a debt Centrelink said she owed, but she had already paid it off in 2014.
Ms Simmons said she was still trying to get answers from Centrelink about why she owed the money.
“When I asked for a paper copy of the debt, I was told they don't issue them due to ‘security reasons’. That just floored me. I'd call taking money from someone's tax return, before it's even hit their account and without notifying them at all a serious security breach.
“Not even being notified, just being penalised. That’s what I find quite dodgy.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Human Services said: “If a person has chosen to receive letters online, we’ll send letters to their myGov inbox. If a person has not chosen to receive Centrelink letters online, we’ll send all correspondence to the postal address listed with the department.”
The Department of Human Service has come under increasing fire recently over robo-debt - its automated system of raising debt which matches tax records with inconsistencies in welfare payments.
Earlier this month, the Human Rights Law Centre flagged concerns about robo-debt with United Nations, saying it increases poverty by lumping vulnerable people with large amounts of unexpected debt.
The Department of Human Services spokesperson said that the debts of both Mrs Banks and Ms Simmons were related to family tax benefits and not it’s online compliance system.
What is robo-debt?
The automated robo-debt system was introduced in 2016 and its critics say it is responsible for the ballooning number of debt notices issued by Centrelink.
Departmental figures released to a Senate estimates committee in May show about 193,000 debt notices were sent out this financial year to March 31.
This is an increase of 18.5 percent of the notices issued in the whole of the 2017-18 financial year. During the same time frame the value of the debts has also jumped by 46 percent to $552m.
Centrelink issued more than 190,000 debt notices through robo-debt in the first nine months of this financial year. (AAP)
In February this year, it was revealed that more than 2030 people had died after receiving a robot-debt notice, according to data released by the Department of Human Services.
Of the 2030 deaths, about one-fifth were aged under 35.
Data on the causes of death of the 2030 people were not collected by the department, but about a third, or 663, were classified as “vulnerable” and having complex needs such as mental illness, drug use or were victims of domestic violence.
New case to test how legal robo-debt is
Earlier this month, Victoria Legal Aid launched its second court challenge to robo-debt.
The case involves 33-year-old local government employee Deanna Amato.
Ms Amato found out about her alleged robo-debt when her tax return was taken, in January this year.
Centrelink claimed she owed a debt of $2754 for Austudy she was paid while studying a diploma in 2012.
"It was a lot of money, a big chunk to disappear without you knowing how or why," Ms Amato said.
"I’d done my tax and was planning on using that money to pay my credit card off. I was lucky because I managed to find consistent work and eventually pay off that bill, but other people may not be in that position. That’s why I’m taking part in this case.
Victoria Legal Aid had an initial win with its first robo-debt case, with Centrelink agreeing to waive the debt of nurse Madeleine Masterton.
Despite her debts being wiped, Ms Masterton has elected to continue her legal fight, which will be heard in the Federal Court in August.
Up until now there's been no central point to provide any cohesion.to the issues. Maybe this page will be the one to do it. The disconnect between issues is another difficulty. The Say No Seven seem to be all over the CDC. The AUWU are standing for those on the dole against the jobs networks. There's another page Not my Debt that may have had some impact on Robo Debt. US of course......maybe it can all be brought together to cause some ripples. Cheers bear
Even I cannot believe this stuff. Conspiracy? I have said for years now that the Centrelink story of at least incompetence is one of the biggest stories ever. But this is many times worse & no better than the most corrupt governments on earth. WHY? Aren't the mainstream media onto this? Maybe a bit dramatic but surely this would bring down the entire government system. Total chaos maybe? Bring it on I say. Hank can have his say in leg irons.
Yes your probably right ghostbuster, she is probably just all talk and no action. When push comes to shove she will side with the establishment. Wonder what secret sweeteners she will be offered by LNP.