Media release: Changes to the Income Compliance Program
The Hon Stuart Robert MP
The Morrison Government takes its responsibility for upholding the integrity of Australia’s welfare system seriously.
The Income Compliance Program was developed to make identifying welfare overpayments more efficient. It assisted with reviews where customers did not respond, or fully engage, with requests to clarify discrepancies between income earnings reported to Centrelink and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
In November last year, changes were made to the way debts from welfare payments were raised as part of the Income Compliance Program. From that time, debts were no longer raised wholly or partially using averaged ATO income data.
From July this year, Services Australia will refund all repayments made on debts raised wholly or partially using income averaging of ATO data. Refunds will also be made for any interest charges and/or recovery fees paid on related debts.
Services Australia has identified 470,000 debts raised wholly or partially using income averaging of ATO data. Refunding of eligible debts will commence in July and will continue through the 2020-21 financial year. The total value of refunds including fees and charges is estimated at $721 million.
Services Australia will now put in place the mechanisms needed to start making refunds, including how affected customers are advised of next steps. Consultation will occur with stakeholders, including the Commonwealth Ombudsman, and clear communication is a priority, so people understand what it means for them.
It is important to note all other income compliance debts will continue to be subject to recovery, ensuring the integrity of Australia’s welfare system.
Services Australia makes $180 billion in payments a year. Australians rightly expect the Government to be resolute custodians of these taxpayer funds and to work diligently to prevent and recover overpayments.
People do not need to do anything right now to obtain a refund for a debt raised wholly or partially using averaging of ATO data. Further information will be available shortly at www.servicesaustralia.gov.au. Anyone with questions about their income compliance review can call 1800 061 838.