We are collecting stories on the site because we think it's important to have a way to people to add their voice to this issue by sharing their story. It's puts a human voice to the issues with using technology and automating systems and providing a blanket solution without providing staff and people that can right wrongs and help people when there is an error.
Please share your story with us if you have a Centrelink debt story that you believe has been issued in error or due to a fault in the system.
As frustrating as it is, persist with the appeals process, and know others are behind you.
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My case is a bit different. I started working in the second half of 2015. Before this I had been a stay at home mum for nearly 20 years, raising 5 kids. When it came time to put in my tax return for 2015/2016, I had to link the ATO to MyGov.I was surprised to see two tax returns sitting there, unlodged. One was for $5 the other was for $25.
I was in shock when I got the letter. I only drew newstart for four months during that financial year, and I worked out that I didn't even draw $3000 in payments. They asked for over half of it back and didn't offer any proof that I owed them anything; they still haven't!
I am a single mum with a mortgage who has no choice but to work, then I get this letter and had major stress issues which affects my depression. I can't afford this amount of money. The government would not help when I was unemployed for 12 months and now they screw me further with this huge bill.
I received a call today from a debt collection agency telling me I owed Centrelink $2.5k for wrongfully declaring my income when I was on Youth Allowance from 2010-2013 which is 100% not the case. I was always super vigilant when declaring my earnings so it has to be a mistake on their end or a mistake from the ATO.
I received an SMS late September 2016, asking me to confirm my income reported to the ATO, and that it didn't match what I reported to centrelink while receiving Newstart in 2014. I checked over the ATO records and declared it as correct.
I reported my earnings every fortnight. I was working part time as I was studying this financial year. I had my tax done and Centrelink were well aware of my income for that year. Because I have savings I was bullied into paying the amount. Legal proceedings were threatened and I had letters, texts and phone calls from their debt collector.
It has made go back 5 years to which was the lowest point in my life and dig up old pay slips and troll through old bank statements.
I got my debt letter in October, before all the bad press started and phoned Centrelink.
I was in Newstart allowance from July to January, whilst also earning a low weekly wage. I ceased Newstart when my wage increased in January and obviously stopped reporting my income to Centrelink because I was no longer on Newstart. Clearly my annual income to June would be higher than what I had declared up to January.
I was told that I had been overpaid as i had stopped working 5 months before the end of the financial year.
Earned 29,456.00 and declared all and even more to center-link. This includes 3 days of 12 hr shifts over the Easter period. Big casual dollars. Sporadic casual work patterns, sometimes not having work for weeks on end. Centerlink just took the whole yearly earnings and divided it by 26.
Received a $3800 bill incorrectly stating that I had under declared my income for 6 months, when I spoke to centrelink I explained that I only worked one day a week for 6 months then I was working full time, the person I spoke to said that is happening a lot and changed my reports to properly represent my earnings and said the debt was cleared.
I got a 7 grand debt after i spent the last financial yeah working full time as an adult trainee so studying as well, on below min wage ( 13 an hour) was paying upwards of 320 a week in rent and they fined me for rauting their system. :( i have no job now so they take it out of the already low amount the give me
My Debt was caused by a mismatch in the dates that I entered in my tax return.
During the 11/12 financial year, I was working full time as a teacher between July 2011 - January 2012. I took leave from my position to undertake further study full time and lived off my savings until I began receiving Austudy in April through June 2012.
Due to the financial help from youth allowance and a scholarship I'm now lucky enough to not be endangered by this debt. However, many times during my studies I was taken off or asked to repay parts of my youth allowance, that was then later deemed a mistake.
Despite having a termination statement on file, the automated system assumed I was working at the employer I had left in Oct 2012. Thus a debt was calculated and I have been repaying this debt despite their error.
Having worked all my life, I had no option but to claim benefits after a very bitter marriage breakdown. I was suffering from severe depression and could not function on a day to day basis. The only benefit available to me was Newstart Allowance in 2011. I claimed the benefit for 12 months while I got my head straight.
I already had anxiety and depression from years of unemployment (not from a lack of trying to find work) this disgraceful cash grab has only further exacerbated my existing conditions.
When i got my letter it was like a kick in the guts. I have cushing's Disease. This makes my flight fight response work at high level 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. Any amount of stress and my body shuts down and I become ill. The last 4 yrs have been hell. In 2013 / 2014 for 5 months I was not working so I applied for sickness benefits.
Centrelink have decided upon receiving details from the ATO, that I was not entitled to Maternity Leave payments. For the year long period in question, I was on maternity leave for 5 months, and not working for another month. I had my child end of July 2014, and was off work until February 2015.
With our first baby on the way got a letter saying that i had to pay them back immediatly
September 2015 I received a letter from centrelink stating I had submitted the wrong earnings from Sep 2011 - June 2014. In the letter it stated "You are not being charged a recovery fee for this reporting period".
I was born with a life threatening condition X-linked Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Syndrome (SCIDS) which means my immune system does not function correctly and also have bronchiectasis the combination of which leads to a shortened life expectancy and regular medical treatment.
Nevertheless I decided to do my bit and work...
Its a weird question to be asked - how has the debt affected me.....I don't know how to answer it. I'm crushed. I did the right thing, I'm a good person, I didn't break the law and I was so careful because I was so grateful for the support. I'm confused, I feel bullied and I've been threatened.