I got a letter, now what?
- Keep a diary of all interactions with Centrelink
- Don’t ignore the initial “info request” letter
- Track down your payslips and other documents for the period
- Ask for a review
- Request a copy of your ADEX debt schedule
- Formally dispute the debt in writing
- Make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for case notes from the disputed period
- If the debt has been passed on to a collection agency, request that it be sent back to Centrelink
- Insist that they update your online account after any changes are made
Request and write down a receipt number for every conversation you have with Centrelink, on phone or in person. Some people use a notebook, some use an app on their phone: whatever works best for you and lets you keep good records over time.
Supplying what they ask for doesn’t mean you can’t challenge any decision they make about what you owe
If you don’t supply your info they’ll make their decision without it anyway, and probably add on a 10% penalty fee
Don’t panic if this has already happened! It’s never too late to challenge their decision
- If you are writing to request duplicate payslips from a past employer, we have a downloadable template in Word format to get you started.
- Get organised so that you can find the bits of paper that you need easily: sort by employer and date, for example.
You don’t need a fancy filing system; clearly labelled used envelopes in a box will work great if that’s what you have.
Changes announced on 14/02/2017 mean that Centrelink can now accept bank statements as evidence as well.
To help you figure out your gross earnings from the net deposited in your account, we have a spreadsheet template to help you get it organised (download the "Reverse Pay Slips Calculation Sheet"),
and a page of Historical ATO PAYG Withholding Tax Tables for the 2013 to 2017 financial years to use in your calculations.
If you had a HECS/HELP debt and had repayments deducted from your wages by your employer during the relevant period, there's tables for that too.
Request a Review by an Authorised Review Officer
Can be done online, by phone, or in person at an office, but a written request is best. Keep a copy of your request and get a receipt from the Post Office when you send it, or request a receipt number if you hand-deliver it.
Centrelink officers sometimes try to talk people into having a reassessment instead of an appeal, just stand your ground and reiterate that you want to request an appeal by an ARO.
- Post your request for a review by an ARO to:
Reply Paid 7800, Canberra BC ACT 2610
Or fax to 1300 786 102
This sets out, in spreadsheet format, the calculations used to arrive at your debt figure. If it’s in any way unclear where their debt amount comes from, you need this document.
If a telephone operator offers to read the figures out to you so that you can note them down, do not accept. The printout they will send you is more complete and accurate, and they are required to send it to you if you ask.
Do you need more specific legal advice? Check out our list of Legal Aid and Welfare Rights organisations.
- A FOI request is simply a formal way to ask for documents
- Everyone has the right to access information held by Australian public authorities for free, including from the Department of Human Services (DHS).
- There are a few FOI tools available online, but we have an email template all set up and ready to go here, it just needs your name.
If you are dealing with debt collectors about your robot-debt, make sure you know your rights and don't let them bully you.
Private debt collection agencies do not have the right to make you pay, or sue you, or take money out of your wages or tax returns without your permission.
Private contractors are required to comply with Centrelink’s “Collection Guidelines”. This means that they must give you an opportunity to negotiate reasonable repayments that you can afford.
If they can’t reach an agreement with you they are required to hand the case back to Centrelink.
If you are being harassed by a private firm acting for Centrelink, note the details and report them immediately to the Ombudsman
There are resources available to help with this, and organisations that will have your back.
Even if an agreement about payment has been reached, you can still ask Centrelink to collect the debt directly, rather than through a private debt collection firm — but you should be aware that Centrelink does have the power to take your wages or tax returns or take legal action against you.
- and that they send you written confirmation, and get a receipt number.
- Always get a receipt number or written confirmation for all of your interactions with Centrelink, and enter them in your Centrelink diary.