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Centrelink debt collectors target innocent people

6 December 2016

This seems to be a common problem for people who've done contract, casual or intermittent work in years they have received Newstart or Youth Allowance.

The government is crowing about its new automated system tracking down money incorrectly paid to welfare recipients, but Crikey is aware of multiple cases of people who have been unfairly and incorrectly targeted under the system. Using a computer program launched in July, the department has issued almost $650 million in debt notices by matching people’s tax records with the earnings they reported to Centrelink. People have been contacted by Centrelink about payments they received more than six years ago — longer than the five years the Tax Office requires records to be kept — and some who no longer live at the address where they received payments have been contacted by debt collectors. Many have been told to pay the government thousands of dollars, and The Australian yesterday reported $4.5 million in debt notices are generated every day. At least three people Crikey knows of have been incorrectly targeted by the system. One person says that they did not receive Newstart for a full financial year, but undertook contract work tha was reported to the ATO after they discontinued their welfare payments.