Centrelink could be coming after you

Welfare payments make up around 35 per cent of the Federal Government’s total expenditure and there is increasing pressure to

Welfare payments make up around 35 per cent of the Federal Government’s total expenditure and there is increasing pressure to find savings, which has led to Centrelink appointing a special unit to crack down on over payments estimated at around $4 billion.

Dubbed the Welfare Debt Recovery Squad, the team has been tasked with the job of getting back the billions of dollars in Centrelink over payments and the Government says it has a new high-tech system to catch out those people who have been ‘stealing’ from the taxpayer.

“We will find you, we will track you down, you will have to repay those debts and you may end up in prison,” says Alan Tudge, the human services minister.

He told A Current Affair that the overall objective of this process is the “ensure that people get the right payments that they are entitled to, but no more and no less”.

He says the over payments are a combination of those who are simply defrauding the system and those who might not have lodged their income records correctly (knowingly or not) when applying for Centrelink payments.

Under the new system, if you are receiving welfare from the Government your details will be matched with information from the tax office. It replaces the manual process of checking people’s income records on Centrelink and is said to be of great success.

Around $4.5 million dollars of Centrelink debt is being found every day. There have been at least $650 million in debt notices issued to Centrelink customers since around August and around 20,000 compliance interventions issued each week, an incredible jump on the 20,000 per year that was previously being attained.

It’s hoped that by cracking down on those who are doing the wrong thing the Government will save around $1.7 billion dollars in the next five years.

If you are receiving payments via Centrelink the onus is on you to update any changes to your income or personal situation, however the new system will also identify any data inconsistencies in the myGov system and automatically generate a letter asking you to check and update your details online.

There has been a great deal of support for the crackdown, with 2GB commentator Chris Smith saying it is “long overdue”.

“I think the taxpayer deserves to have it [over paid money] back in the kitty, and I think it’s about time we used the budget to spend our money on services and programs that make a difference,” he told A Current Affair.

What do you think of this crackdown? Do you think you will be affected in any way? Share your thoughts with us.

  1. Rosemary Lynch  

    How dare Centrelink presume the average pensioner is trying to defraud them! It is demeaning enough to have their prying censorship on my bank a/c, my super, now they want to double the deeming rate to be able to tax me more on what I save for special occasions. Appalling!

    • Patti felekis  

      Hi i just got mt letter last friday from centrelink reviewing my carers payment for my mum is that normal because I am not on a dsp only fulltime carer

    • Jo  

      What a bunch of dogs They did not give me money for 6 weeks and now they said I owe them shove your payments up your arse in future I loathe all you bunch of demeaning pricks

    • Julia  

      This is just another money culling from the government picking on people that cant do anything about it i remember a few years ago i was working and every fortnight took my pay information in then a few years later said i was over paid $3500 their mistake politicians get over paid and many perks for themselves when they need money they do things like this easy money

  2. Robyn Townsend  

    Well that should help – throw those thieving Centrelink criminals in gaol which will cost the taxpayers billions , not millions. I have a better idea. Pay those on benefits enough to live a decent and secure existence and there will be no need for them to become desperate enough to “steal” to survive

    • Rhonda Collins  

      Couldn’t agree with you more.

  3. Pat Ryan  

    This is just great, a stuff up that Centrelink made on my account 5 years ago and supposedly corrected 3 years ago, has just raised its ugly head once again. When I originally lost my job due to injury in 2011 I was told to use the figures on my last payslip for my earnings total for Centrelink to calculate the figures for my claim. I was then told that when I receive my Notice of Assessment from the tax office that I would have to submit that so they could check the figures. Fair enough, EXCEPT, the figure on your Notice of Assessment from the ATO shows your earnings AFTER allowable tax deductibles are removed from your earnings figure, SO, not your true earnings figure but a taxable figure, unfortunately for me, someone at Centrelink then went ahead and changed the figures on my claim using these figures on the NOA instead of my original figure(which was higher, obviously), but now it is being deemed as my fault?! WHAT?! When I received my compensation payout I was required to repay all monies I had received from Centrelink, fair enough and that is what happened, but, roll forward a year from that repayment and I was sent a letter informing me that my quoted figures had been incorrect and I owed $1800+ in overpayment! Whoa, wait a minute, you change my figures then blame me even though I cannot access my records to change anything, only you can do that, you have been repaid every single tiny cent and yet you want more! Discussion on the phone soon had this matter cleared up, or so stupid me believed, and why did I believe this, well it is because I have in my possession a letter from Centrelink retracting the letter of debt and assuring me that the debt was nil and that the matter had been resolved and my file corrected. Haha, good joke Centrelink, because, roll forward to December 2016 and what has reared its ugly and supposedly deceased head, yes, you got it, another letter about the exact same thing but this time containing vague threats about deceitful actions and dire threats of punishment if found to be guilty, of what, guilty of not believing that you could be so incompetent, Centrelink? Why am I sharing this experience, to forewarn all others, to double check exactly what figures Centrelink has used on your accounts and where they obtained them from BEFORE you get accused of submitting inaccuracies, inaccuracies which are probably due to Centrelink using information which the ATO has already told them does NOT reflect true earnings but which they go ahead and change your submission to reflect. Please be aware, this information about the NOA was given to me by a representative of the ATO when I rang to check my figures from that time that Centrelink were using and then disputing with me now because now they have received figures from the ATO which show the true earnings and not the taxable income. My original submission would have had the true earnings figure as that is what was on my very last payslip from my employer, but the figure that Centrelink has recorded is what was on my Notice of Assessment. My application for Centrelink assistance was in May of 2011 and my NOA was issued in August of 2011, enough proof I believe that I was NOT the one who put the incorrect and lower amount on my file, don’t you think? Now comes the biggest fight, getting Centrelink to admit that they have repeated an earlier supposedly corrected mistake and retracting their unwarranted threat, wish me luck.

  4. robgee  

    Centrelink is the most hopeless organisation know to man!!! Only surpassed by our politicians for incompetence. I went back to work after realising we couldn’t survive on the funds available to us. I declared my fortnightly income and we get a small make-up pension. This HAS NOT changed since July 2015. Every fortnight i declare on the Monday and they tell me what our payment will be on the Friday.

    Every now and again, either a system or a moron in centreclunk decides to pay my wife the full pension and we are notified of the payment. Ten minutes later there is a notification of an over payment with a demand to repay!!!!! Several attempts to rectify this have failed. I despair for the pensioners who are older than us and dont know their way around the internet and have to wait for hours in queues behind people who should be out fruit picking and not on welfare and try to explain to some care nothing what has happened through no fault of their own!!!

  5. Mark Wulff  

    Maybe they are cracking down but if you haven’t done the wrong thing, you have nothing to worry about. And anyway don’t worry i know someone who has been rorting centeekink for years. Centrekink has been informed about this but nothing has been done i think that seens like corruption to me?

    • Grace  

      I agree. I am 70. And have arthritis. And I have cared for my autistic daughter
      But I don’t cheat. Centre link. Maybe under. Pay. I don’t waste the money I don’t smoke or drink or gamble. So I have nothing to worry about. But yes there are many people cheating
      Or claiming they have disabilities. And don’t. Some have partners that own A few houses
      Yet claim theynthemselfs have nothing It’s wrong. If your done nothing wrong then you should not worry. I think a lot should be. If the cheat. But reporting some one is. Not good because they the person you report find out They will hurt you.

    • Patricia  

      Some people seem to get away with things and others who try and do the right thing get hit. The system is too complicated to understand and you rely on someone at their end to do the right thing!

  6. Jean  

    The Centrelink system is what needs improving. A few years ago we were charged with owing them $13,00. Our pensions were automatically stopped with no ability to reinstate them.We were appalled but after months of stressful argument and a long appeal, they admitted it was an “input” error by one of their officers. No apology, nothing. We got the pension back, then it reduced significantly and on inquiring why, were told our income had increased. That was totally incorrect and after another appeal, we were told it was a “keying” error.

  7. Tweety  

    all people before pension age should do volunteer work and get paid we all work hard and pay taxes so all should be equally treated this will increase the amount of people working and less people on dole. Dole is like people in prison need to report income attend interview if you forget to report income or miss interview than they will cut off payments.it’s good govt is getting tougher now happy Australians

  8. Mel Naylor  

    I am a 69 year old age pensioner who has only casual work for the past 10 years. Yesterday I was issued with a compliance order for the year 2010 – 2011 as they claim my declared earning do not match up with my tax return.
    I went to Centrelink immediately to try and sort this out, was told to ring the Compliance Dept, which advised me that a compliance officer would contact me within the next 14 days to advise as to whether I was being issued with a debt notice.
    I do not have copies of my pay slips from 2010, have contacted the Company I worked for, they advised me that they only keep records for 5 years, great, and I am unable to get a copy of my declared earnings from Centrelink for that period as well. How can I defend myself when there are no records available to help me……Centrelink makes 4 million
    mistakes each year with welfare payments, I am hoping that I am one of those mistakes…

  9. David S Lynn  

    Centrelink is dangerous organisation like Gesapto (not from my idea but had found researches through Googles) so they are trying to rip you off especially pensioners. That’s why I decide to delay to retire until my timing will be right. I am nearly 69 years old due February 2017. I was supposed to retire when I was 65 but rejected to make my decision for retirement. I am glad to defer my retiring decision. I would have saved about $50-$70k if not retired since 65. Sydney is too expensive for retiree to live in no matter whether retiree owns or not. I was informed that retirees live in outskirts of the cities save a lot. For example retiree save a lot to live in at Caboolture rather than in northern Brisbane or Gold Coast as they get train easily to/from Brisbane. They don’t have to worry about Centrelink grabbing their excess incomes. Overall we retirees are very difficult to escape from Centrelink which grab you no matter whether you are fault or not. Difficult tasks.

  10. Azzam  

    I was sent a letter from centreline I owed money and that they had overpaid me on my disability support pension. I managed to find work full time and quickly reported it to Centrelink.
    They said because I was working full time, my pension would be cancelled. Fair enough.
    The letter stated I had not provided my payslips for the new company I was working for. I caned them up and said, “Hang on, I am not getting any pension anymore. How could I be overpaid?”.
    After a month or so, it turned out they made a mistake by sending the letter of overpayment in the first place and I should ignore the letter completely.
    The intention behind this policy is all well and good. I know many who take advantage of the system. But the compliance team needs to effectively improve its internal procedures and increase its data quality to ensure these mistakes don’t happen. Imagine how many mistakes are happening from this policy that has not been implemented properly?

    • Louise Baker  

      I have been accused of supposed payments from Centrelink sickness benefits I received some 6 years ago. I am supposed to have claimed some $2000.00 dollars when I was well enough to.work. I KNOW that I would never claim benefits whilst working for fear of being imprisoned. Can anyone tell me who I can get advice from to contest this serious accusation.

  11. Ian  

    If by some slim chance you may have made a mistake just carry on like a politician and say i was unaware of what i could do so if i am mistaken i will pay it back but you cant convict me of fraud, anyway when i get the pension i can have another job and keep my pension. So bash you plebs we rule the roost.and we are laughing all the way to the bank

  12. Greg Hills  

    There is no doubt that there has been welfare cheats out there for generations. Yes, they should police it better, and at least stop future payments.
    The trouble is, any plan to recover payments that have already been made will not work. Why? Simple. The guilty have already spent the cash, and how many of them would have it still in the bank ready to repay? None, of course.
    Most of them would be renters, without any prospects or desire to get useful employment. So how can they possibly repay any debt? No income surplus – no debt repayment.

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