No doubt you’ve heard all about the debt letters being sent out by Centrelink.
Last week there was reports that some pensioners could be hit with debt letters, asking them to pay back thousands of dollars Centrelink claims they’ve been overpaid.
But many have asked what they should do if they get a letter?
If you’ve received a letter and you haven’t done anything about it, it’s important you take some action.
Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said the most important thing to remember was “not to ignore it”.
“You must take action within 21 days,” he said.
He explained that the first letter you receive isn’t a debt letter, it just asks you to update or confirm your information online.
“At this stage of the process no assumptions about debt or no debt have been made. No decision to raise a debt or otherwise is undertaken until you have been provided an opportunity to confirm or update the information.” he said.
“The easiest way to confirm or update their information is online, through your myGov account.”
If you’re not sure how to go online and access your myGov account, the letter explains how to do so and it gives you a number to call if you need some help.
From the date on the letter, you have 21 days to go online and update your information.
After 14 days, you’ll be sent a reminder.
But, you can ask for an extension if you’re having difficulty getting the information Centrelink requires.
” It’s possible to go online and ask for an extension to the 21 day timeframe – this is automatically granted on the first two occasions,” Jongen said.
There’s a few things you ned to know when entering your information online for Centrelink.
“It is really important to look at both the dollar amount and the period the income was earned, before confirming your employment details initially,” Jongen said.
“You have the option of apportioning your income across any time period you choose, including down to daily amounts.”
There’s a chance the information you give will mean you don’t owe Centrelink any money.
If you do receive a debt, you will be advised and it’ll be explained to you how it was calculated.
So, what happens if Centrelink declares that you have a debt?
Well, you’ll be given 28 days to pay back the debt in full, or you can discuss payment options with Centrelink.
“If you are currently receiving a payment and you have incurred a debt that has not been paid in full by the 28th day, you will be subject to automatic withholding arrangements, which can be negotiated depending on your circumstances,” Jongen said.
“If you are not receiving a payment and you have not contacted us after 42 days (that is 28 days plus an additional 14 days), further recovery action may apply such as referral to an external collection agent.
“Even after a debt has been raised you can change your details or provide more information to have the debt reassessed or you can request to have a formal review of your case, if required.”
If you’re not happy with the debt or want to dispute it, you can.
You can request more assistance online or use Centrelink’s call back option, although it could take up to seven days.
Jongen advises that you shouldn’t call the regular number you normally would to discuss your debt.
“The department has a designated compliance team handling intervention enquiries-you can reach them directly on 1800 086 400,” he said.
“As this line is dedicated to online compliance intervention enquiries you will generally be able to speak to a staff member within a short time.
” There is no time limit to request a formal review of the decision with regards to debts raised by the department.”