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I have sort of a question for the highly literate CSA people on this forum (which I am surely not!! :) )

The other day I was speaking to someone who before separating (well sort of he lives o/s but may return) from their husband ran a business with him.  Anyway she mentioned as a passing remark how as the ATO couldn't care about peoples debts (in her case mortgage) that her and her husband were able to deposit huge sums of cash into the mortgage each week to wack it away quickly (this was many years ago mind you and as she is well my senior things could have changed quite substantially - my assumption too would be they were a little underhanded?!). 

Anyway, it got me thinking about the income estimates used by the CSA for business owners and questioning why it is that the CSA (who I thought were meant to use taxable income supplied from the ATO each year for all their estimates) can legally inflate the taxable income for business owners, even though some income is a legally deductible tax offset according to the ATO.  Certainly this "income" should not be factored back into the CSA estimate now that a person is separated from their partner (it wasn't before they separated), especially given that it is not part of the persons taxable income?  How on earth can a person in this position contest something that makes no sense?  How successful are they usually?

Makes me wonder why they insist that people lodge their tax returns by a certain date especially if they are not always going to use the information supplied from the ATO.  In such instances it also makes me think that the publications about the fluidity of the CSA with other government departments is really just a means to instill confidence from the general public in the CSA.                    

"Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions". Dag Hammarskjold
I needed help with my case and couldn't afford a lawyer and found these guys invaluable  srl-resources.org
CrazyWorld,
                there are various reasons why the CSA are sort of legally allowed to inflate incomes of business owners (and note also non-busines owners). I say "sort of" because when doing this I believe that often parts of the legislation are not applied.

One reason is that the CSA have a hierarchy of targets/outcomes all basically based upon the CSA having to annually report the amount of CS transferred or collected, which directly equates into the amount of Family Tax Benefit payments saved (i.e. for each $1 collected or transferred there is a 50c saving in the amount of FTB paid (note this is actually not the case as there are situations where there is no change to the amount of FTB paid, e.g. when there is no FTB paid)).

Another reason is the pretty common view held within the CSA and also throughout society that a paying parent is rarely paying what they should and should always pay more, so basically any payer should be forced very much by hook or by crook to pay more (this incidentally suits the first reason, thus why the CSA are so protective/secretive and have a tendency to obfuscate).

Another reason is that a departure (change of assessment) has very loose, non-specific, legislation that only requires the court to be satisfied (the CSA being the registrar is the court as such), as such departures are made based upon an opinion rather that facts applied to a specific process, this opinion frequently denies a just and fair decision by not considering facts that should be considered and also by relying upon what is not fact (e.g. basing a business's income on years old loan applications, as has been known to have been done). Opinions I believe that are more influenced by the above two reasons than the primary object of the legislation as set out in section 4 of the child support assessment act, to ensure that children receive a proper level of financial support from their parents. It cannot be a correct/proper level of financial support if the actual income of a parent is not used, nor can it be a just and fair level of income.

I believe that the legislation (any likely that legislation in general) has been purposefully written to allow what is basically a bias toward government revenue collection and thus in everything other than actual name, is a tax on separated liable parents. I believe this is clearly shown within the annual reports from the CSA to FaHCSIA, in that the report doesn't indicate that any children have actually been supported, instead it delivers how much money has been transferred or collected and thus how much FTB has not been paid or clawed back. I liken it to other legislation, say that for speed/safety(sic) cameras, most know full well that the main purpose is not for safety (I believe that there are reports that show they are in fact the opposite, unsafe) but for the purpose for revenue collection and are really another form of taxation. Both are also so vociferously protected against being called a tax by the mouths for the legislators, when injustices are clearly done both have the injustices vociferously protected as being just by the red tape surrounding them.

When it comes to lodgement, the CSA want tax returns lodged to suit their own efficiency and also perhaps to stress an inter agency/office advantage (I.e. they are helping earlier lodgement). Also it could be that they then have another means of increasing CS.

With regard to contesting. I believe most don't they just end up accepting the injustice as they are worn down by the red tape, some take their life as they have basically been turned from the good parent into a thing that only exists to provide money at a rate that they cannot, some try to avoid paying, a few try to context through the available channels. I believe that there are something like 500 change of assessments started per week. SSAT judgements are being churned out at a few per month. AAT even less I think. Matters taken to court are at an even lower rate. Success, well SSAT decisions (which also have a factor of the second reason and perhaps the first a little) are varying or setting aside CSA decisions at a rate of something like 67% (and that excludes agreements reached along the way, which is likely to be a variance and therefore incorrect decision on behalf of the CSA). One could say that only a few go to SSAT and that all that don't should be considered as correct decisions, however I believe that saying that would be flawed. Most are not that aware of the processes one can take (I believe an Ombudsman report lambasted the CSA for basically hiding the process), others would fall foul of the time limitations (28 days, contesting this is noticeably common in AAT, if I recall correctly, might have been court). I believe that it is far fairer to apply the 67% of incorrect decisions to all decisions, which I believe is a diabolical rate of success (even at 10th I still think that it should be classed as unacceptable).

The COA process is currently under review, however I believe that the injustices, which are well known will not be factored into that review with anything like the weight they deserve, if they are a factor at all (my impression is that it's only going to be about efficiency, let's hope my pessimism is incorrect)
Thank you MikeT for taking the time to explain this to me and in such an easily readable way.  I must admit when I read some of the posts in this area (CSA forums) about COA's etc I find that try as I might to understand the CSA processes, a lot of it just flies right over my head because for the most part I can't see any logical pattern in the way the CSA operates with other departments or the legal methods they employ in making decisions that don't have fairness to them.

I had never thought about viewing CSA payments as a tax on separated parents to increase government revenue but now that you mention it that seems to make even more sense why the legislation has been written loosely and why the CSA can withhold information or be so secretive about their operations.  I'm not so familiar so maybe this is far fetched but in my view you would think that given government departments are meant to be held accountable for all their decisions (meant to) then this would (or should) apply to the CSA and so all decisions, not just those objected to, should legally have to provide sound justification and also be open to public scrutiny.  Or are they?

I'm not really into conspiracy theories at all but the more I read about the CSA and other hurdles for separated families, I can't help but wonder if the reason they make it (the Govt) so difficult after separation is basically to reduce the divorce rate and hence the amount of Govt benefits paid?  (Just my imagination :) )     

   

"Never, "for the sake of peace and quiet," deny your own experience or convictions". Dag Hammarskjold
I needed help with my case and couldn't afford a lawyer and found these guys invaluable  srl-resources.org
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