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Can CSA legally make assumptions

This may not seem like an important issue but most of my problems seem to stem from a regular occurrence of assumption making by the CSA. These assumptions only ever to serve to increase my CSA obligation by working against me.

What I need to know is whether the CSA is allowed to make assumptions? If so, to what level? If not, what do I throw at them to get them to stop?

It was actually confirmed verbally to me by my CO that if there was not sufficient documentation then they would base their decisions on assumptions. In most Change of Assessments the CSA collect all financial information as they are entitled to do. They have literally everything available on me. It was my understanding that even part of the Privacy Act entitled me to have factual evidence used.

Some examples used against me were;
A property search that clearly showed I was a tenant but they assumed I was the owner just because my name came up.
Business Credit Card transactions that were taken as personal purchases but were actually for stock.
I have always split income with my current partner but they assume I do all the work so they bang on more $'s to my assessment.

As long as they are allowed to make assumptions on any issue they choose then I don't seem to have an avenue to prove my financial hardship circumstance as factual evidence is apparently not relevant.
Do I (actually we) have to end up in the gutter or in a pine box before they stop this practise?

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In essence a very simple question, however I don't believe that the answer is that simple. The child support legislation does allow assumptions as such, perhaps the simplest way of highlighting this is that there are over 100 occurrences of "Registrar may" in the Child Support Assessment Act, one of the 3 child support specific pieces of legislation.



However above and beyond this is that the registrar (i.e. each and every person making decisions for the CSA) is an Australian Public Servant and therefore they should act according to the APS code of conduct, which requires amongst other things car and diligence, honesty and integrity. 10 is quite interesting and could well be interpreted as disallowing any assumption. Here's the code of conduct :-

PUBLIC SERVICE ACT 1999 - SECT 13 - The APS Code of Conduct said
PUBLIC SERVICE ACT 1999 - SECT 13
The APS Code of Conduct

             (1)  An APS employee must behave honestly and with integrity in the course of APS employment.

             (2)  An APS employee must act with care and diligence in the course of APS employment.

             (3)  An APS employee, when acting in the course of APS employment, must treat everyone with respect and courtesy, and without harassment.

             (4)  An APS employee, when acting in the course of APS employment, must comply with all applicable Australian laws. For this purpose, Australian law means:

                     (a)  any Act (including this Act), or any instrument made under an Act; or

                     (b)  any law of a State or Territory, including any instrument made under such a law.

             (5)  An APS employee must comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by someone in the employee's Agency who has authority to give the direction.

             (6)  An APS employee must maintain appropriate confidentiality about dealings that the employee has with any Minister or Minister's member of staff.

             (7)  An APS employee must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with APS employment.

             (8)  An APS employee must use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner.

             (9)  An APS employee must not provide false or misleading information in response to a request for information that is made for official purposes in connection with the employee's APS employment.

           (10)  An APS employee must not make improper use of:

                     (a)  inside information; or

                     (b)  the employee's duties, status, power or authority;

in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee or for any other person.

           (11)  An APS employee must at all times behave in a way that upholds the APS Values and the integrity and good reputation of the APS.

           (12)  An APS employee on duty overseas must at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia.

           (13)  An APS employee must comply with any other conduct requirement that is prescribed by the regulations.

Perhaps the above is what you throw at them.
Can assumptions be made if there are supporting facts?

It is that the facts that are an important component of the final decision. The assumptions also seem to count towards this outcome and over-rule fact. Being self-employed they have made plenty of these about me.

Along with assumptions they also manipulate interpretations.

Every letter of complaint to the CSA has been white washed. Every issued raised has fallen on deaf ears.

When I said 'throw at them' I should have indicated my intention to take matters to the highest levels of complaint outside of the CSA. I don't expect great things but it will be interesting to actually see if they are accountable. My CO seems to be very nonchalant when I indicate these avenues of complaint. Guess they know the success rates of complainants is very low. If there is a success then nothing becomes of it anyway, it would appear.

Interesting to note though that in a COA two years ago I requested information relevant to the assessment to be supplied before the interview. They declined my request. When looking to make an objection to this COA outcome I was told this situation no longer existed as there was a policy change. My CO at the time let it slip it was because of me and this particular complaint. I believe they knew they were in violation of the Privacy Act but they didn't say sorry or revisit the previos decision.

When will the CSA wake up and relise they have an obligation to administer decisions in a fair manner. (it won't be in my lifetime going by the number of problems raised in this forum)

Could it be possible this is the tactic they employ to people that fight against the system just wanting a fair go? Beaurocracy appears to be an effective smoke screen with them.

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In regard to your example i.e. not being given information here are relevant extracs from the two versions of the CSA's guide, the post June 30th 2008 and the pre 1st July 2008.

Post 30th June 2008 guide 2.6.5. Change of Assessment process. said
Procedural fairness

CSA must deal with a change of assessment application in a way that is procedurally fair. A decision-maker must ensure that a person is aware of any adverse information and that they have an opportunity to be heard and make submissions in support of their case. In addition to providing each party with a copy of the other partys response or application and supporting documents, CSA will also advise each party of any additional information that it intends taking into account in a way that is adverse to them, and invite them to comment upon that information. This would include information provided by the other party at a separate conference, or by a third party after the conference.

The previous scheme Guide 2.6.5. Change of assessment process said
Procedural fairness

CSA must deal with a change of assessment application in a way that is procedurally fair. A decision-maker must ensure that a person is aware of any adverse information and that they have an opportunity to be heard and make submissions in support of their case. In addition to providing each parent with a copy of the other parent's response or application and supporting documents, CSA will also advise each parent of any additional information that it intends taking into account in a way that is adverse to them, and invite them to comment upon that information. This would include information provided by the other parent at a separate conference, or by a third party after the conference.

Thus if the CSA have made a decision in regard to a change of assessment that was even slightly based on information that was not provided before the case conference then I believe that the guide has not been followed (nor the procedural instructions, which every worker has access to and is expected to follow) and thus the law has been broken and that public servants have not served the public in the way that they must.

It would also appear that a public servant has further breached the guidelines as they have blatantly lied if they have said that policies have changed. The fact is that the policies have to reflect the legislation (although I do believe that they do not, but that's another matter that may come to light), the guide is a simplification/interpretation of that legislation, so the policies must adhere to the guide (except if the guide is wrong).

P.S. Can anyone spot the difference between the two?
I believe MikeT is very correct in saying that C$A can make the assumptions you talk about.

I was talking to a C$A officer the other day who admitted to me that generally a person's taxable income is not a fair assessment of income for child support purposes.

C$A have outreach programmes where they provide counselling to encourage payees to go through the change of assessment process to increase payments. They have powers similar to the court so they have complete discretion in the decision making process.

The only way you will be able to challenge them is to take them to a "real" court.
Hi MikeT,

Can't quite work out the impact of the differenes between Party and Person. Is it that the word Person personalises things too much, whereas Party is more indicative of their cold hard inpersonal approach?

Thanks for that extract.

'A decision-maker must ensure that a person is aware of any adverse information and that they have an opportunity to be heard and make submissions in support of their case.'

This was definitely denied to me even having requested it in writing. Their very initial decision was made on a 4 year old mortgage document while having current figures available. News to me until it was presented by the Interviewer. You will find my case within a Thread in this Forum for further details.

I am presently gathering information such as this to then apply to my entire dispute with the CSA. I essentially have one more objection to a COA decision and then it is my feeling they are going to come down on me hard. Without going into details I am struggling to even support myself and partner.

Is there anyone I can speak to directly that may be able to help structure my case for presentation to the various agencies I will be approaching? Someone that knows the ropes so to speak. (Maybe a Chris Murphy type of the CSA). I would simply need to state my case and then be refered to the various relevant legislation.

 I am not so sure about legal aid as I don't think I could cope with Court or another round with the SSAT. I spent some money on one appointment with a Barrister that is very familiar with Family Law. When he saw the size of my file and then realise my financial situation the prognosis wasn't great. It would come down to a lengthy court battle that would still leave me owing someone something.

Fairgo,

What is a fair indicator of someones capacity to pay then. Do we have to sub-contract out the care of our children and each parent pay a set instalment to quantify it? If you re-partner then why is that not factored in?

I am left in a position where my partner legitamately looks after the office while I go out to work. She is unable to work at anything else due to a debilitating intermittent medical issue. We split incomes down the middle yet she is underpaid for this work (me too), below award rates. The CSA load her income (seen as business income) across to me as my capacity to earn more and then choose to ignore that my partner has a 50% obligation to household expenses including the mortgage. Comes back to making unfair decisions based on anything they can use to increase my CS.

If they have as much power as our courts then why is it in the hands of the high turnover APS employees that receive pay bonuses based on 'performance'?
Wait 'till they start giving Highway Patrol commission on fines.

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Wozza said
Is there anyone I can speak to directly that may be able to help structure my case for presentation to the various agencies I will be approaching? Someone that knows the ropes so to speak. (Maybe a Chris Murphy type of the CSA). I would simply need to state my case and then be refered to the various relevant legislation.

What I do, is use the CSA's guide to find the area that I'm interested in, e.g for the above (although admittedly I did recall having seen something along the lines of having the information available) I looked in the change of assessment area and then selected the change of assessment process. You will then notice that each page includes references to the legislation (I have a copy on my PC).

In more detail I type www.csa.gov.au in my browser, then on the left I select Legal Professionals (there used to be a direct link to the guide, but my guess is that they changed this because it's more hidden and that they are very likely quite peed off that people quote the guide to staff) and then the link to the guide. The guide itself it quite easy to navigate, although there are some things that are a little tricky to find. Search can also be very useful.

Your's is not the only case where I have been made aware of where the CSA COA person(s) has resorted to outdated and incorrect financial data in order to get the assessed amount to a desired level. As for knowing the ropes, that's my Achilles heel. I've had very little in the way of dealings with the CSA themselves, mine was a very simple case. I basically learned what I know when I was challenged on here with writing a child support calculator for the new legislation. It was that task that led me into having to go through the legislation (well at least the parts concerned with the formula), things then just progressed from there.

Party as used, actually third party, is not ou, nor the CSA, but say the ATO, your accountancy etc.

I will look at each point of contention and then find legislation that supports my argument. I guess it will then need refining into specific areas relevant to the agency dealing with it.
Time to start from scratch and work through it methodically.

To my advantage (if you can have one) is that while they bombard you with copious amounts of staff they are mostly ill-informed and contradict themselves with inconsistent actions and advise.

I just have so many things to address it is a bit overwhelming. My intention is to let them make the first move (figure of speech as I have lost count) then put them on the back foot with a few of my issues.

So much for spending this weekend in Maritius.

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Wozza,

From what you have mentioned I think the C$A is being unreasonable and are abusing the court-like powers given to them under the act.

A 'real' court would acknowledge the contribution your partner makes to your business. Especially if you and her broke up.

This is why I advise that you go through the appeals process until you can access a court.

I doubt the rubber stamp SSAT will help as they do not like to deviate from C$A policy which does not always reflect the intention of the C$A legislation.

The COA process legislation is outlined at section 117 of the CS assessment Act. Go through it with a fine tooth comb to see where you stand.

You may find the court will just use plain common sense to see the unfairness of your case and act accordingly.

It's not rocket science!

As a small business owner it is near impossible to get a fair go. Even my CO stated he thought I had earnt 'big dollars' from one of my clients over a period of time. Didn't look at the big picture. Maybe I need to rent the CSA a Widescreen TV. This is the mentality. Don't worry about the real cost of business expenses, ones that possibly cost a bit more than his bus ticket to work.

Last time SSAT only served to increase my perceived earnings by 20%. Thank you. Their qualifications were questioned but they had disappeared back into the Abyss.

The CSA are unable to utilise the term 'common sense'. They appear to have no understanding. Also like 'fair'.

What has to be done to esculate to a Court hearing?

I have one more objection to a COA left. They are preparing to take the last slice of the pie and not even leave me with the crumbs. Apparently the have already initiated action in this direction. A while back they alluded to sending around the Sherrif to repossess and I had to have my local Member of Parliment take urgent preventative measures on my behalf!

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If the situation in the past with C$A got to the point of having a visit from the Sherrif, there must have been an enforcement hearing. This would have been your opportunity to fight back as the legislation allows you to respond to such applications. For now read section 116 of the Child Support Assessment Act for info on getting to court.
My advice on this is that CSA can make decisions after weighing up the evidence.  Sometimes the evidence will be contradictory.  Problem with CSA is that when the evidence gets complex their ability to interpret drops away rapidly.  They MUST be challenged at every step of the way.  Do NOT allow them a free run to institutionalise a decision you think is WRONG.  You have to call them straight away.  Also, use the ombudsman, CSA complaints line and the Privacy Commissioner whenever you think you have been wronged.  THe CSA is an agency based on paper work - trouble is thye don't do paper work very well.  BUT do not lose it with them.  Be polite and assertive.
Fairgo: These were threats to 'repossess'. In my panick, for obvious reasons, I felt compelled to have my local MP take up the issue as a matter of urgency. It seems to have been another ploy of CSA. As you indicate there is meant to be a due process but I was not made aware at the time. This I think is called deception. Is that an accepted CSA practise?

Bigred:My problem is that they have never weighed up the evidence. Everything appears to have a predetermined outcome with me. You are entirely correct that any complexity is beyond their scope or ability to comprehend. I actually have THAT admission in writing (FYI).

My CO prior to lodging my objection said keep the letter brief, which I did. I then got a call to say it wouldn't be accepted because it was brief. My CO now says to include  e v e r y t h i n g  but don't take too long because he has to take collection action soon.

I now have to gather a considerable amount of personal and confidential business information, collate it, simplify it and dumb it down some more so they and my X can go over it. I'm sure I will get a fair decision leaving it with them (not).

I have always been polite, but every time I smile they kick me in the teeth.

PS: Thank you to those that are offering advise here.

Last edit: by Wozza


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