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Lodging an Estimate

If CSA disregards an estimate, where in the Act can I fight it?

Tax return was lodged on 30th Oct 2011.  CSA advised via Online Services what the Taxable figure was and due to the company my hubby was working for was affected by floods he was forced to find a new job which pays almost 20% less.  The company went into receivership after the floods so there was no chance of returning there.  CSA was advised on the same day that his income would be more than 15% less than the previous year, so would need to lodge a an estimate of $xx,xxx.  He is a 'write only' client due to the constant harassment from CSA while at work, and the constant lies that come out of CSA officers mouths.  Anyway, he was sent a response that they would need to speak to himself or his wife to confirm the estimate figure.  So he asked them to ring me.  I didn't hear from them within a week, so contact was made again via online to advise that no contact had been made as at that date and that the figure of $xx,xxx is true & correct.  The following day I receive a phone call to say that I can't confirm my husbands estimate without being a Power of Attorney as he needed to read the 'rights & obligations' to be able to accept the estimate.  I asked why the rights and obligations can't just be provided in writing, to which he says he needs to record the conversation that my hubby agrees and understands.  He says I will post the form out.  Later that week form received - Power of Attorney relation to a parent being in the United Kingdom.  So again CSA is contacted via Online to advise neither parent resides in the UK.  A week later a lovely lady rings me and says she's is sorry for the mix up, but we were sent the wrong form & we'd need to go to a solicitor to get Power of Attorney.  She also said the estimate could be lodged online.  I explained to her that the online system wouldn't accept his start date of this job (and CSA was advised when he first started there) and that supplying a date after his start date would be supplying and incorrect date so hubby wouldn't be able to declare at the end that the information is true and correct as the start date would not have been correct.  I explained it didn't matter anyway, I'd found the estimate form online and had a friend print it out for me & it was completed, signed, copied (witnessed by a JP)& sent off to them by registered post with a delivery confirmation.  I received the delivery confirmation stamped and signed to state it was received by CSA on the 5th December 2011.  Since then 2 letters written to CSA to inquire what is happening about the estimate, and no reply.  Today a letter from them stating the following:

GPO Box 9815
Facsimile: 1300 309 949
Our Reference:
I am writing in response to your correspondence, received by the Child Support Agency (CSA) on
In accordance with section 84 of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988, detailed
grounds or information must be supplied which indicates the information used by the Agency in
making the relevant decision was inaccurate or the legislation applied incorrectly.
As your letter does not state why you are objecting to the decision, I am requesting for you to
contact CSA to further discuss the grounds under which you are objecting.
For the objection to proceed CSA requires you to respond by 03/01/2011. If we do not hear from
you, your objection will be made invalid, which means it will not proceed.
If you have further enquiries in respect of this matter, please phone us on 131272. Your reference
number is. Please have this number with you when you call as this helps us give
you faster service.
Yours sincerely
David Mole
General Manager Child Support Operations
Call charges apply
35011/5773 1159/1
131 272

I have no idea what objection they are talking about.  His Account Statement has been issued with a charge that is 4 times higher than what I expected, yet there has NOT been any Notice of Assessment, so how can they just put up his monthly amount without first issuing a new NOA?  I'm assuming that that are not going to accept his estimate (as the figure charged matches the calculators precisely if you enter his last years taxable income).  Do they have a time limit to which they have to process an estimate and advise the outcome?  Assuming the estimate is rejected, where in the Act can I find the Section I would be fighting them on not accepting it?  

We simply can't afford to pay the amount they have changed on his latest account.  We are struggling to even makes ends meet, so much so that our kids will be missing out on Christmas this year & they have missed out on birthdays and Easter this year too.  It's horrible to have to tell a child (let alone 8 of them) they don't have a present for their birthday because we are too broke.  Some weeks we even have to ration food because there simply isn't enough.  Yet his ex and her children eat out at restaurants most nights of the week, they have all the most up to date toys and technology.  Her 7 yr old even has an iPhone.  Geez I wish I had enough money to just pay my bills & feed my kids each week.  Please help!
Your hubby is not on a set income order is he?? My ex got a 2 month run around from them when he changed jobs and tried to lodged an estimate. Turned out because of a prior COA (which set his income) it required another COA to change his income details.

If an income order is not the case, then they should be excepting your estimate, sounds like your form has gone to the wrong dept (funny that). You could use your CSA online account to spam them a letter, with the required estimate details , by the look of the legislation, you don't even need their special form, just get you hubby to sign the letter. Mention in the letter, that you've already sent in an estimate form and if they don't sort it you will be contacting the Ombudsman. Also demand the estimate is back dated to when they received the form from the 5th. Keep spamming them with your letter until you get a resolution lol…your CSA online account will give you a receipt number every time you send the letter. Not sure on the time limit thing but for most things they say they aim to reply or give a decision in 28 days.

This is the section from the guide that apply's to estimating income.

How does a parent estimate their income?

A parent makes an income estimate election by giving notice of it to CSA (section 60(7)). The notice may be provided orally, by telephone or in person. A person may also provide the notice by electronic means, using CSAOnline or by submitting the form available on the CSA website. A parent may also give notice in writing. The election is taken to be made on the date the election is received by CSA (Regulation 12(2)).

The notice must specify the amount of the estimate election (section 60(8)(a)). There are specific requirements for elections for a whole year of income (section 60(8)(b)), for part of a year of income (section 60(8)), and for later elections (section 62A(5)).
I think that you have 28 days to reply back to them.
Thanks Mike T.  I have been busy collecting as much information from the various Acts and I have demanded a response to advise if they have accepted or refused the estimate in writing or I will be taking it further.  

I was also wondering as I can't find anything on the compensation claims, is there a time limit to which you lodge?  Reason I ask is because hubby did his tax return 10 years ago on time (in the July 2001) and although he'd advised them several times before the end of the financial year that he was jobless & was on Newstart, they still applied a previous years tax return (1997/98) where he had worked.  The 2000/01 tax return he lodged showed that only earned $10,143.00 and yet CSA still refused to drop his assessment to the minimum rate.  They told him they couldn't check tax records and that he'd need to lodge a COA and provide proof of his income by way of a copy of his tax return statement, which we did in the Sept 2001.  Long story short, no news from COA, they kept saying it would be backdated if it was found to be correct and not to worry as these things usually take 6+ months.  In Jan he finally picked up a casual job and within 3 weeks they started garnishing his pay for the debt that had risen from being assessed on $31,000.00.  As Centrelink looked at his GROSS income to work out how much I'd be paid on Parenting Payment Partnered (as I was at home with 4 kids under 5 & 1 on the way), I didn't get any pay from Centrelink and we were left with enough to pay the rent.  We went hungry for 3 weeks before I made hubby get out.  I couldn't handle seeing my kids starving to death.  He changed employers a few weeks after that, so the garnishing stopped and suddenly they decided to look at his COA in the April.  Although during the phone conference his ex told them that she knew for a fact he was working and was earning over $50,000.00, she did admit that she didn't know where.  They finally decided that his taxable income was what we'd said it was & that his assessment be amended to the $10,143.00 as stated on his tax return statement.  Good-o, finally a win!  Well that went out the door a week later when he was sent another letter stating that where they had garnished hs wages this now created an overpayment to the payee and that this overpayment would cause the payee financial hardship, so they changed his assessment to a fixed rate for the amount that was overpaid (STOLEN) plus the min amount for the remainder of the child support period.  He objected to this decision, but the response was that because it was a fixed rate assessment it couldn't be changed by anyone.  So much for the win!  It was almost $2000 that the CSA STOLE, and he had no way of every getting it back, or even seeing it applied as a credit.  Do you think I could lodge a compensation claim being that his tax return HAD been lodged and the CSA just refused to take it into account?  And their incompetence caused an overpayment to the payee because they garnished even though there was a COA lodged with proof of his previous years tax return.

Frenzy - After the above problem with lodging a COA for them to look at a tax return that had been lodged already, and the outcome from that… I'd rather look at every other way of having it changed so that we still have the option to take it to the SSAT & court if need be.  Biggest thing is the estimate has been lodged 3 times, all of which are acceptable ways to lodge an estimate, yet they have failed to respond at all.

taylor - ummm… the problem is the "correspondence" they received was the form to Lodge and Estimate, not an objection.  So they have sent this very confusing letter asking for details about the objection, but there is no objection just 3 separate requests to lodge an estimate.  

How do I lodge an objection about a decision that hasn't yet been made???  They have neither refused nor applied his estimate… there has not been a new assessment issued, even though the amount charged on his latest statement has jumped through the roof.  How can they charge a much higher amount on 7th Jan 2012 without any paperwork what so ever to show why the amount has increased?  There is no letters, no new assessments (even though there should have been because his tax return was lodged on the 30th Oct 2011) which should have started a new child support period from the 1st day of the next month after they have received his taxable income figure.  So a new assessment should have automatically been issued to begin on the 1st December 2011. Since this has all been going on since 31st Oct 2011, I believe they should have responded with an answer as to whether they has accepted it or refused it.  I know that they are not happy that he is a write only customer and has no phone number to be contacted on.  They issued a letter online yesterday telling him to call them on 131 272 to confirm so details about his case, so I sent back a reply requesting the details in writing and that the details will either be confirmed or corrected as required.  Nothing today so far.
Could the online letter sent yesterday asking him to call be in relation to confirming the estimate? Can he call and record the conversation, if it's not about the estimate he could just hang up. My OH had to speak to them after he sent his new estimate in. My OH records his conversations with them on his mobile lol.
They tried that one in mid November, because I am an authorised rep on his account, so I can confirm details on his behalf, so then they tried to fob me off telling me that we both needed to sign a form as the authorisation had only been given over the phone and it needed a signature on a Power of Attorney form, which they's send out.  Form received a week later and it wasn't anything about giving me authorisation, but about him giving authorisation to the other party (his ex) with him being a resident of the UK.  When I sent a email to complain that the wrong form had been sent  I was then phoned and apologised to.  She told me I could print a form and have him fill it in & I advised that I had printed off an estimates form already and it had been sent via registered post with delivery confirmation.  So being the form was filled in with all the information it asks for, I don't see why they need to speak to him.  The info in the form was the same as was provided online and the same that I confirmed over the phone on his behalf.  How hard is it for them to respond and advise of the outcome. I have ensured that I dotted every i & crossed every t, so I know there is nothing wrong with the estimate.  If it were us that needed to do something for them, we would have a time limit, so why don't they have a time limit.   
I think that you have to write a letter outlining everything to the complaints department of the CSA
I did this taylor asking them to provide in writing when I can expect a response as to what is happening with the estimate and also advise why the child support amount charged to the newest statement has gone up with NO notification as to how or why. Still have heard nothing from the complaints dept, not that I expected to.  They will try and drag this on as long as they can so the charge on the January statement can be charged (and we can't afford to pay, putting hubby in arrears, quiet likely so they can garnish his wages, and as an apprentice he can hardly break the contract and try finding another job until this issue is sorted out.)  It's really looking like we're between a rock a hard place right now with all these darn public holidays in the way :(
The info in the form was the same as was provided online and the same that I confirmed over the phone on his behalf.
I am a bit confused by your post, do you have an enacted power of attorney or didn't that go ahead?. Under the Act Athrozied reps, can't lodge or confirm estimates, only those with a legal power of attorney can.
No Power of Attorney done because it seemed a little suspicious to me, especially when they sent him a form that would give his EX Power of Attorney, not me.  The fellow told me that I could find it under Section 60 of the Act… and when I couldn't find anything of the sort to confirm it, I decided there was no way in hell we would even look into the cost to do it.

I should also add that I don't see why they need to confirm an estimate that has been lodged 3 times, twice in writing, one of which has a signature attached.  Since when is verbal more acceptable than written?  Is it not my hubby's right to be a write only customer?  They have been known to edit phone call conversations, and we have no way of recording it, so safer to not talk to them verbally.

And the info in the form being the same provided online… I was talking about the estimate.  The estimate was provided 1st time via his CSAonline account and for the 3rd time on a hard copy of an estimate form printed off their website, completed, signed, sealed, delivered and confirmed by Australia Post as being received by CSA.

Last edit: by CSA hates me :(

If the letter you sent on the 5th had your hubbys signature then they should use that. As you have declined their invite for your hubby to call, then I don't see why they can't type out the agreement spiel (what they usually read over the phone) in a letter, have your hubby sign that and return it. This will prolong getting the assessment changed, but I think by rights it should be backdated.

In relation to write only, I don't think that stops them writing to your hubby, asking him to call, especially if it would result in a faster assessment change which would be of benefit to him. The phone contact is then entirely his choice.

As you don't have POA, only auth rep status (that does need to be in writing too), then that maybe be the reason they never acted when you said you confirmed the estimate on the phone on his behalf.

My OH did his estimate online, and it said they'd contact him to confirm it. I am his Auth rep but can't talk or write to them about the estimate. He puts the phone on loud speaker and I listen in anyway when he talks to them lol.  
My hubby leaves home before 7am and is usually home after 6pm, so I wouldn't be present for the conversation.  Not that this seems to matter to much to them anyway.  In 2008/09 he had a very high income (and was child support paying accordingly) but only 2 weeks into the new financial year he was told to leave the company after making a complaint about his boss, or they would fire him.  So he told CSA he had no income as he wasn't prepared to fight this large company who was re-known for breaking safety standards, but nothing ever seems to happen to them.  He was finally dropped down to the min rate in the Sept.  Had not much luck picking up anything work wise, so only earned $16k for the next financial year.  After lodging tax return CSA put his rate back up to the year before that, more than 4 times the amount.  Tried to fight them since they should be using the most current tax return where he was told that they didn't believe it was a true reflection of his income, so they have used the previous tax return.  After many calls and arguments his case worker Nikki told him he had to supply and estimate then.  We argued that he'd still likely only earn the same amount, and certainly at that stage wouldn't earn over the self support amount, and that if the latest tax return was used then the assessment would be correct.  Well she just decided to apply an estimate of $18k to his case, even though the use of the $16k tax return would have given the same result of a min assessment.  Earlier this year he tried to have them remove the estimate after they changed his case worker again, but was advised it couldn't be removed & the tax return couldn't be used since he lodged an estimate.  HE DIDN'T lodge an estimate, his case worker did this on her own accord.  So since he worked for a few months doing double shifts before the company went broke, his income was up to almost double the estimate his case worker put in which resulted in an estimate penalty!  Although we had receipt numbers for the calls between him & Nikki, they have no conversations about estimates on them… edited out I'm assuming.  She had someone else actually enter the estimate.  After a very long battle, I have finally had the penalty fee removed, but they won't backdate the child support charges (and reduce the arrears) for not using the tax return.  So you can understand why we have no wishes to speak with them verbally anyway.  They only have my number b/c of my case with my ex.  

I have lodged a complaint with the ombudsman anyway now, and have intentions of doing the same with both local & federal MP's.  It's just a slow process due to being heavily pregnant with #9 and experiencing some major health issues at the moment & still having to care for my 8 kids too.  I just need a few thousand more hours in each day at the moment.
You are waisting your time with the local & federal MP's
They dont do anything for you except agree that the CSA is wrong in there findings.
I have been there done that with them.
After many calls and arguments his case worker Nikki told him he had to supply and estimate then.  We argued that he'd still likely only earn the same amount, and certainly at that stage wouldn't earn over the self support amount, and that if the latest tax return was used then the assessment would be correct.  Well she just decided to apply an estimate of $18k to his case, even though the use of the $16k tax return would have given the same result of a min assessment.  Earlier this year he tried to have them remove the estimate after they changed his case worker again, but was advised it couldn't be removed & the tax return couldn't be used since he lodged an estimate.  HE DIDN'T lodge an estimate, his case worker did this on her own accord.  So since he worked for a few months doing double shifts before the company went broke, his income was up to almost double the estimate his case worker put in which resulted in an estimate penalty!
I think in relation to this, it sounds like your hubby's income may have been set under an income amount order, when the estimate was done. If so,did you go gone down the COA & objection path (pathicially long path it is), and to SSAT?. If there was no income amount order, then you should have been able to lodge a formal objection, when they refused to increase your hubby's estimate, when he informed them his income was increasing.
Well CSA has advised that if the financial information provided in the Estimate Form can be re-confirmed via CSAonline by my hubby tonight it will be processed tomorrow and applied from the beginning of the latest child support period :)

Frenzy… been burnt by a COA before, so no interest in going there ever again for any reason.  Their mistake, was corrected by COA, then created overpayment to the ex, CSA then changed the assessment for that period to a fixed assessment & was advised that he couldn't take it any further b/c it was now a fixed assesement & his ex got a 'bonus' $2000, when my hubby had earned less than if he'd sat at home on the dole.  That was 10 years ago & yes the scar runs deep… and no I don't believe CSA has changed their ways since then.
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