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CSA Caps dependent children to 3, and CSA Officer quoted "more than that are FREE to keep because they can live on hand-me-downs"

Just wondering if there is anyway of having ALL relevant dependents taken into account?  

We have 8 kids (under 16), 3 are mine to an ex (where CS is assessed, but not paid) and 5 are biologically ours….  my husband has 3 to previous, (1 is now 19, 1 just turning 18 and last one is almost 15) plus she has a man who has one living with them and 2 more that are theirs.  My problem is that if my husband earns above the self support amount our children are capped at 3 (well actually on the CSA website calculator when you add the 4th & 5th children the relevant dependent amount drops by a few dollars)…. When I questioned this with a CSA Officer I was told that any children beyond the first 3 are free to keep because they can live on hand me downs.  When I asked how exactly do I get the "hand-me-down food or hand-me-down medicines or hand-me-down disability aids when only 1 child has the disability" she said she wasn't getting into a debate with me and hung up!  I merely asked the question to which I got no reply.  If the old calculators were still in use our children wouldn't be capped and we would be much better off (ie. we could afford to actually pay our bills and maybe even buy our kids a small present for their birthdays, not just bake a cake! It's even harder knowing that his ex has NO mortgage (while I pay $2400 a month for my mortgage), they go on holidays severals times a year (my kids don't even now what a holiday is), her kids get expensive presents for birthdays, xmas & other times (and mine just miss out because we don't have any money).  We don't drink or smoke or take drugs or unnecessarily spend money, we struggle to make ends meet (and at times the ends just don't meet) and then to top it all off, if I go back to work, CSA said they will use our HOUSEHOLD INCOME (mine and my husband wages, my family tax benefit and my assessed child support amount) to make HIS new assessment.  Frankly, I am failing to see the "fair & just"ness of this.  Is there a way to be assessed using the old calculator, where the self support was a lot less, but the dependent child amount was added PER CHILD)? Any suggestions please???
Fair n Just said
Is there a way to be assessed using the old calculator, where the self support was a lot less, but the dependent child amount was added PER CHILD)?

Under the current legislation, no there is not.

I don't think that the real issue is the capping of children, which applies not only to relevant dependant children (RDC's) but to CS children as well. In fact the very same method of calculating the cost of children is used for both types. Although as the calculations are done at different stages and they also use different income mixes.

Relevant dependant children (as well as multicase children, which I'll ignore from now on as it doesn't appear that they are relevant) are calculated first and the cost of them is used to then reduce the income of the parent (this amount is called the Relevant Dependant Child Amount or RDCA). As the cost of children increases with an increased income and thus decreases with a reduced income. The affect of the RDCA is to reduce the cost of the CS children and they in fact come second as such. Note that when I say income it is after the Self-Support Amount (SSA, which is currently $19618) has been subtracted. Should the resultant income after subtraction of the SSA (Child Support Income or CSI) be $0 (less than $0 equates to $0), then the resultant cost of the children is $0. So for a parent with relevant dependant children who's income is less than SSA it would not matter how many RDC's there are, as the result would be $0.

With child support income both parent's incomes after RDCA subtraction (and also the Multi-case child allowance) are added together. This amount is known as the Combined Child Support Income (CCSI). This is the amount then fed into the same tables/process as used for the calculation of the cost of the CS child(ren) (COC). Another amount, the PIP (Parent's Income Percentage) is then determined. Another calculation is then undertaken to determine the CS cost of each child; this calculation applies a reduction of the paying parent's income percentage based upon the level of care the paying parent has for that child (e.g 0-under 14% = 0% reduction, 14%-under 35% = 24% reduction, it's then a little more complicated but between 48-52% the reduction is 50%, if I recall correctly. There are also reductions for the parent having the greater level of care e.g. for 87%-100% the reduction is 100% and for ). The amount is termed as the PCP (Parent's Cost Percentage). The PCP is then subtracted from the PIP resulting in the parent's child support percentage (PCSP). If the resultant PCSP is greater than 0% then that is the percentage of the COC that the parent pays annually in CS.

Fair n Just said
(well actually on the CSA website calculator when you add the 4th & 5th children the relevant dependent amount drops by a few dollars)
Uhhm I need to check that. However there are two calculators available from the home page. The advanced calculator is recommended as this not only does not wrongly calculate RDC's over 3 in number, but it also handles the scenarios that the estimator cannot handle (e.g. multi-case and non-parent carer scenarios). It is also simpler to use, input is via a single dynamic page. It also provides more information, especially if you select the "Show Calculations" checkbox. Pretty comprehensive information is also provided by the mouse-over help (you move the mouse over a ?).

Fair n Just said
When I questioned this with a CSA Officer I was told that any children beyond the first 3 are free to keep because they can live on hand me downs.
This is a very poor explanation by the officer, but unfortunately to be expected as many simply have very little in-depth understanding of the child support legislation and it's roots. Basically the change in costs of children after 3 are deemed to be negligible due to economy of scale (note that this is my interpretation, it is not my opinion). My advice would be to complain about the officer's inappropriate response.


Fair n Just said
When I asked how exactly do I get the "hand-me-down food or hand-me-down medicines or hand-me-down disability aids when only 1 child has the disability" she said she wasn't getting into a debate with me and hung up!
A CSA officer, unless being abused or under threat (e.g. for a fire) should not hang up. My advice would be to complain about the officer hanging up.


 
Fair n Just said
If the old calculators were still in use our children wouldn't be capped and we would be much better off (ie. we could afford to actually pay our bills and maybe even buy our kids a small present for their birthdays, not just bake a cake! It's even harder knowing that his ex has NO mortgage (while I pay $2400 a month for my mortgage), they go on holidays severals times a year (my kids don't even now what a holiday is), her kids get expensive presents for birthdays, xmas & other times (and mine just miss out because we don't have any money).  We don't drink or smoke or take drugs or unnecessarily spend money, we struggle to make ends meet (and at times the ends just don't meet) and then to top it all off, if I go back to work, CSA said they will use our HOUSEHOLD INCOME (mine and my husband wages, my family tax benefit and my assessed child support amount) to make HIS new assessment.
Unfortunately life does suck. However, on the good side. The children in your care will more likely grow up to be far more appreciative. Not that I'm trying to fob you off (hopefully the next comment and a look at my feelings in regard to the amount of CS paid and the fact that it is a tax on the separated liable parent in all but name).


Fair n Just said
Frankly, I am failing to see the "fair & just"ness of this.
You are without doubt not alone. As I said above I understand that CS is very much a tax on the separated liable parent as for every $1 collected or transferred, the FTB paid is reduced by $0.50 (actually this is not the case in all situations, as not all recipients get FTB, but that's what appears to pass from the CSA to the DHS and then to the Treasury/Ministers/bean counters). Quite frequently I voice my concern about the very core amount behind CS. What I class as extortionate and, as it is children who are used for this extortion, child abusive amounts (in your case very likely literally). The core amounts is what the cost of children are based upon. Very simply put when the average income was under $50,000 the cost of raising a child was deemed to be somewhere around $510,000. Of course if you see CS as the taxation that it is along with the Government's willingness to fudge figures such as the debt owed (this includes the debts of the deceased as the CSA says that it does not have the power to ask the commonwealth to write of these debts) and along with the Government's willingness to deliberately provide misleading figures (e.g. reports from the CSA often state the number who have not paid or have not paid in time, when the very collection system automatically generates late payments), and then perhaps compare it to other revenue earning systems used by Government, e.g. speed cameras, and the inability to actually be justly treated due to bureaucratic abuse of the power to take monies, then you could perhaps see why CS is not fair and just.

P.S. I'm currently a recipient of CS.

Last edit: by MikeT

Fair n Just said
and then to top it all off, if I go back to work, CSA said they will use our HOUSEHOLD INCOME (mine and my husband wages, my family tax benefit and my assessed child support amount) to make HIS new assessment.
Others will correct me if I'm wrong but there is NO WAY your income, FTB or CS is taken into account when assessing you husbands CS liability.

This sounds like bullying and intimidation by the CSA officer and warrants a complaint on it's own.
If you know the date and time of that call and/or have a receipt number, you can get the CSA Complaints department to review the voice recording.

You should stop talking to the CSA on the phone - do everything in writing - that way you have time to properly consider your responses and they are less likely to try such overt bullying tactics.
Seriously said
Others will correct me if I'm wrong but there is NO WAY your income, FTB or CS is taken into account when assessing you husbands CS liability.
You are correct seriously, sorry Fair n Just. I forgot to respond to this.

Seriously said
This sounds like bullying and intimidation by the CSA officer and warrants a complaint on it's own.
If you know the date and time of that call and/or have a receipt number, you can get the CSA Complaints department to review the voice recording.

You should stop talking to the CSA on the phone - do everything in writing - that way you have time to properly consider your responses and they are less likely to try such overt bullying tactics.

It most certainly is and is intimidation and therefore harassment and without doubt against the Australian Public Servants code of conduct and is also I believe illegal in all states and therefore in addition to actually breaking the law, also another contravention of the APS code of conduct, as they have to adhere to Australian legislation. Seriously's advice about insisting that contact be in writing only, due to you being harassed, is good and sound advice.

I would further advise complaining to your local Federal MP, the Federal MP for the portfolio (Tanya Plisberek) and also the Ombudsman.
With the school year drawing to a close is it correct that your husband is only paying child support for the 15 year old? What level of care does he have?

What are the reasons for your ex not paying child support?

The financial situation of his ex, you having 5 children including children with special needs to your husband can al be seen as a special circumstances to apply for a change of assessment.

Have you considered this?

Also what do you and hubby do for a crust and have you sought financial advice about your situation?
*With the school year drawing to a close is it correct that your husband is only paying child support for the 15 year old?
payments should only now be for the 15 year old, as the son is 18 today, and he finished school last year and has a full time job (which when I asked about him now supporting himself, I was told that CS is still payable regards of the child working or not until he is 18).  

What level of care does he have? His ex has not allowed any contact since a visit in 2001 when the children didn't want to get out of the car when arriving at home.  No money to fight her, and the Parenting Agreement isn't worth the paper it's written on with regards to law enforcement helping.  

*What are the reasons for your ex not paying child support?  
good question that I have raised with CSA on many occasions…. he has a "payment arrangement" of $40 per month even though he works in the mines and as such his assessments are bases on his actual earnings, so the payments don't even cover the assessment amount, let alone the huge arrears. I don't understand the mentality of the case workers, so  I live with the thoughts that in 2017 I will no longer have to deal with them!

*The financial situation of his ex, you having 5 children including children with special needs to your husband can al be seen as a special circumstances to apply for a change of assessment.  Have you considered this?
Have been burnt through a COA before… did non-agency payments & had receipts and was told to lodge COA to have them taken into account and CSA has estimated his income in the years we got together and although he advised that he would earn even close to their estimate was told it would be corrected when tax return was lodged… although hubby's tax return was lodged (in the August) they didn't correct his income & the debt remained, so was told to lodge COA for that too.  Result - Ex said the non-agency payments were a gift, so they weren't taken off the bill and CSA said that since they had garnished his wages & recovered the debt, that it would cause the Ex hardship if the credit was given, so they decided to make that period a "fixed assessment"  and was advised that he could object.  He objected & the reply was that the money was for the children and would be unfair to "the children" if a credit was raised against the account or if the payee was made to repay, so the payee debt being erased by a fixed assessment is the only "fair & just" thing to do.  You can not have this decision reviewed and the decision is final.  (If I'd known then that the decision could be reviewed by the SAAT or court, then I would have pushed it further…. but I found this information out too late, as it has to be dealt with within 7 years).

Also what do you and hubby do for a crust and have you sought financial advice about your situation?  I'm currently on maternity leave (admin) and my hubby is a casual truck driver….. haven't sought financial advice because I get tired of the same digs about not knowing what causes so many kids…. it gets a bit tiresome :(  Not to mention I don't think they can help…. we live on a very basic lifestyle, with only the bare necessities… no "wants" are brought in this household, and even the kids no there is no point in asking.

My income is more than my husbands, so he would be working less hours to look after the kids when I return to work, because daycare is too expensive and we have no relatives within a 400km radius that could look after them.  This means his assessment would normally drop, however this is the very reason why the CSA says they have the right to use my income as well.  

Thanks for the advice on only dealing with them in writing, but exactly how do you get them to do this?  I have requested them to contact me only in writing not by phone, and I have even gone in to CSAonline and deleted my phone number, but if I log in a day or so later, there is my phone number….. if I don't answer the phone they just leave messages on my messagebank.  Shy of changing my phone number, I don't know what else to do to make them contact in writing only.  Any suggestion?
Fair n Just said
payments should only now be for the 15 year old, as the son is 18 today, and he finished school last year and has a full time job (which when I asked about him now supporting himself, I was told that CS is still payable regards of the child working or not until he is 18).

Actually the CSA should have, to adhere to the object of the legislation as set out in section 4 of the child support assessment act, advised that a reason 4 change of assessment be applied for (assuming that the income the child earnt was significant as detailed below). Here's what the CSA Guide states:

CSA Guide - 2.6.10: Reason 4 - income of the child said
Explanation

The usual formula assessment provisions do not take into account the childs personal income when calculating the rate of child support payable by a parent for that child.

CSA cannot end a child support assessment because of the income earned by an eligible child. However, there may be a reason for changing an assessment if, in the special circumstances of the case, the administrative assessment of child support results in an unjust and inequitable determination of the level of financial support to be provided by the liable parent for the child because of the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the child (section 117(2)©(i)).

The phrase 'special circumstances of the case' is not defined in the Assessment Act. The Family Court has held that 'it is intended to emphasise that the facts of the case must establish something which is special or out of the ordinary' (Gyselman and Gyselman (1992) FLC 92-279).

Each case has to be considered in the light of the individual circumstances of the child and the parents. Substantial income and/or assets, whether or not directly under the control of the child, will be relevant when deciding whether the assessment is unfair.

A parent can make an application to change the child support assessment if they consider that the financial resources of the child result in an unjust and inequitable level of child support under the child support assessment.

CSA will consider the financial resources of the child in the context of the income and asset position of both parents. In most cases there will be some overlap between these considerations and that of consideration of what is 'just and equitable'.



Significant income

If a child receives more than a minimal income (i.e. a significant income), CSA will consider whether that income is sufficient to warrant a change to an assessment. This will depend upon the income of the child, the financial circumstances of the parents, the amount of child support payable under the assessment and the circumstances of the case. However, as a guide, CSA will not be satisfied that a childs income is sufficient to warrant a change to the assessment unless that income is regular and exceeds the equivalent of the maximum rate of Youth Allowance payable to a child under 18 years of age living at home plus the income free threshold applicable to students/New Apprentices. This means, for example, that as at 1 January 2010 a child would generally need to earn or receive a gross income of at least $221.15 per week for the earnings to be considered so significant as to be capable of affecting the assessment.

(Please note that the actual figures will change periodically in line with changes to Centrelink rates. For up to date figures please refer to the youth allowance page on the Centrelink website.)

CSA will also consider the needs of the child including the costs incurred by the child, or the parents, in earning the income, e.g. transport and clothing costs.

Example

Where a child earns $230 per week but incurs high transport costs, and the payer has an adequate disposable income, it might not be considered fair to change the assessment.

If the payer has a low income and the payee is in a comfortable financial position, then it might be considered fair to change the assessment.



Here's what section 117 says (note parts omitted that are not really relevant for this aspect) :

Child Support Assessment Act - Section 117(2,4 & 9) said
117  Matters as to which court must be satisfied before making order
Court may make departure order
   (1)   Where:
   (a)   application is made to a court having jurisdiction under this Act for an order under this Division in relation to a child in the special circumstances of the case; and
   (b)   the court is satisfied:
   (i)   that one or more of the grounds for departure mentioned in subsection (2) exists or exist; and
   (ii)   that it would be:
   (A)   just and equitable as regards the child, the carer entitled to child support and the liable parent; and
   (B)   otherwise proper;
      to make a particular order under this Division;
the court may make the order.

Grounds for departure order
   (2)   For the purposes of subparagraph (1)(b)(i), the grounds for departure are as follows:


…..

©   that, in the special circumstances of the case, application in relation to the child of the provisions of this Act relating to administrative assessment of child support would result in an unjust and inequitable determination of the level of financial support to be provided by the liable parent for the child:
   (i)   because of the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the child; or
   (ia)   because of the income, property and financial resources of either parent; or
   (ib)   because of the earning capacity of either parent; or
   (ii)   because of any payments, and any transfer or settlement of property, made or to be made (whether under this Act, the Family Law Act 1975 or otherwise) by the liable parent to the child, to the carer entitled to child support or to any other person for the benefit of the child.


….

(4)   In determining whether it would be just and equitable as regards the child, the carer entitled to child support and the liable parent to make a particular order under this Division, the court must have regard to:

(a)   the nature of the duty of a parent to maintain a child (as stated in section 3); and
   (b)   the proper needs of the child; and
   ©   the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the child; and
   (d)   the income, property and financial resources of each parent who is a party to the proceeding; and
   (da)   the earning capacity of each parent who is a party to the proceeding; and
   (e)   the commitments of each parent who is a party to the proceeding that are necessary to enable the parent to support:
   (i)   himself or herself; or
   (ii)   any other child or another person that the person has a duty to maintain; and
   (f)   the direct and indirect costs incurred by the carer entitled to child support in providing care for the child; and
   (g)   any hardship that would be caused:
   (i)   to:
   (A)   the child; or
   (B)   the carer entitled to child support;
      by the making of, or the refusal to make, the order; and
   (ii)   to:
   (A)   the liable parent; or
   (B)   any other child or another person that the liable parent has a duty to support;
      by the making of, or the refusal to make, the order; and
   (iii)   to any resident child of the parent (see subsection (10)) by the making of, or the refusal to make, the order


…..

Subsections not to limit consideration of other matters
   (9)   Subsections (4) to (8) (inclusive) do not limit other matters to which the court may have regard.

Fair n Just said
What level of care does he have? His ex has not allowed any contact since a visit in 2001 when the children didn't want to get out of the car when arriving at home.  No money to fight her, and the Parenting Agreement isn't worth the paper it's written on with regards to law enforcement helping.  
You could consider joining the SRL-resource, who may consider assisting you to self-represent. However, for a 15 year old their wishes would likely be a factor that is taken into consideration.

Fair n Just said
Have been burnt through a COA before
Perhaps it's time to consider that you have a greater chance now of getting fairer decisions and to thus contemplate applying for a change of assessment. Obviously consider is it worth the hassle. I have little doubt that you could get assistance from here.


Fair n Just said
This means his assessment would normally drop, however this is the very reason why the CSA says they have the right to use my income as well.
I don't believe the CSA have any such right and I guess this is yet another example of the anti-payer bias that has been found as existing in the CSA within the change of assessment area, as recently reported by the Ombudsman.  If the matter ended up before court they would very likely consider all factors, it is also more likely that SSAT would not discredit themselves by trying to support the CSA's anti-payer bias.


Fair n Just said
Thanks for the advice on only dealing with them in writing, but exactly how do you get them to do this?  I have requested them to contact me only in writing not by phone, and I have even gone in to CSAonline and deleted my phone number, but if I log in a day or so later, there is my phone number….. if I don't answer the phone they just leave messages on my messagebank.  Shy of changing my phone number, I don't know what else to do to make them contact in writing only.  Any suggestion?
If you tell the CSA that you consider their calls harassment (especially considering that you have been ill advised on a number of occasions) that should do the trick (worked for me). You could try changing the number on CSA-Online however I'd suggest not as I believe it has to be a valid number. However, if you go to CSA Online and find the help-desk number for CSA Online support then you may get a very helpful help desk operative, like the one I got, who changed my number to 02 0000 0000 and who simply accepted that I did not want to be contacted by phone. I did initially input these numbers and phoned them detailing the error that was generated, so I guess you should do that.
Thank you MikeT, you give me a glimmer of hope :)  

I think now that I have read more on here, and have become a little more knowledgeable, that I may set the wheels in motion on a COA.  It is actually a little comforting to know that a lot of payers struggle with the CSA, and that we have not been singled out. Thank you very much.
If you are going to apply then I'd suggest having a good look at all the reasons as it is likely that you could apply for multiple reasons. The CSA Guide is a good place to get a pretty detailed idea of what the reasons cover. The guide also includes the sections of relevant legislation, which is worth checking as the guide is not fully comprehensive nor a legally accepted document.

Here's a link to .Chapter 2.6: Change of assessment in special circumstances


The CSA would very likely reject an application or turn it around to extract a greater payment. You can then object to the decision(s) and have SSAT look reconsider the decision(s). If SSAT, which they do at times, do not make a fair decision(s) then you may be able to take it to court on a matter of law. Fairgo is also well versed in another way to get it to court, so check out his posts. You may also wish to look at Judgements made by the Federal Magistrates Court (Family Law with SSAT Appeal in brackets e.g. Day & Shirley & Anor (SSAT Appeal) {2010} FMCAfam 970).

Here's a link to the Fedreal Magistrates Court Website.
On the phone calls, I would suggest doing the following when they ring you:

1. Start a log book for all contact with the CSA
2. When they ring, ask for the officer's name and write it down with the date and time.
3. Ask for a receipt number for the call and write it down.
4. Ask what is the purpose of the call and write it down.
5. Tell the officer that you feel that dealing with that matter by telephone is not appropriate and ask for the matter be sent to you in writing.
6. Ask for a commitment to send the letter and when you can expect to receive the letter and write that down.
7. Once you have that information, cheerfully say goodbye and end the call.
Regarding becoming a write only client:

You will probably need to de-register from CSAonline, then write C$A a letter informing them that they can only communicate with you by snail mail.

If they call you and ask for you to identify yourself to them so they can discuss your case, tell them that you do not give personal information out to strangers over the phone and that they should put their enquiry in writing to you to the address they have on file.

When you call them for information there is no need to provide your C$A number. If you don't want them to record your phone number just dial 1831 before their number and they wont see your number.

Thanks to others for their comments. I don't have time to read Mike's response and he has probably covered what I have said here but here's my two cents worth:

I think once the older son started work then you could have done something about reducing or stopping payments for him. As he is 18 now then they should stop now.

With less than 15% care I think your husband can claim non agency payments - is that right Mike?

If your ex has a huge arrears then you can file for enforcement of payment with the Federal Magistrates court or Family Court. Just download the appropriate form off the court's website. Fill out personal details, write the amount sought, include an Affidavit with the C$A assessment. If you have a case already in the system it wont cost you anything.

C$A don't have any right to use your income. They may justify this where people work together in a business, but you and your hubby are clearly not doing this. His reasons for reducing his workload are legitimate and not to purposely reduce his liability.

I forgot one really important question - what does the ex do? Does she work or live off the taxpayer?
Fairgo said
With less than 15% care I think your husband can claim non agency payments - is that right Mike?

Basically what Fairgo has said is correct, except that the line is less than 14% care rather than less than 15%  care. Here's the appropriate extract from the CSA guide in regards to NAP's:

The CSA Guide - 5.3.1: Non Agenceny Payments said
5.3.1: Non-agency payments

Version 2.3, Last updated 23 December 2008 10:00am

Context

When CSA registers a child support liability for collection the amounts payable become a debt to the Commonwealth and are payable to the Child Support Registrar (section 30 Registration and Collection Act).

In some circumstances CSA may credit payments made directly to a payee or to a third party against a child support liability that is registered for collection by CSA. CSA may also credit the value of non-cash payments or the provision of services in the same way. CSA refers to these credits as Non-agency payments (NAPs).

Legislative references

Section 71, 71A, 71B, 71C and 71D Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988

Regulation 5D Child Support (Registration and Collection) Regulations 1988

Explanation

What is a non-agency payment?

A non-agency payment is one of the following types of payment:

    * a payment made directly to a payee (section 71);
    * a payment to a third party in discharge of a debt owed by the payee, the payer, or both (section 71A);
    * a non-cash transaction such as a transfer of property or the provision of services (section 71B).

CSA can credit a non-agency payment to a child support debt if the payer and the payee both intended when the payment was made that it was a payment towards the enforceable maintenance liability except if the liability is an agency reimbursement liability (sections 71(3), 71A(4)).

The legislation also provides for prescribed payments under section 71C. If the payment was of a kind specified in regulation 5D (known as a prescribed payment) CSA can credit the payment up to a maximum amount that is equal to 30% of the amount payable under the payers liability for the period only if:

    * the payer of an enforceable maintenance liability in relation to a payment period or initial period has made one or more payments to the payee of the liability, or to another person; and
    * the payment is a payment of the kind specified in Regulation 5D; and
    * the sum of those payments exceeds the sum of all such payments previously credited under this section against the liability for all past periods; and
    * at the time the payment was made the payer has less than 14% care of all of the children to whom the relevant administrative assessment relates; and
    * at the time the payment was made the child support liability was not being fully or partially met by a lump sum credit (sections 69A and 71C(5)(b)); and
    * the liability is not a registrable overseas maintenance liability (section 71C(6)).

Was the payment in respect of an enforceable maintenance liability?

CSA can only credit payments if the payment was made when there was an enforceable maintenance liability. This includes payments made for arrears on ended cases.

Example

M is liable to pay child support to CSA from 1 April 2008, which is the date that F applied to CSA for collection. On April 13 2008 M asks CSA to credit $200 paid directly to F on 30 March 2008. M and F intended the payment to be for child support for April. CSA cannot credit the payment under section 71. At the time of payment there was no enforceable maintenance liability and the payment was a private payment to the payee. If CSA has been asked to collect arrears then the payment will be included when calculating the amount of the arrears.

CSA cannot credit a non-agency payment against a liability that is an agency reimbursement liability (sections 71(3) and 71A(1A)). This includes a New Zealand assessment. New Zealand cannot credit non-agency payments against their liability.

Was a payment made?

CSA can only credit a non-agency payment if the amount has actually been paid or transferred. CSA will not credit the value of goods that the payer intends to transfer at a later time, or where the payer has allowed the payee use of those items.

Example

M, the payer advises CSA that he has given F his car and that he wants the value of the car to be credited against his child support liability. F advises CSA that she agrees to the credit, but mentions that the car is still registered in Ms name because he cannot transfer the ownership while he is paying it off. CSA does not credit the value of the car, because M still owns it. CSA suggests that M and F discuss a value for the use of the car and if they can reach agreement, ask CSA to credit this on an ongoing basis.

If a payer and payee disagree about whether a cash payment was made, or the amount of the payment, CSA will ask for evidence of the payment. CSA will decide, on the basis of all the evidence, whether or not a payment was made and the amount paid.

Acceptable evidence includes bank statements, cheques or receipts. CSA will also consider oral or written statements provided by both parents.

Example

M, a payer, advises CSA that they paid $350 directly to the payee, F. When CSA asks F to confirm the payment F denies receiving it. M then supplies a bank statement, which shows a direct debit from Ms account to an account at the same branch. CSA contacts F to discuss this evidence. F admits receiving the payment, but says they believed it was from Centrelink.

How is a non-cash payment valued?

Where parents agree about the value of a non-cash payment (e.g. a transfer of property or a service provided) CSA will use this agreed value (section 71B(2)(a)).

Where parents cannot agree about a value CSA will decide an amount (section 71B(2)(b)). CSA will first try to negotiate an agreed amount with both parents. If this fails, CSA will request further information from the parents to determine a value.

Further information could include an independent valuation from a professional valuer (for real estate, etc.), or a letter from a local real estate agent estimating the market value of the property when it was transferred, or a local council valuation. Where the non-cash payment involves the transfer of a motor vehicle the information sought could include a valuation from a car yard or local garage, or a list of prices showing the approximate value of an equivalent model. CSA can seek a receipt for items recently purchased.

Was the payment intended to be in lieu of child support?

CSA will accept a payees advice that a payment, or the value of goods or services was intended as child support.

Where the parents disagree, CSA will seek evidence from both parents and decide on the basis of that evidence whether the relevant intention existed when the payment was made.

CSA will seek oral statements (or written, if either parent cannot be contacted by telephone) from both parents about their intention at the time the payment was made and the circumstances surrounding the payment. Before making a decision CSA will discuss the evidence with both parents, so that they have an opportunity to respond or expand on their statements.

If CSA cannot obtain a statement from one of the parents, it will consider a statement made by the other parent and any other available evidence.

In making a decision CSA will take into account the following factors:

    * Whether the parents have agreed that previous payments made in similar circumstances were for child support, as this may indicate the same intention in relation to the present payment.
    * The circumstances in which the payment was made. For example, where a payer has made payments or provided goods as part of a contact visit, this may have occurred without the prior knowledge or consent of the payee.
    * Any documents that support the case of either parent. For example, if there were legal proceedings in progress at or before the time of the payment there may be relevant documents which refer to payments made by the payer to the payee or a third party.
    * Whether one of the parents has previously stated that payment was to be credited but subsequently changed their statement. CSA will examine both statements to determine what their intention was at the time the payment was made.

Example

A payer M advises of payments of $2500 for school fees and clothing. M claims a credit for that amount under section 71A.

Scenario 1: The payee F agrees that the amounts were paid with the intention that they be credited against Ms child support liability. CSA credits the total amount of $2500.

Scenario 2: F states that only an agreed amount of $2000 was intended to be credited against Ms child support liability. F says that M agreed to pay $500 to cover half the cost of school uniforms and that this amount was in addition to Ms usual child support. CSA contacts M, who confirms that arrangement. CSA credits an amount of $2000, a partial credit of the original $2500 claimed.

Scenario 3: The payee F states that the amount should not be credited, as the payments were additional to Ms ongoing child support liability. F claims that there was no agreement or intention on Fs part that the school fees and clothing would be in lieu of child support payments to CSA. F later sends in a copy of their property settlement which included a clause that M would pay all school fees and associated costs until their child turns 18 years of age. The amount is not credited. (Note: CSA would also exercise its discretion to refuse to credit this as a prescribed payment).

Example

The payer F asks for payments totalling $300 be credited. The total is made up of several amounts including a trip to the zoo, lunch at McDonalds, Nintendo games and a pair of sports shoes.

The payee M states that the payments were not intended as child support payments and that the child already had a perfectly good pair of sports shoes. M states that there has been no discussion regarding footwear and the child has said that the shoes were a birthday present from F. M contends that the trip to the zoo and computer games were also birthday presents.

F then agrees that some items were for the childs birthday but contends that the cost of the shoes ($150) should be credited as the child needed them.

There is no evidence that M intended that the shoes were to be credited as child support. The amount claimed is not credited. F is advised that Ms agreement should be sought before purchasing similar items in the future.

Election to have a percentage (less than 100%) of a non-agency payment made to a third party credited each month

Parents can apply to have an amount paid to a third party credited against an enforceable maintenance liability (section 71A).

The payer and the payee can agree to specify a percentage (that is less than 100%) at which the ongoing liability will be met by a third party non-agency payment (section 71A(2)). The percentage agreed to by the payee and payer can not be changed after the NAP has been accepted.

The third party non-agency payment will be applied against the on going liability at the specified percentage each month until the credit is fully allocated.

Example

Payer F applies for a third party payment of $500.00 to be credited to his account. The payee M states that she agrees that the payment was made in lieu of child support, however, she requires some periodic child support payments while the credit is being absorbed. F and M agree to have the payment applied at the rate of 50% of the ongoing liability, and payer F will pay the other 50% of the ongoing liability, so that M will still receive 50% of her child support as periodic payments.

If the parents cannot agree to a lesser percentage, the third party non-agency payment will be applied against 100% of the liability.

Example

Payer F applies for a third party payment of $500.00 to be credited to his account. The payee M states that she agrees that the payment was made in lieu of child support, however, she requires some periodic child support payments while the credit is being absorbed. M asks for it to be applied at the rate of 50% of the ongoing liability. F does not agree, therefore, the credit is applied against 100% of the liability.

If a non-agency payment is to be credited against 100% of the liability, it is applied against any child support outstanding and the remainder against future liabilities as they are raised.

If it is agreed that a third party non-agency payment is to be credited at less that 100% of the liability, it will only be applied against the ongoing liability as it is raised each month.

Credit against future liabilities

Once a liability becomes an enforceable maintenance liability and an amount, whether cash, property, or the provision of services, is credited as a non-agency payment, satisfying a child support liability, it will be applied against any future amounts payable. An intention to credit against future liabilities is not required.

Prescribed non-agency payments

CSA can credit certain payments towards a payers child support liability regardless of the intention of the parents at the time the payment was made (section 71C), except if:

    * the liability is an overseas maintenance liability (section 71C(6)); or
    * at the time the payment was made the payer had at least regular care of any of the children to whom the relevant administrative assessment relates; or
    * at the time the payment was made the child support liability was being fully or partially met by a lump sum credit (Refer to Chapter 5.3.3 Crediting Lump Sum Payments)

Credit can be given up to a maximum of 30% of the ongoing liability, provided that the balance of child support is paid as it becomes due and payable and the payer has less than 14% care of all of the children to whom the relevant administrative assessment relates and the child support liability is not already being met by a lump sum credit. The balance can be paid in cash or in the form of a non-agency payment credited under s71 or s71A, or from money credited from another source such as a tax refund or payment from a third party.

CSA can only credit amounts paid on or after 1 July 1999. Prescribed payments can only be credited against a child support liability and not a liability for spousal maintenance (section 71C(5)(a)). Prescribed payments cannot be credited against an overseas maintenance liability (section 71C(6)).

The types of payments that can be credited in this way are listed or prescribed by regulation (regulation 5D). They are:

    * child care costs for the child who is the subject of the enforceable maintenance liability;
    * fees charged by a school or preschool for that child;
    * amounts payable for uniforms and books prescribed by a school or preschool for that child;
    * fees for essential medical and dental services for that child;
    * the payees share of amounts payable for the payees home; and
    * the costs to the payee of obtaining and running a motor vehicle, including repairs and standing costs.

The date of notification of the payment is the trigger for commencing to credit up to 30% towards the current liability. If a payer satisfies the conditions and the amount of the payment is more than 30% of the enforceable maintenance liability in a given month, the payer will be said to have an uncredited amount. This uncredited amount can be applied against the payers enforceable maintenance liability in a later month provided the conditions for payment are again met.

CSA cannot credit an uncredited amount towards any child support arrears that accumulated prior to the payer notifying CSA of the prescribed payment. An uncredited amount can be applied to arrears that accumulate after the notification, but only when at least 70% of the liability is satisfied by cash or a non-agency payment credited under s71 or s71A.

Example

A payer has a current liability of $100 per month and owes $3,000 in arrears.

In August 2008 the payer notifies CSA of a prescribed payment of $2,000 made that month, however, no payments were made direct to the payee, or to CSA.

As a result the payer still owes $3,000 and has an uncredited amount of $2,000.

If the payer pays $70 in cash (or has an equivalent amount credited as a non-agency payment under s71 or s71A) by the due date for August 2008 (7 September 2008) then $30 from the $2,000 uncredited amount is credited. The arrears of $3,000 remain. The uncredited amount is reduced to $1,970.

If the payer does not pay for the months of August, September and October but pays $280 on 7 December 2008 (being 70% of the liabilities for August, September, October and November 2008), then $120 of the uncredited amount can be credited (i.e. 4 x $30, leaving a balance of $1,880) and the arrears remain at $3,000.

If, in the above example, the payer pays $1,000 on 7 December 2008, $280 of the cash payment (70% of the liability) is applied to the liabilities raised for August, September, October and November (i.e. $400) and $120 of the uncredited prescribed payment would be credited to the account. This leaves a uncredited balance of $1,880 and the cash payment in excess of 70% of the liabilities, being $720, is credited against the original arrears of $3,000.

If a retrospective variation is made to a liability, whether it results in an increase or a decrease, the amount credited from a prescribed payment remains unchanged despite the fact that the percentage of the prescribed payment has changed.

If the payee of a private collect case later applies for registration of the maintenance liability and collection of arrears, CSA will calculate the unpaid amounts by taking into account any credit for prescribed payments that would have been available if the case were registered with CSA for collection.

If CSA is collecting child support through employer withholding, it will adjust the amount deducted to take into account the prescribed payments. If the prescribed payment constitutes 30% of the payers liability for 2 months or less then the excess cash will be refunded. If the prescribed payment constitutes 30% of the liability for a period greater than 2 months, the payer should be given the option of having their deductions reduced or given a cash refund.

Payees who are in receipt of more than base rate Family Tax Benefit need to be made aware that when a prescribed payment is notified to Centrelink it will be assessed under the maintenance income test by Centrelink even though uncredited for CSA purposes. The whole amount will be assessed on the day that the payment was made to a third party or received by the payee.

Regular care of children and/or liability being met by a lump sum credit at the time the prescribed payment was made


From 1 July 2008, a payer cannot claim a credit under section 71C when, at the time the payment was made:

    * they had at least 14% care of any of the children to whom the administrative assessment relates; and/or
    * the child support liability is being fully or partially met by a lump sum credit (see Chapter 5.3.3 Crediting lump sum payments)

If a parent applies to have a prescribed non-agency payment credited and the above circumstances did not exist at the time the payment was made but they exist now, the application will be accepted. However, the payer will not receive the benefit of the 30% credit against their monthly liability until those circumstances again cease to exist.

Payments made prior to 1 July 2008 but only advised to CSA on or after 1 July 2008 will be accepted and credited, regardless of the level of care the payer has of any of the children at the time of applying for the prescribed non-agency payment to be accepted.

Example

The payer F asks for a payment of $1000 to be credited as a prescribed non-agency payment on 20 November 2008. The payment was for school fees for F and Ms children and was made on 8 July 2008 at which time F had below regular care of both children. F currently has below regular care of one of the children and regular care of the other child.

The amount claimed is accepted as a non-agency payment as F had below regular care of both children at the time the payment was made. However, F will not currently receive the 30% credit against his ongoing liability as he now has regular care of one of the children. If, in the future, F again has below regular care of both children he will start to receive the 30% credit against his ongoing liability.

WA ex-nuptial cases

The Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Further 2008 Budget and Other Measures) Act 2008 amended section 71C from 6 January 2009. This amendment provides that if the payer is claiming a credit when the above conditions exist, a decision not to accept the credit is made under s71C.

This amendment does not yet apply to WA ex-nuptial cases and as such if the above conditions exist when a credit is claimed, a decision to refuse to credit will still be made under s71D.

See Chapter 1.4.2 Application of the Registration and Collection Act for information on provisions that do not apply to WA ex-nuptial cases.

Child care costs for the child who is the subject of the enforceable maintenance liability

A payer can claim credit for amounts paid for child care, less any amount that is refundable by the Family Assistance Office. The possibility of receiving a child care rebate in the future will not be taken into account in calculating the amount that can be credited.

Fees charged by a school or preschool for a child who is the subject of an enforceable maintenance liability

This can include school fees and levies, but not payment for non-compulsory camps, excursions, additional tuition or boarding costs. A school is an institution which mainly provides primary or secondary education.

It includes an institution providing technical and further education where the payment is for a course of secondary education.

Amounts payable for uniforms and books prescribed by a school or preschool for a child who is the subject of an enforceable maintenance liability

From 12 April 2001 a payer can claim credit for books and uniforms prescribed by a school which they have obtained from any source. (CSA could previously only credit an amount paid for uniforms and books that the payer purchased from the childs school or preschool.) Amounts payable for books includes text books and exercise books but not stationery, computers, etc. Amounts payable for uniforms includes a school bag if prescribed by the school.

Fees for essential medical and dental services for a child who is the subject of an enforceable maintenance liability

Essential medical and dental services are not limited to those services provided in an emergency.

A payer can claim only their actual costs. CSA will credit only the net amount after any rebate the person can claim from Medicare or a health insurance fund.

Prescribed payments include essential consultation fees for services provided by medical and dental practitioners, treatment by specialists, eye testing, X-rays, pathology tests, examinations and certain out-of-hospital surgical procedures by Medicare approved practitioners. The cost of medication associated with essential treatment is also included, as well as equipment such as crutches or a vaporiser.

Prescribed payments include in-hospital costs either as a public patient, or as a private patient in a public or private hospital. Costs can include accommodation and items such as theatre fees, anaesthetist costs, pathology, X-rays and medicines.

Prescribed payments may also include fees for medical or dental services not covered by Medicare, if they are essential for the child in the opinion of a practitioner approved by private health funds. These services include:

    * emergency ambulance services;
    * physiotherapy;
    * speech and eye therapy;
    * chiropractic services;
    * podiatry;
    * psychological services;
    * optometry and repairs.

CSA will not allow a credit for fees for surgery or dentistry performed solely for cosmetic reasons. Where there is a doubt a parent could ask the service provider for more information.

Examples

The cost of a nose reconstruction carried out by a cosmetic surgeon purely for cosmetic reasons would not be acceptable as a prescribed payment. But the cost of a nose reconstruction which alleviated a breathing difficulty or was performed following an accident would qualify.

The cost of orthodontic work performed solely for cosmetic reasons will not qualify as a prescribed payment. However, if a general practitioner or orthodontist indicated that the work was necessary for the childs psychological wellbeing or essential dental health it may be justified.

The payees share of amounts payable for the payees home

This includes:

    * the payees share of amounts payable for rent or a security bond for the payees home;
    * the payees share of amounts payable for utilities, rates or body corporate charges for the payees home; and
    * the payees share of repayments on a loan that financed the payees home.

Payments for utilities include gas, electricity, telephone and water.

Where the payer makes payments for which they and the payee are jointly responsible, CSA will credit only the payees share. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, this will be half the total amount.

Prescribed payments can only include those for a home in which the payee lives however the bill does not need to be in the payees name.

Example

The parents separate in March 2007 and the payee continues to live in the home they shared. The home has gas connected which is in the payer's name because the payer had originally organised the connection when they had moved into the home. The payer pays a gas account (that is in the payers name) of $500 in November 2007 which covers the period from 1 July 2007 until 30 September 2007. The payee and children were residing in the home and thus solely benefited from the payment of the gas bill. The payer applies for credit of this $500 as a prescribed non-agency payment. CSA will credit this amount.

Costs to the payee of obtaining and running a motor vehicle, including repairs and standing costs

This only includes payments that are necessary to keep the vehicle on the road and to maintain its safety. They can include car loan repayments or the payees share of joint car loan repayments. They can also include non-compulsory insurance premiums where the payee is an existing contributor.

Discretion to refuse to credit an amount

CSA can refuse to credit a non-agency payment claimed under sections 71, 71A or 71C if satisfied that, in the circumstances of the particular case, the amount ought not to be credited (section 71D).

CSA may refuse to credit an amount in certain circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

    * The payees agreement to credit an amount paid to a third party or payment made as a transfer of property was obtained through coercion or harassment. (However, where CSA is informed about this after it has credited the payment, it will be necessary for the payee to object to CSAs decision to credit the amount.)
    * The payer is claiming a credit under section 71C for an expense they regularly meet that was taken into account in a change of assessment decision. For example, CSA or a court has reduced the annual rate (or refused to increase it) because the payer usually pays school fees, medical expenses for the child, mortgage or rent payments or any other prescribed payments.
    * The payer is claiming credit under section 71C for an expense which they have undertaken to pay in addition to their liability as specified in a child support agreement.
    * The payer is claiming credit under section 71C for an expense that they are responsible to pay under the terms of a court order.
    * The payer is claiming credit under section 71C for expenses for the child for which they are separately responsible.

Objections

A payee can object to CSAs decision to credit a non-agency payment (section 80).

A payer and a payee can object to CSAs decisions to refuse to credit a non-agency payment (section 80).

Other options

If a non-agency payment is not credited there may be other options available such as:

    * applying for a variation to a court ordered liability (See Chapters 2.8.1 and 4.3.2);
    * applying for a change of assessment under Part 6A of the Assessment Act (See Chapter 2.6);
    * applying for a departure order under part 7, Division 4 of the Assessment Act (See Chapter 4.3.2);
    * applying for an order under Part 7, Division 5 of the Assessment Act to have non-periodic or payments to third parties credited against an assessment (See Chapter 4.3, Applications and orders under the Assessment Act);
    * making a child support agreement under Part 6 of the Assessment Act providing for non-periodic amounts or payments to third parties to be credited against an assessment. (See Chapter 2.7).

What happens to a credit if an assessment has ended or the liability is no longer payable to CSA?

If a liability or assessment ends with an uncredited non-agency payment amount, CSA will reduce the NAP amount to nil.

When CSA receives an election to end CSA collection it will notify the parents of any uncredited non-agency payments on the child support account. Similarly, CSA will notify the parents of any uncredited non-agency payments on the child support account when it requires the payee to make private arrangements to collect their child support. The payer and payee will then have the option of:

    * using the credit to reduce the liability during private collection;
    * delaying opting out of collection until no credit remains;
    * agreeing to reduce the credit to nil;
    * or, where the parents cant agree, the credit remains on the payers account to be applied if the payee later applies for collection.
@ Fairgo… The ex "lives off the taxpayer" (she has never worked a day in her life)

C$A now just sends letters that state "we have tried to contact you about you case and to date have been unable to contact you, please call the C$A on 131 272 quoting your reference number.  If you do not respond within 14 days, we will act on the information we have received".  I have responded writing that "I have requested ALL contact to be in writing, and that you are clearly able to send this letter asking me to phone, so please advise why you are unable to advise me in writing the information you have received and request me to confirm it? "  As yet I have heard nothing back…. but somehow Centrelink was advised that I no longer had the children in my care, and Centrelink cut all my Family Allowance.  I asked Centrelink where the children had reportedly gone & I was told they are living with my husband  (WHO LIVES WITH ME… ummm, even the lady at Centrelink was confused, and thankfully she was able to rectify C$A's "incorrect update".

I fought the C$A many years ago on an unfair assessment & proved them wrong, and honestly believe I have been victimised ever since.  I have requested that a COA form be sent to me, and I was told I need to talk to the COA team first to "assessed over the phone" before they would send me a form. Any ideas where to go from here?
Fair n Just said
Any ideas where to go from here?

Simply complete and submit the form that is provided Here.
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