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I received a personal post regarding the Change of Assessment Form that the CSA expect you to fill out when the initial application begins.  The person was concerned about the Privacy issues and the details exposed.  I personally feel that the form is a trap and a Privacy concern especially when it comes to the SSAT form when all your personal household details are exposed.

Why do the Departments feel that the info is relevant for the other party to see.  Why should all other information go to the other party including Bank Statements and personal Business Financial Information.  My opinion is that yes, it gives the Departments an uderstanding of your financial obligations and situation but the only other reason I can see is an opportunity for the CSA or ex to ridicule your current financial situation, and if you happen to be still going through settlement, ammunition for the ex to use in Court.

From experience with both one sided Departments I will explain a few issues that we encontered when we were going through the COA process.  Once again, I can guarntee that all the info I am posting is true, and I have the evidence to prove my statements.

When my partner filled out COA form, he put the mortgage amount that he was paying on the FMH.  As the "ex" had stopped paying he was required to continue making the mortgage payments with the help of an overdraft facility & rental and later, my assistance when the credit facilities ran dry.   Well, if you don't tell the truth you get into trouble, if you tell the truth watch out.  (It's a pity they don't enforce the "false and misleading statements a little more" may have saved us two years of grief from the beginning)

Well, we were caused two years of grief.  Because of this COA form, the tunnel visioned case officers used this to set my partners income. ie "He must have financial resources not reflected in his income because of his expenses"  This gave them the opportunity to double his assessment income. Although he had proven otherwise, they turned a blind eye to all other relevant documentation.

Something needs to be done to protect the Privacy of Individuals when it comes to the Open Exchange of Information Regulation.

With the second case officer in the COA process my partner wrote on each and every page at the bottom of his financials, "that the documents he provided were for the purpose of the CSA and any other Government Dept and could not be used for any other purpose."

 Well apparently the CSA can not guarantee this.  My partner received a phone call from the lovely Case Officer and said she could not guarantee that this could happen and that he would have to seek legal advice. Poor!! No wonder some people don't provide information.  Not because they have anything to hide, they don't want the ex to know and have ammunition they can use towards them.

(I do not know why the CSA needed all the BAS info. They had already downloaded it from the ATO and put it in the Folder when the initial Change of Assessment began)

Departments have no idea the grief caused and the tunnel vision the ex's have when you are going through settlement.  They seem to start using one thing against the other, using Lawyers that are dealing with the Settlement process to gain information from your lawyer to use as ammunition at the CSA.  This caused many additional unnecesary legal expenses.

I am wondering if this is what "Guest" was using and referring to. They find out too much info from these forms  This is the trouble these forms can cause.  Instead of looking at the big picture, they become fixated on what bullets they choose to load.  Unfortunately, in my opinion hers are all blank.

I had to provide evidence to support my partners case. This consisted of Bank Statements to demonstrate my assistance in paying his credit cards off. The reason I felt obligated to do this was that the third Case Officer at CSA never asked for the documents, but in the decision did not take my contribution into consideration because I did not provide any supporting evidence.

Because of this, when we went to SSAT I felt obligated to provide this evidence.  To protect my Privacy I requested that when the Bank Statements had been witnessed by the Panel Members, that my account details be deleted.  I received a personal phone call from the lovely Case Manager at the SSAT and was told that this could not be done. From the experience of the CSA I felt I had no option but for the info to be included as evidence. So off go my Bank Statements with my Account Details to my partners ex.

(I actually complained to the PRIVACY COMMISSIONER about all the above but they declined to investigate!!)

We never saw one tax return of "ex's" apart from when they were together.

 The ex made an application to the CSA and we received this two days after the apalling SSAT decision came through. We were confronted again expected to fill out the COA form.  No way!! Especially when not even a payslip was provided with ex's application.   We tried to find some way out of filling out the rediculous form, and continually demanded the other party's income details first.

Our refusal benefited in the end, made a cross-application, and went in my partner's favour.  Finally!!  Although we were still trying to manage the mortgage on the FMH the CO did not take this into consideration.   We were fortunate enough that he looked at the big picture.  Because the property was still in settlement dispute, he determined the mortgage contributions that my partner was forced to make were irrelevant when assessing his income.  Big difference.

I have to say I am glad there is one Case Officer (male I might add) that has a brain.

Why is it a Department has to show both parties how they have made a decision based on factual evidence?? Shouldn't we have enough faith in the Department to be able to make a correct determination.  Probably not anymore.  Either or, OEI regulation or not, in my partners case the detailed info the Departments were provided with they mis-used  and any relevant evidence that supported his statements was totally ignored, especially when it came to the ex misleading the Agency and Tribunal. Oh and to top it off, a Tribunal is allowed to destroy any evidence that they calculate when assessing your financial Bank Statements.  That way you can not see how they made their determinations and if you decide to go to Court because you disagree with their determinations and calculations don't even bother.  The FM bases it on credibility not finding of fact. The finding of fact was my partner's credibility and judgement was made on the SSAT mis-using his financial documentation and still to this day sits in the Government Files.

"Damned if you do, Damned if you don't"  I reckon they should put that at the top of the Child Support Legislation's, Evidence Act, Privacy Act, etc etc.

Are there any other experiences out there similar to this?

NB: Some of the information is similar to a previous posting however I have expanded on my comments in relation to supplying documents and the suffering we have gone through.
Just not on said
I received a personal post regarding the Change of Assessment Form that the CSA expect you to fill out when the initial application begins. The person was concerned about the Privacy issues and the details exposed. I personally feel that the form is a trap and a Privacy concern especially when it comes to the SSAT form when all your personal household details are exposed.
Yes a good post and thanks for raising this. We feel the same way and I can tell you there is a lot of work going on in Canberra to completely re-work the COA system. This is being done under the Change of Assessment (COA) reform project. FaHCSIA and the Child Support Agency (CSA) have held numerous workshops to explore options to streamline the current COA process.

We have written a detailed paper as part of the reforms process.

Apart from the issue you raise about the need to send every minuscule detail of your financial status and household expenditure to the other party there are too many REASONS, the reasons have many rules around them that are not easily understood.

We are hoping to see a much more  transactional model system that is not open to interpretation. A transactional model will result in more clearly and narrowly defined special circumstances and will allow the CSA to apply a defined set of rules to make a decision on an application, thereby eliminating much of the discretion currently available to the CSA.

This work is not yet fully developed and is under review so watch this space for developments during the second half of 2011.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Your response is appreciated.

What needs to be considered is the time that the COA process takes and the expense that costs the Government to employ people to make rediculous, unsupported and biased determinations when making a Decision.  Each persons situation is different.

When disuputing Decisions or annual income amounts are set, you are told to go through the COA process.  If there is sufficient evidence to start the process, whether relevant or not, it begins costing the Taxpayer.

Surely, there should be some way that the CSA can determine if there is a sudden reduction of one's income in an Assessment and if you can demonstrate they are on an annual payrise, they have the ability to press a few buttons on their system to have a good look.  No, apparently not.  You must begin the COA process.

My concerns are there is one person that takes the case over, that one person makes the decision, yet the CSA are responsible for the decision.  If you object to it, it costs more taxpayers dollars to continue objecting.  If there was a panel of qualified professionals from different areas looking at both sides, taking into consideration all relevant info then I am sure the CSA would get a pat on the back from the Government for reducing the unnecessary employment expenses in the COA team.  From experience with the CSA they never looked at the whole picture. They created a biased, unprofessional and unsupported decision.  At least if there was a Panel of three unassociated Members and any indication that one person had been influenced, the other two could take control of the situation!!  Yes it may cost a little more to do this, but I am sure it would save the Governement lots of $$$.

My partner had three different Case Officers determining each of the 3 COA initial processes and objections.  The last CO apparently "ran out of time" to ask for further documentation.  Her additional comments in brief were that if it went to SSAT they could look more closely at my partners financial documentation. This should not happen.  More Taxpayers $$$.  The COA officers are supposed to be competent enough to make a decision according to the Legislation.

What is the exact cost for a COA assessment and multiply that by three plus the application to the SSAT.  What a waste of Taxpayers money!!!

SO, if this has happened to others, think of the money this Department could be saving.
Justnoton,
               the COA process is extremely intrusive and I/we believe often a contravention of the privacy laws that very much say that information should only be obtained on a need to know basis.


My belief is that there should be hard and fast rules, currently there is the legislation which is not at all specific and basically suits a person with specialised knowledge not only of the CS legislation but also of how legislation should be correctly interpreted and how to correctly not act with any bias. The fact is that it is abundantly clear, as supported by the findings of the Ombudsman's report (late 2010). The CSA has been given the power of a court registrar of the Family Law Court, with very little accountability to the court (only on a matter of law) and can thus basically make decisions as a judge or FM could. Secretary_SPCA mentions following rules, there are in fact few in reality, basically unless contested what they say goes.

The "rules(sic)" have been used to make decisions that use year's old business loan applications to derive the current taxable income as the real accounts did not meet the unwritten rule "set the taxable income of a liable parent as high as possible, then increase it even further". The rules have very recently been used to split the "equal contribution(as found and quoted in the decision)" of the profit of two partners of a business so that one partner has an annual income of $3,500 whilst the other has an annual income of nearly $50,000. The equal split of "home office" expenses (none of which were attributed to the business) was $0 and $4000. The "rules(sic)" used have been used to ensure that the lives of non-involved people are put at risk by making findings that costly safety equipment isn't for work purposes and that working hours beyond the legislated maximum are required.


I personally advocate for an automated system. You yourself argue against that a little when you say that every case is different. I argue against that by saying that tax returns for every case are different. I further argue that tax legislation is far more complicated. Yet the ATO have a system that enables that far more complex situation to be handled basically by the "cusotmers(sic)" themselves (even if you pay an agent to act on your behalf). I believe implementing a such a system for all CS would be far simpler. CSA workers would mostly simply be handling factual supporting data and rubber stamping it, the system would apply the rules with no bias and no need to get bonuses or brownie points for promotion purposes. The cost savings would be tremendous; a greatly reduced need for an objections process as the rules would be followed, the skill level required would be reduced, the size of the workforce would be reduced, fewer people would see a need to "avoid to survive", many small businesses could actually survive (especially as a major rule should be that what is submitted and accepted by the ATO stands and that if so-called tax dodges exist that taxpayers not just CS recipients should benefit from the corrections).

In the above there would be no need for "Case Officers" (which I believe actually only means the officer currently looking after your case and is thus used to give a false impression).

As for being a waste of money, PIR back in 2004/2005, issued a report showing how back then that it cost getting close to $6 to collect $1 in CS. This was before the "Two Joe's (Hockey and Ludwig) "chase them to the grave" storm-trooper money wasting initiative(s) (which I believe have resulted in nothing but money($140 million if I recall correctly) being thrown away (last I heard was that of the half a dozen or so potential court cases only one had the potential for court action and then that was still questionable)).

The problem is that you are fighting for a system that is very much inherrent with "government(sic)" today. Where would the jobs go if things were done that actually carefully considered the pros and cons (e.g. the batts debacle, the BER debacle etc etc etc etc). I recall the other day something in a newspaper that hit the nail on the head. Something along the lines of saying that you don't start an inquiry without knowing what the conclusion is. I was involved in the Richmond inquiry into the CSA (as was Secretary_SPCA), afterwards the discussion we had was very much that we strongly suspected what the results would be due to the questioning, low and behold the results were as expected (nothing to reduce the inefficiency of the wrongs or of the clear bias etc, primarily collect collect collect). I believe that the real cost to collect $1 in CS, is very likely well over $10 now. I also have little doubt that is what happened with the "In the best interest of the child" report. Professor Parkinson very likely had this formula or the core idea, so he pulls strings and hey presto his formula is introduced and he does very well out of it.
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