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My husband has decided to notify CSA of a change in earnings. He did this in February 2010, and CSA refused to change his assessment accordingly. We have submitted all our Bank Statements for the past 18 months (as he has not submitted his 2009 and 2010 tax assessments, yet). On the appropriate form, he nominated that in regards to a conference, he wanted to be notified by mail of the outcome, as he did not want to negotiate via phone with CSA. Under no circumstances does he want to speak to the CSA or his ex-wife as this almost causes him to go into a 'very anxious and depressive state!' This is due to years of going in out of the Family Court to see his kids with no positive outcomes ( he hasn't seen his children in 15yrs) and the same with CSA, they just demand and we pay. He feels his lack of education and his culture are used against him by these govt. departments. To assist him, we ask for everything in writing, so I can sit down with him and decipher (read through the fine print!) and determine what is needed. My partner is Aboriginal and spent all of his juvenile years in an orphanage and this has impacted on his life in a very stressful way. We received a letter, via the CSA online service, that they would refuse to proceed further with his application unless he went ahead with phone contact with them. I have written a letter to them stating that he is quite prepared to submit anything they require via mail, email, but no phone contact. My question is….Are the Child Support Agency allowed to refuse a COA when there is strong evidence of a change in earnings? His child support is presently up to date with no arrears. Should we go to the Aboriginal Legal Service to seek further advice on the matter?
Kazscorpio,
               for a change of earnings you would normally provide an estimate of income rather than use the change of assessment process. The restriction is if there is an income amount order in force or if being the first income estimate for the year of income and that the income estimate is 85% or less than the person's adjusted taxable income. The income estimate can be provided orally, by telephone, in person, by electronic means via CSA Online, via the form on the CSA website, or in writing. This is according to the CSA Guide. The legislation states that the estimate must be given in the manner stated by the registrar. I believe that unless the registrar is purposefully discriminating against your partner, that the guide consists of statements which are stated by or on behalf of the Registrar.

If your partner has an existing change of assessment in force then this comes under the income amount order restriction. Assuming that this is the case the registrar can only refuse to change an assessment if the case is too complex, the application does not disclose any the the 10 reasons, if it would not be just and equitable or otherwise proper, or that following a previous refused change of assessment the new application does not disclose new issues, nothing allows the registrar to refuse an application due to the means in which it is made. However section 150A of the CSA Act, does allow the registrar to specify the manner in which it is to be made as per:-

Child Support Assessment Act - Section 150A said
150A  Applications, notices, elections and replies to be in the manner specified by the Registrar
   (1)   The Registrar may specify the manner in which an application, notice, election or reply required or able to be made or given under this Act is to be made or given.
   (2)   Without limiting subsection (1), in respect of an application, notice, election or reply, the Registrar may specify any or all of the following matters:
   (a)   the content of the application, notice, election or reply;
   (b)   that the content is to be made or given in a particular form approved by the Registrar under subsection (4);
   ©   that the content is to be made or given orally;
   (d)   that specified documents are to accompany it;
   (e)   that the content is to be verified or that a document accompanying it is to be verified;
   (f)   that it may be given on a specified kind of data processing device, or by way of electronic transmission, including specifying that it be given in accordance with certain software requirements.


I would suggest that the registrar, given the many means by which the registrar can allow for the application, that the registrar would by insisting that the application/reply is made over the telephone, that the registrar is for some reason discriminating, perhaps racially and that the matter should be taken to other persons. The ombudsman, whoever deals with anti-discrimination matters, your local Federal MP, the Federal MP responsible for FAHCSIA and also perhaps whatever media outlets would be willing to offer you an outlet for this act of discrimination. Also obviously use the CSA's complaints system to raise a complaint.

I believe that CSA employees act as the Registrar and that they are covered by the APS code of conduct and therefore that in making this demand they are not a) "when acting in the course of APS employment, treat everyone with respect and courtesy, and without harassment; ", and b) "when acting in the course of APS employment, comply with all applicable Australian laws;". I believe there are Australian Laws which make such discrimination illegal.

I also believe that the SPCA has raised an emerging issue in regards to a similar matter where the CSA were shown to have ignored a person's restricted abilities in their demands for information in the way that they wanted it rather than in a way that considered the abilities and situation of the person that the inormation was being requested from.

You could also make it quite clear, that due to your partner's circumstances that insistence upon communications other than the written word would in your opinion constitute harassment which would be yet another contravention of the APS code of conduct.

Last edit: by MikeT

Wouldn't it be simpler to submit the 2009 and 2010 tax returns?

CSA could then work out child support figures based on this without any interaction with the other parent.
Guest, nothing is "simpler" when it comes to the CSA.  In fact the more one submits, the more ammo the CSA uses to the payer's disadvantage.

If tax returns show low income, then the CSA will deem there must be something going on because the payer cannot possibly live on such a low income.  
It is indeed "Deem & Destroy".
Kazscorpio,
                additionally, if you are not undergoing the change of assessment process then if the CSA asked for such financial details, then I believe that they have breached the Privacy Act and therefore also the APS code of conduct (see previous post from myself about complaining about this incompetency if this applies and about the code of conduct requiring APS employees to act in accordance with the law.) . My understanding is that the CSA simply do not understand that an estimate of income is not a change of assessment process. It is in fact a unique and different process. I say this as I am aware of a recent situation where an officer questioned this and asked two desperate TSO's (Technical Support Officers) both said that all financial information must be provided. However the fact is that such information is not required under the legislation. The officer in question, after pursuing the matter, did ascertain that only the estimate of income is required. However, I don't believe that the structure of the CSA permits, in reality, the higher ranked TSO's being told that they consistently failed in what was a very simple matter obfuscated by an unacceptable ignorance of the prime reason for those person's being in the position they are. Section 60(7) of the Child Support Assessment Act states:


Child Support Assessment Act - Section 60(7) said
How election is made
   (7)   The parent makes the election by giving notice of it to the Registrar in the manner specified by the Registrar. The notice must specify:
   (a)   the amount that the parent elects is to be his or her adjusted taxable income; and
   (b)   the amount the parent estimated at step 2 of the method statement in subsection (5); and
   ©   that the remaining period was treated as being 12 months, if the parent chose to do so under subsection (6).

I have to give the CSA some recognition as there are people who do act with competence, such as the officer mentioned above who questioned the initial negligence and breach of the Privacy Act which I believe demands that information is only requested due to an actual need for that information. In addition, if this is the case, then you could also make a complaint to the privacy commissioner (I believe that's the title).
Thanks again Mike for the advice. I have forwarded a written letter (on behalf of my husband) reiterating that hubbie is more than happy to provide any info they require. I will also be abiding by the Privacy Act, and not giving them any of my information as I am not part of the CSA equation. This includes the mortgage as it is in joint names (3 names, including my daughters). In the letter they forwarded to him, they demanded he do his tax, and also stated that any excess money already paid will not be returned. I ignore these demands as my view is the CSA is not the Taxation Dept. and therefore can demand a lot of things in regard to Child Support, but not taxation assessments. Referring to Guest who suggest wouldn't it be easier to do the his Tax. This is complicated by the fact that he took several superannuation lump sums. He has Family Law Court documents (1997) which state that " super entitlements of the husband are vested in the husband absolutely" from the Marriage Settlement. CSA will do a extra income grab at this and it will up to him to prove that ex wife cannot have this and he will have to try and get the money back (as always, just about impossible!).  In saying this, he also has Family Law Court Orders, which state, that the children should maintain regular contact with their father, "as the said wishes of the children" who were 2yr and 3yrs at the time. Needless to say he has never seen them since 1996. My view of Family Law Court documents is that they are not worth the paper they are written on and have far reaching consequences further down the track. Also we have a small business partnership but turnover is less than $25,000 (2009 + 2010)and will be getting tax done early next year. On a more positive note, hubbie's Child Support responsibilities are only for another year, and then ex wife will have to get a job. If CSA were an even playing ground for both parties and not bias towards the payer, life would be easier.

Relevance

Hi Kazscorpio

Sorry to hear about your situation - not that it helps I can understand you and your husband's frustrations.  I have been through similar processes.  Unfortunately completely unsuccessfully.

I had a RICA in which I was not even aware that documents had been requested from banks (with joint account holders) and when this went to the SSAT all the information was provided by the CSA to my ex wife (including the joint account holders information).

Amusingly enough (and I was not laughing) this information included VEDA financial statements of mine that did not even fall within the RICA period and dated back as far as 6 years, and even what doctors bills had been paid for medical treatment, including the doctors names.  Also motor vehicle registration details were provided including vehicle chasis numbers and even electoral roll details.

CSA and the SSAT were not interested in privacy they just said the 'Act' requires all documents to be produced to the parties.  The sad thing is my ex wife elected not to be a party to the SSAT appeal hearing but was given a folio of some 250 pages of my pesonal privacy information.  Neither CSA or the SSAT would enter the argument of what is 'relevant'.

Clearly, as I have pointed out there is a problem between lodging an SSAT Appeal and CSA and the SSAT confirming if the other party actually wants to be involved prior to giving them all of the information.  The other thing is my ex has never filled out a financial statement in the last 4 years of COA and appeals.

As for telephone contact - also know what your saying, I requested written communication only as CSA have refused to provided telephone recorded conversations under FOI requests.  My RICA was performed as a telephone conference - even though I was a 'no phone' customer on CSA records some 10 months earlier, and had a specialised case officer that was aware of this. Because I said I was a 'no phone' customer when the RICA officer rang - they just recorded me as refusing to participate in the conference.  I did of course advise them under the 'Act' I was and the CSA Registrar is supposed to allow me to attend in person for the RICA - this never happened.

As you mention I have been through the 'at the children's wishes' which never works and even had acourt order stating 'see the child every weekend' - of course my ex got away with that on the basis she said she offered me the child for 4 hours on a Saturday.  I have not seen or heard from my children now for over 4 years.

In your case though - as has been in my case CSA can refuse an assessment outright from the begining.

I wish you all the best with your issues - all I can advise short of that is approaching a local MP who will probably do next to nothing.

COA completed as 'write only' customer

Just thought I would add this for anyone interested. CSA did 'sort of' do a half hearted attempt to look at our change of income (our gross business turnover for our partnership was about $18,000 last year). The Business statements for the past 12 months were submitted to attempt to get a reduction in CSA payments, but this was unsuccessful as there is several outstanding tax assessments that hubbie needs to do, before they will consider any changes.  Reason 7 was not established, the expenses of food, transport and health cover are considered normal expenses and paying these do not impact on his ability to pay child support, even though he is only grossing $9,000 per annum! Hubbie also tried to establish that payee could now be working more hours (Reason 8), but this was rejected. Payee's minimal part time work was OK,  because she had not reduced her part time working hours etc in the past few years….I mean why should she, when she has derived her main source of income from Centrelink all her life! Unfortunately, these are not proof enough and the assessment stands at the MTAWE amount until my hubbie gets his tax done. He could appeal their decision, as obviously they have not considered allowing for the self-supporting amount, unless hubbie has recent tax assessments done (but I thought CSA had to be informed of any changes in conditions!). At this stage, we are sick of the stress, so will not be appealing the decision. On a second note, as we are only just a few hundred dollars in arrears, hubbie has decided to stop paying anything until he gets a Wages and Salary position after Christmas. Possibly, in Feb 2011 I will start paying his child support again so we don't get too far in arrears (only just over 12 months left). My question is to anyone that has been through the arrears process is " How far do they allow the debt to get into arrears before they take you into court?" Another strange comment written on the assessment is:-"there is one remaining eligible child on the assessment and comments to the effect "the parents also have 5 adult children", I fail to see how this is relevant to the assessment!!

 As we only deal with them as a write only (via a PO Box)we will wait and see.
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