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A system FAIR to all parties.

Hi All,

Problems similar to mine are contained in many of the posts on this site.

My biggest mistake in tackling the CSA and SSAT was not getting advise prior dealing with them over my issues. In hindsight I was foolish to think that as much as 'FAIRNESS' was advertised that it would actually exist and be applied.

I will relay my story, but will give you the outcome first. Sorry if it is lengthy, though I have only included the more pertinent points in this saga. I must apologise for any emotional content that may be evident, as I have tried to put forward a factual account.

SSAT has notified me of their decision to further increase my Child Support Obligation. The facts were given to them openly hoping for compassion. My business is in a precarious financial position with closure imminent, and my wife is no longer able to work due to ill health.

Because I own a business it appears that I am guilty until I can prove my innocense. I simply run a business that employs my wife and I and provides us with an income to live on. Our cars are 8 and 13 years old, the TV is 12 years old, I have had the same mobile phone for 5 years. I don't believe I lead a lavish lifestyle as I haven't had a holiday in over 10 years. I did by a new bed three years ago as the old one was several years old.

Where did I go wrong? I was identified because my business returns a low income for its turnover. I primarily sell & install car electronics etc., which on the retail market is very price competitive (thanks eBay). So they declared a Section 98K on me. CSA told me that people operate Companies to avoid Child Support (were they suggesting me?). I must operate a Company in order to comply with requirements of Corporate clients. Anyway, as a result they crawl into every (financial) orifice and then invited me to participate in an Interview. I requested that all financial information to be used be provided prior to this. They advised it would not be necessary and declined to provide full documentation, but after insisting they managed to send me a fax with a couple of figures. This revealed two major errors they made. They said I had made additional (large) extra Mortgage payments and assumptions that Business Credit Card purchases were for private purposes. I was able to disprove both which brought me back to a more realistic income figure.

I participated in the phone Interview and we discussed personal and business finacial details. The Interviewer accepted the errors and we were deducting these from their initially proposed amount when she pulled the black rabbit out of the hat. They had uncovered a Mortgage Application where I had declared a higher figure than we would have ultimately been left with. I was told this would be used as my assesment amount. This is when I felt the UNFAIRNESS of the system. Not only was I not provided details of this piece of information being used, it was not open to discussion - interview finished! Oh, this document was 4 years old and the figure was arrived at by a 'For Profit' orginisation ie. a Bank. Yet they had the most current information on hand. I was not asked if I could afford the resulting Child Support payments.

After appealing this decision, and lodging a complaint, another Review was initiated. It was interesting how the second CSA officer asked, as his last question, if I would still pursue the complaint, to which I indicated yes. He then returned an assesment exactly the same as the first. But I did find out why. In their letter to me they stated that they were not equipped to analyse the financial workings of a business. ???? So the CSA don't need be qualified.

A Complaints Resolution Officer got involved. He informed me that the decision was NOT made based on that Mortgage document. I told him it was and he should check. He did a stated again that it wasn't. Thanks to the SSAT sending me my file it was CLEARLY shown that it was. He had also suggested that I try their system again to which I declined because they didn't get even close on the previous two attempts. Off to the SSAT.

I was subjected to two hours of fairly intensive questioning by the panel. Questioning indicated that they were also unaware of how a business works. ie. how does a motor vehicle lease residual (ballon) work? They suggested that because I performed the physical work that I was worth more than my wife and that most of the income should be proportioned to me. So much for equality between sexes. We split our income evenly between us. They were informed of the impending closure of my business due to the critical business economics I am experiencing, and my wife's ill health. I am working some 60 hours per week, without holidays. I am starting to feel and exhibit physical symptoms due to the compounding stresses the CSA system is causing. It was revealed interestingly that my Ex-partner works only 20 hours per week. Both my daughters are now old enough to care for themselves after school. Could it be possible she is working the system to maximise income and benefits? When I lost my job after leaving my Ex I still maintained CS payments at the same rate, higher than required, until I myself had to request an emergency payment from Centrelink to support myself. She repaid me by going straight to the CSA, even though she knew my circumstances. While I was still picking up the pieces, CSA helped her pick up a percentage of any income I earnt. I have been 'unemployed' for less than 2 months in 25 years in the workforce.

I received the SSAT decision today. A further increase to what the CSA had determined. I am only one person that, as it appears, has to support my wife in ill health, her son who is studying and for which we don't receive CS payments, and my children at a rate that will financially ruin me. I am relucted to sell my house as I have worked hard to recover financially since leaving my Ex with absolutely everything. (Dumb). At no point did they consider the facts and my recent substantial change of circumstances. Nor did they consider my wife as an equal partner in my life and finances.

Did I mention I haven't seen my children for 10 years. I know this doesn't count, because CSA are spending unlimited resources on extracting my last dime. To their credit they did send me a couple of brochures.

For the record, yes I do agree in paying a fair amount to support your children. I now don't agree in full support if Access to your children is denied.

Where do I go from here? as I firmly believe I have been dealt with unfairly and the effect will not only impact on me but also on innocent bystanders I love, my wife and family. Could someone point me in the right direction? If this decision stands it will be a major contributing factor in an outcome that benifits no one.

Plug me back into the Matrix
Wozza,
          first I'm sorry to hear of your predicament, yours is not the only relatively recent example of the CSA resorting to defunct loan applications to overturn proof of their lack of an ability to use sound accounting methods. One of the options that may be open to you is to take the matter to court, here's the section from the CSA's guide in regard to this, I guess (I'm not sure about this, hopefully some of the SRL's can comment on this) the error of law is that the decision is based upon outdated information and is therefore not fair, just or equitable :-


The CSA Guide said
4.3.6: Applications, appeals and court orders under the Registration and Collection Act

Version 2.0, Last updated 17 March 2008 5:00pm
Information in this version of The Guide applies from 1 July 2008
Refer to the previous Scheme Guide for information until 30 June 2008

Context

A parent or non-parent carer can appeal to a court under the Registration and Collection Act if dissatisfied with a decision of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal made about their child support case due to an error of law.

CSA can also appeal to a court if dissatisfied with a decision of the SSAT due to an error of law.

A parent or non-parent carer can apply to a court for a stay order under the Registration and Collection Act. A stay order can stay or affect the operation of the Assessment Act or the Registration and Collection Act.

Legislative references

Part VIII, Part VIIIA and Part VIIIB Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988

Part 25A Federal Magistrates Court Rules 2001

Appealing SSAT decisions

A parent, non-parent carer or CSA can appeal to a court with jurisdiction under the Registration and Collection Act if they are dissatisfied with a decision of the SSAT. An appeal can only be brought on a question of law (section 110B).

Time limits for appeals

An appeal must be brought within 28 days of receiving notice of the decision under section 103X or within such further time as allowed by the court (section 110C Registration and Collection Act and Rule 3.05 Federal Magistrates Court Rules).

Parties to proceedings under the Registration and Collection Act


The parties to an appeal are the people who were the parties to the SSAT proceedings when the SSAT made the relevant decision (section 110D). For guidance on who can be a party to a SSAT proceeding, refer to Parties to a review in 4.2.5 The SSAT review process.

Powers of the court

When deciding an appeal a court can make orders it thinks appropriate (section 110F), including orders:

    * setting aside the decision of the SSAT;
    * affirming the decision of the SSAT; or
    * directing the case back to the SSAT for rehearing, with or without the hearing of further evidence.

A court may dismiss a proceeding under the Registration and Collection Act if it is satisfied that the proceeding is frivolous or vexatious (section 111CA).

Implementation of a decision

When an objection decision is made, or the court or SSAT make a decision, CSA must give effect to that decision immediately (section 110V).

Effect of applying to a court on an original decision

An SSAT decision continues to have effect from the time it is made and is not affected because a person appeals that decision. CSA or the other parent may take action to collect amounts owing unless a court issues a stay order in relation to that decision.

Stay orders pending certain CSA, SSAT or court decisions

A court can make a stay order under the Registration and Collection Act which stays or otherwise affects the operation or implementation of the Assessment Act or the Registration and Collection Act (section 111C). An application for a stay order can be made if there are court proceedings on foot, a change of assessment application is being considered by CSA, an objection is being considered by CSA, or the SSAT is considering an application for review.

A stay order has effect for the period specified in the order or, if no period is specified, until the decision of the court, CSA or SSAT, becomes final.

A court may make a stay order if it is desirable to do so, taking into account the interests of the persons who may be affected by the outcome of the proceedings.

An objection decision is final if an application for review has not been made to the SSAT within the 28 day period allowed. A decision of the SSAT is final if an appeal has not been made within the prescribed period. A decision of a court is final if an appeal is not made within the time allowed for doing so by the relevant court, or in the case of a decision of the Full Court of the Family Court, no application for special leave to appeal to the High Court has been made within 30 days of the decision.

This would likely be a very costly and about the only thing that you could be sure of is that the CSA will pour massive funds into defending themselves.

You may wish to also raise this matter with your local Federal MP and Joe Ludwig who has the portfolio that the CSA comes into.
I will take this up with the special personalised customer services unit.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 

CSA and the real world!

Wozza - A very interesting post. Some of the feed back I have been getting, is that the CSA has very little real world understanding of business. To be fair to them, a few people do set up businesses to avoid paying the full CS amount.

I have to admit that your case has wetted my appetite! The CSA does assume an amount of 'cheating' by those in business. Have a read of the CSA forum, especially what Mike T has to say. Give me a whisper.

Monteverdi:thumbs:

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas. 
Wozza, I am stunned by your recount of what has happened to you.  I assume you have the SSAT write up by now?  How have they explained their decision?  From my experience with them, their decisions are usually fairly reasonable.  Don't take offence, but you didn't lose it at the hearing, did you?

A few things I can think of that you can think about?  You mention your wife is unwell.  Is this a chronic illness?  If so, have you considered testing her eligibility for disability support pension?  If you provide enough care you may be able to claim carer payment.  If that was the case, it would then be hard for CSA to strike an income that differed from the income decided by Centrelink.

Also, is there anything in your circumstances as they stand now that differ from the information the tribunal used?  If yes, you may be able to apply for a change of assessment.


 
Thank you to those that have given advise and pledged assistance.
It could be viewed as a comedy of errors if it wasn't so serious.
In owning a business I am entitled to certain ligitimate business expenses. Some of these are added back into my income eg. Depreciation. While I don't necesarily agree I accept this is done. Where do they find evidence that 1/3 of my office phone bill is private use?
They seem to only look at figures that may serve to increase my income while ignoring others such as my wife not being able to participate in the business, and the increased level of care I need to provide.
I think I would rather deal with a machine as they would show more compassion than the CSA or SSAT.

Plug me back into the Matrix
Wozza,
          re your whisper, one of the posting rules/requirements to stop spam is that generally one cannot post consecutive posts. As such you should now be able to make a post and thus post what you wished to post. I'll leave it there for the moment so as to allow you to reply and so as not to disturb the flow of the topic. Generally I would have replied sooner but today's been a very busy day for me.

P.S. it's best (it's OK in a whisper) to not reveal you name and just use your userid (just in case you copy and paste what you whispered).
Hi Mike T,

Thanks for the input.

The CSA and SSAT have not at any point used anything resembling sound accounting practises. They have now proportioned a considerable percentage of my genuine business expenses as private and have added these back in as income. There are no facts or evidence to support this because it is not correct. Everything is assumption and biased towards extracting the most they can from me. They seem to wave the 'relieving financial pressure on the community' flag. How about my Ex contibuting to the equation by working a few more hours.

It is interesting that in the summary of the SSAT interview that any decision made was over-substantiated by bringing up rulings in previous court cases etc. Someone has spend some time on this, a total of 10 pages. I think that it may be because they know that they are pushing the envelope in being 'fair', and feel the need to smoke screen the simple fact that they have not been fair.

It is interesting to note that at the time I was undergoing the CSA review there was substantial advertising on the TV about the new system and its fairness. If they were treating everyone like me then I would say that alot more people would have cause for complaint.

As a generalisation, I think that there is a level of jealousy from the 'employed' community towards business owners. We are seen to have a lot of fringe benefits and tax breaks. I can assure you that any a small business may get is little compensation for the long hours and stress. Sorry, a little off topic, but may possibly account for the attitude taken by CSA and SSAT.

In reply to Bigred, I didn't lose it in the interview, although I had to bite my tongue from questioning their qualifications due to some questions they put to me. By the type of questions, which indicated lack of business knowledge, I believe that the Tribunal Panel members are not suitably qualified to make the informed determinations that are or should be required in the review process. Actually, the fair determinations I believe I am entitled to!

As the SSAT interview was conducted by telephone I was unable to determine if they were paying attention. Much of the information discussed was twisted in a way as to increase my income figure. Information was overlooked that would provide a decrease.

What has annoyed me the most I think is that they have not included my wife and her/our son, who I am supporting, in the equation and their suggestion that she is worth less than me in the business. Would this be cause to pursue a discriminatory complaint? It isn't that I like lodging complaints, but I am now looking for any way to have them accountable. Until this happens this could happen to anyone.

Do you think I could be justified in a request for a variation of income based on me reducing my hours to 38 per week and that I will now be taking 3 months Long Service plus 4 weeks annual holiday. I think some stress leave could be included. Their system seems to only work one way.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy to pay Child Support in proportion to my financial circumstances. I have recently (before my circumstances changed) offered to actually contribute MORE than my assessed amount when possible providing I could see my children. I was actually trying to buy contact with my children. The CSA I don't believe did much to facilitate this type of arrangement and no outcome eventuated. Would this have not reduced the Tax Payers burden? Guess they don't have a flag for that one.

My initial complaint was not at all based on the amount they assessed me at but the process and methods they used to arrive at it. As a result it was necessary to disagree with the resulting amount, hence the necessity to involve the SSAT. I have made contact with the Ombudsmen over the fairness issue but to date have not had the time to pursue it with business pressures etc. I will be following this up as there is now a common theme in the CSA and SSAT that has become clear and evident.

Regardless of any process or any court finding that may eventuate I will not be satisfied until they are made accountable, provide me with a fair outcome and apologise.

Plug me back into the Matrix
 Wozza

Sorry to read of your experience at the hands of the system and I believe you have good grounds for appeal,just dont hold your breathe waiting for an apology.
Wozza (& Monti)

I am interested to know why the CSA had a loan application of yours. Was this supplied by your ex or do they have the 'power' to search this information??

Monti, you mentioned that Wozza was not the only case that you had come accross where you had heard of loan applications being used.
They seem to have the ability to request documents from financial institutions. The institution is then required to notify you in writing that they have done this. Not sure if they are allowed to, but nothing seems to stop them. It appears to be a common standard practise they have used before with me.

A problem of mine was that they were reluctant, or should I say refused, to be forthcoming with detailing information they had gathered about me, and then using this withheld information to slam-dunk me in the interview. My request was in writing, but they apparently didn't recieve the letter. I was required to provide information to them but not them to I.

They had every piece of current financial information on me, yet they used the 4 year old Mortgage document. I didn't mention that when they lied about my assessment being based soley on this document they then tried to claim it was the average Australian income. My CSA file revealed the truth in writing that it was based on the Mortgage document.

A quick check on the Bureau of Statistic web site revealed that average income figures can be broken down into geographical areas which showed my area to have a way lower figure than the National average.

What was the name of that TV show again? - Anything Goes.

Oh, Styx, my breathe will be used to correct these injustices, and I won't be holding anything. Don't mean to appear aggressive but they started something that I now plan to finish (&hopefully with Forum members help). I could say at any cost, but we know they havealmost limitlessTax Payer funds at their disposal.

Maybe I should include a members poll as to who everyone thinks will win. Gotta try and keep some humour in it as it is the only thing thatmay stop us going over to the Dark Side. Think that one was from another movie.

Plug me back into the Matrix
Bravo Wazza

The breath of honesty and accountability is a wonderful thing.

Aggression against a unfair arrogant opponent is some times required.

Be true to yourself.

Cheers
Thanks for your support.

I have found that the lone individual within the csa is not a challenging opponent, it is only those that use the shroud of secrecy and deception that are more difficult to discover.

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Wozza

Suggest you read section 14 of the Privacy Act, in particular IPP8.  If you think the CSA has used information without checking its validity I also suggest ou lodge a PRIVACY complaint ASAP.  I have copied IPP8 below:

Principle 8

Record keeper to check accuracy etc. of personal information before use

A record keeper who has possession or control of a record that contains personal information shall not use that information without taking such steps (if any) as are, in the circumstances, reasonable to ensure that, having regard to the purpose for which the information is proposed to be used, the information is accurate, up to date and complete.

Bigred,
You are awesome. Do you relise how many times I will be able to apply this to the csa/ssat? It may put paid to all their assumptionabilty. (may not be a real word)
I am studying the CSA Act this weekend. It seems they have applied 117(2) but ignored 117(2)(a)(iii)(b) - ….another person that the parent has a duty to maintain. I would think that by saying 'person' they don't have to be a legal dependant ie. Partner.

Looking up the word duty in the oxford dictionary reveals 'moral or legal obligation'. Not sure how csa define it? If the oxford meaning was applied then there would be no distinction between your wife, child, partner or elderly grandmother! Yes?

Plug me back into the Matrix
Wozza, suggest you use the Macquarie.  I will ponder your situation over the next day or so and if any idea enters my head will share.  It seems you are on the right track in checking the law and trying to understand the ordinary meaning of words.  That is the approach a merits review should take.


By way of a quick caveat, check any advice you receive from here with one of the advocacy groups just to be sure - while I have quarter of a century experience with admin law my CSA experience is but 4 months old and I am learning the CS quirks all the time.
Bigred or others,
I still have the Ombudsman 'axe to grind'.

Supposing I can get a positive result from the Ombudsman that proves violation of rules and regulations that the CSA used in processing me, would this declare everything null and void? or at least open the doors to giving me a fair go?

As a point of law, at the commencement of the telephone interview/conference with SSAT everyone was required to introduce themselves and were informed of the privacy of the meeting. An hour into my interrogation the person conducting the meeting heard a background noise, she then asked if I had someone with me to which I indicated no. As it turned out my Ex had her father with her and did not reveal this at the outset. The letter we received about this interview clearly indicated that is was to be PRIVATE. Comment on this would be appreciated.

Plug me back into the Matrix
Wozza, take the issue up with the SSAT head honcho.  They should be outraged that the sanctity of their hearing process has been usurped in such a manner.
Wozza said
Bigred or others.

I still have the Ombudsman 'axe to grind'.

Supposing I can get a positive result from the Ombudsman that proves violation of rules and regulations that the CSA used in processing me, would this declare everything null and void? or at least open the doors to giving me a fair go?

As a point of law, at the commencement of the telephone interview/conference with SSAT everyone was required to introduce themselves and were informed of the privacy of the meeting. An hour into my interrogation the person conducting the meeting heard a background noise, she then asked if I had someone with me to which I indicated no. As it turned out my Ex had her father with her and did not reveal this at the outset. The letter we received about this interview clearly indicated that is was to be PRIVATE.

Comment on this would be appreciated.
As to the Ombudsman… from much experience they won't get involved with department/agency policy. Be careful how you word it and legislaton used as evidence.

My ex's husband was in the room during a SSAT conference, ex confirmed it later.. here's how it went. … mumble "ssshh" … SSAT "Is someone in the room with you Mrs x?" … "oh, um, um, yeh. Um, they walked in unexpectedly. I'm in a private call, can you get out." shuffle of chair.. "sorry". … Onus is on you to prove it and I don't like your chances of getting a stat dec from either.

It seems they have applied 117(2) but ignored 117(2)(a)(iii)(b) - … another person that the parent has a duty to maintain. I would think that by saying 'person' they don't have to be a legal dependant. Tried this one - COA, SSAT. Won't recognise my own daughter as a dependent,my care of her or private CS paid … see http://flwg.com.au/index.php?page=topicview&id=2614&kfs41=0&filtered=1… good luck!

" Perspective depends on which side of the barbed wire fence you sit, or indeed if you are sitting on it! "
I hear what you are saying. The theme is that legislation effectively reduces their accountability, and we should forget morals.

It has been difficult applying the CS Act to my situation. I am aware that this forum may not provide strict legal advice.

The CSA doesn't act with any consistency, could we therefore apply this to our endevours and suggest that where one fails another may succeed?

Bigred suggested earlier that I look at the Privacy Act. I have found what appears to be numerouss breeches of the Privacy Act by the CSA. It appears that the SSAT may not be far behind. The test will be then if their respective legislation allow the Privacy Act to be ignored (essentially the 11 principles). As I don't want to give what may be misleading or incorrect information I will be happy to share this after proffessional consultation on these matters.

These possible breeches by CSA occured prior to the SSAT review so I am not sure their effect on the SSAT or on the information they used that was supplied to them by the CSA. In hindsight I look back when I made one of my grevances known and they had  said their policy had changed in relation to this. That was quick! But didn't help me. The CSA officer corrected himself after he let it slip it was over my complaint. This leads me to suspect I may have something, which I believe I do. The trick will be getting the right person to deal with it. I have been whitewashed before.

Plug me back into the Matrix
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