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Taxman drove loving dad to death

The family of a man who died under a mountain of debt are outraged at the way he was pursued for child support payments.

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss
5:30 AM Sunday May 6, 2012
NZ Herald

The family of a man who died under a mountain of debt are outraged at the way he was pursued for child support payments.

Paul Anthony Jenkins, 39, killed himself in Geelong (Australia) last Tuesday, shortly after receiving a bill for more than A$41,000 ($53,300). The money was to help support his daughter, 17, who lives in Wellington with his former partner.

The Inland Revenue Department had asked the Australian Child Support Services Agency to chase the debt because Jenkins had moved across the Tasman.

His father, Tony Jenkins, said Paul maintained contact with his daughter despite a tense relationship with her mother. The teen watched her father's funeral on the internet this week.

"It was a beautiful funeral," Tony said. "They did a haka to take the evil spirits away from the coffin, played the guitar, sang some songs. It was quite overwhelming, the chapel was full, it holds 130 people and it was overflowing."

Supporting a new baby and his current partner's three children on just $630 a week, Paul had fallen behind in his payments.

Heavy fees and interest had been added before deductions from his bank account were forced - $98 was taken every couple of days.

"He could not afford it. They keep on adding interest all the time and he wasn't getting anywhere. It was going to take all his life to pay off," Tony said. "On top of that, he was trying to look after his new baby and the three other kids. He could never, ever get his head above water. Paul didn't know which way to turn. He was at the end of his tether."

The last bill Paul received said he owed A$41,264.47 and A$635 was due immediately. It also showed seven instalments of A$98.32 had been deducted from his wages during two weeks in March, including four on one day.

The letter did not explain why so many deductions were taken.

"He had called me that day, upset and saying he needed money for his car.

"I gave him $1000. I wish I had known about this previously. I would have talked to these people [at Child Support Services] myself."

The coroner was yet to determine the cause of Paul's death.

The death has raised concerns among community advocates, who told the Herald on Sunday there had been similar cases.

Mangere Budgeting Services chief executive Darryl Evans said the language used in IRD letters and bills made people feel threatened and hopeless. He said one client thought she would go to jail when she opened an overdue bill.

"I've always thought the language the IRD use is extremely strong. They bombard you with letters, two or three a week. It's frightening for people."

An unnamed  spokeswoman for Australian Child Support Services said there were payment options for those who asked.

"It's important parents are aware of the support services available and seek help as early as possible.

"If a customer is clearly distressed or needs urgent assistance, our staff are trained to recognise this and connect them with an appropriate counselling or support service.

"I express my sympathy towards the family, circumstances such as these are a tragedy for all concerned."

Inland Revenue spokesman David Miller said significant penalty write-offs were available if a parent arranged a payment plan.

IRD needs reining in

Rodney Hide: "The IRD's sole job is to gather money for the Government. It does so by threatening and bullying people. "Our Parliament backs IRD through the law and turns a deaf ear to complaints that tax collectors are too aggressive.

"There are no proper checks and balances on IRD's treatment of people who, for whatever reason, have fallen behind in payments or, indeed, who dispute that they have been fairly and properly assessed.

"In 1996, air conditioning technician Ian Mutton committed suicide after being pursued by the IRD over debt that started from a missed $84 tax payment. Mutton's 13-year-old son killed himself a year later.

"Our Parliament found a 'culture of fear and punishment' at IRD and ordered a clean-up. IRD seems to have slipped back to its old ways.

"We have had another tragedy. And behind this tragedy are thousands of cases of injustice and poor treatment.

"It's time again for our elected representatives to inquire into IRD's heavy-handedness."

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Over the years I came very close to the same myself.

 I was never in a relationship with my daughters mother (won't go into details) but I've always been there for my now 16yo daughter who now lives in Perth with myself, her step mother and half brother. Up until almost 4 years ago now my daughter had been in the care of her maternal grandmother who was a high powered civil servant firstly with DIA and then department of PM, years before this woman's father had been the Commissioner of IRD so needless to say I got robbed blind and by that I don't mean getting most of my earnings taken… They took the whole damn lot. The only reason that I didn't end it all was my daughter as I saw her almost every day plus had her "dumped on me" to care for along with her older half sister on very regular occasions for days at a time with little or no notice.

Trying to deal with the "Scum" at IRD and I do not use that term loosely was a major brick wall and I kid you not but you'd feel safer and less intimidated in the middle of a bikie gang war. As I'm a tradie I did have one client who worked for child support and with relevant permissions from me tried to sort everything out for me. He almost got there then mysteriously lost his job.

After years of getting chucked out of shared rental accommodation due to not being able to pay my share, as well as having to walk away from successive jobs as I quite simply couldn't afford to go to work (I was living on hand outs from my family) my father bought an old boat which I lived on and then was left with little option but to give up working all together. About a month after giving up work I get a call from Child Support wanting to know why no payments were being made. I informed them that they'd made things so bad for me that it cost more to work than not work at all. They then asked what I was living on and were duly informed that "You didn't care about that when I was trying to earn a living! Why care about that now?!!".

A few years after that I met my wife and when we discovered that our Son was coming into the world my family sent us to Perth to start over.After a year of living here I get a call from my daughter informing me that her grandmother had suffered quite a nasty stroke which to be quite honest and not to sound morbid and nasty was the best news that I'd ever heard. After a month of arguments the then 12 yo daughter arrived in Perth as an "unaccompanied minor" then flatly refused to return to NZ. An international care battle ensued which I won working as an SRL for all but the hearing where my daughters maternal grandfather supplied us with a lawyer (he'd divorced the maternal grandmother some 20 years prior and keeping him in contact with his grand children I'd gotten to know him well).

As I'd had to travel to NZ for the care hearing, when it was time to return to Perth IRD tried to stop me from leaving NZ unless I paid up $10K for "Child Support". They got told exactly where they could go and insert themselves as I had Court Orders stating that I had to return to Perth on "Date X" with my daughter and child support was ended.

6 months later we heard from a friend of mine who works for the WA Police (we're in the same 4wd club) about a case study they'd been doing on "international Child abduction and care cases". It was word for word what I've written above. All I could say was "Um that's us"

For some reason 6 months after that some bright spark at CSA decided that I need to pay child support for a (now 16yo) that lives in my house full time. I have managed to stave it off so far but now have to go back thru the courts again to try and get rid of it for once and all
Thank you for sharing that story. I suspect what you have is the CSA collecting based on IRD advice from New Zealand for the old case. The question will probably get down to how much of the old debt to the previous carer will be written off by the NZ IRD and how this will be dealt with by the CSA overseas collection unit. What is heartening to hear is your daughter is sharing a relationship with you and the maternal grandfather. Hopefully she will keep in touch with her grandmother as if it is a serious stroke it could well be the beginning of the end. There is no mention of the mother and the daughter may well want to establish contact in some shape or form. .. Regardless of what the future holds best wishes for your future and let us know how things develop with the CSA and IRD.  :thumbs:

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
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