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CSA - A timely review

Is it time to have another think about the operations of the CSA

Now that DHS is making inroads into co location and services what options are there for reviewing the Child Support Agency?

A system like "Hex" run by ATO and adjusted at tax return time? ideas required?

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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SPCA,

no idea why Conan hasn't been along to chastise you for incorrect usage of "Hex", probably because he has select targets he likes to attack….

The Term was HECS, now replaced (since 2005) by 5 different structures HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, OS-HELP, VET FEE-HELP and SA-HELP.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure what you hope to achieve, as the HECS system is really just a deferral of costs until students could afford to pay as a result of becoming employed.
If they never reached a threshold,then they never paid it…
Interestingly, my Ex still has a HECS debt and never intends to pay it off for a non-completed Uni course.

Surely it is the fundamental basis of Child support liability that is the issue that needs to be addressed first?

Of interest is the recently raised (on this forum) that it seems OK for a payee to decline to work and "study", but it's not acceptable for a Payer.

That and some way of C$A to show transparency of behavior and then be responsible for that behavior would be nice.

Personally, I'd be comforted if C$A published figures on the number of Payee vs Payer investigations they handled.

Last edit: by whatbus

I think the HECS reference was in the context of reconciling the incomes of both parties via the ATO and the CS payments adjusted accordingly.

I am absolutely confident that the whole child support system would be improved beyond measure if CSA had no authority to make income determinations. It's the source of just about every problem I've ever read about on this site and several others. The cost of maintaining a bloated CSA which is only bloated due to complaints and objections stemming from income determinations must be line ball with the benefit if FTB claw back from the inflated CS liabilities.

Capacity to earn for professional students (my ex being one of 'em) is totally one sided. It needs to be addressed and made fair for ALL.

Frontline CSA staff need to receive (proper rather than token) legal training. Most of the call centre types don't understand the difference between the guide, PIs, and acts of law. Surely that's cause for concern.

Clarification of who makes the decision(s) and on what authority to write policies which either contradict or overrule tax law, almost always to the detriment of the payer.

CSA decisions published with identifying information removed. Likewise SSAT.

s.44 of the CS (Assessment) Act expanded to include more than just overtime and/or secondary employment.

Parents withholding contact for no reason other than financial gain should have to repay CS based on the correct care levels rather than those they chose to abide by. **NB This may be the case at the moment although I am uncertain. I doubt it though.

Property settlements given weight for CS calculations. Cash and assets not producing an income should still be included.

ADF Reserve income excluded. It's clearly excluded by the act yet CSA maintain that they can and will include it as a financial resource if requested. s.51-5 of the applicable tax act suggests differently.

ADF deployment income. CSA maintain that they can and will include deployment allowances and salary for ADF members serving abroad. Tax exemption under s.23AD directly contradicts this policy. CSA also maintain that they will calculate CS for this income based on gross amounts. Considering it's tax exempt, gross and net are the same. Where did this policy come from and who's responsible for it? CSA refuse to tell me, or they can't because they don't know either.

CSA recording software is either too easy to erase or totally unreliable. In its current state, CSA staff can't readily access recordings and have trouble providing [recordings] to customers. My cynical side tells me that they just don't want to provide them if they suspect they're wrong.

CSA staff need to have it drummed into them that they can't just call write only customers if they choose. When I mentioned s.474.17 (Using a carriage service……) I was laughed at and told that they'd call as they saw fit. Not good enough.

CSA staff need to write back to write only customers, and not several months later.

CSA staff and the entire agency mentality needs to be hit on the head with a giant administrative hammer. We aren't trying to shirk our responsibilities but we're certainly treated that way.

CSA staff should not be trained to extract income information. The notion of procedural fairness is laughable with this practice in place. If they are trained that way (it's fact that they are) why do they only target payers?

PIs should be available online either through DHS website or CSA Online.

Would it be that difficult for customers to be able to access case notes via CSA online? Other than matters for FOI, why not? It'd make "Helping parents manage their responsibilities" easier for both parties. I acknowledge that it would take a major software upgrade but one can only ask.

Payers should not be paying tax on income earned which is then used for CS. Payees should either get less or pay their own taxes.

Child support should not just affect FTB. It should be treated as taxable income.

I have about 200 other ideas but I'll cease short of novel status for now.
Sleepy,

your comment:
Child support should not just affect FTB. It should be treated as taxable income.

is one of the major points I tried (and failed) to get C$A to understand.  That a Payee is not assessed as receiving income such as FTA, FTB and CS.
This is REAL $$$!

In my case, the ex gets about the same take-home $$ as me and I know in some cases the Payee gets significantly MORE than the Payer.

Any way you slice that scenario, it's not right!
Perhaps a requirement to earn for the payee after the youngest child reaches school age, as is being brought in for parenting payment, (both single and partnered).

For a payee to be able to state that they wish to be a stay at home mum for their 12 yo child and 'run the bath', let alone for the CSA and SSAT to accept this in assessing the capacity to earn, is an absolute insult to many women like myself who are in a 2nd family situation. I do not have the luxury of this for my children! Perhaps if the CSA, (gestapo!!), would lay off a bit my kids could have the start in life that the other is getting? In reality this approach by CSA, SSAT is abrogating my children's rights!

My husband was working to try to provide for our family, as was I. This payee worked 2 days a week, and applied for a COA based on our 'household income', otherwise known as a reason 8 departure.

Additionally, why should the payee level of care, in our case 60%, (meaning we have the other 40%), have been taken into account? The CSA and SSAT both refused to acknowledge that my husbands capacity to work more than a 30 hr week was affected by his level of care of his son???? The SSAT finding actually states that my husbands situation has not changed in this area. Well, when the payee and he were together she stayed home and cared for the children while he worked a 50 hr week. Initially upon separation she denied access to the child, so for the year that he spent going through court to get access he didn't have to care for his son, agreed. Once he went to court and obtained 60/40 shared care things changed. He actually had a lot more responsibility. Why should this not be taken into account?

Interestingly enough, back in December I had a meeting with my Local MP, Rob Oakeshott, regarding this and asked him quite a few questions. He replied that he couldn't answer them on the spot, but would take them to the Honorable?? Minister.

I sent a reminder to Mr Oakeshott 2 weeks ago, but still have not received a reply, apart from an email from his assistant stating that no reply had been received as yet, from the Minister.

Well, how about we all take that long to get back to CSA when they request something?

A child is a gift, not a weapon. To be a parent is a privilege, one which unfortunately some parents do not deserve.
kathg,

I think you hit the nail on the head there.

Why is it that the Payee doesn't have to go out to work when they have 60%(in your case) care of the child, BUT when you have 40%, you HAVE to work full time and cannot have ANY time off for caring for the child!!!

A very simplistic view would say that in your case 60/40, the Payer should work about half as much again as the Payee.
So if the Payee works two days a week, it is expected the Payer has is expected to work 3 days.
Reverse that logic and if the Payer is working 7 days a week, the Payee must work 5 days/week.

The above is probably not a robust example, but highlights the inequity of how the C$A treat Payers vs Payees
Posts from this topic have been moved by members. 7 posts have been transferred because they did not contribute or add anything to this topic.

Last edit: by Secretary SPCA


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
 
Success…I think.

My proposal has been forwarded to the CSA customer review team by the minister's office. Interestingly, I found out from my new (third) personalised services officer David.

My letter was deliberately short on detail, particularly dollar values and percentages so until CSA or the minister disprove my theory I'll continue to send letters, increasing the detail each time.

If by chance this works it'll be the greatest positive change I've ever been witness to.
whatbus said
SPCA,

no idea why Conan hasn't been along to chastise you for incorrect usage of "Hex", probably because he has select targets he likes to attack….
Yes how remiss of me however as a number of members like to think that it is all "magic" anyway, in the way numbers are created I thought it might be an interesting word.. Anyway at least until Conan takes a dislike. It is a new system that deserves some investigation.
whatbus said
The Term was HECS, now replaced (since 2005) by 5 different structures HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP, OS-HELP, VET FEE-HELP and SA-HELP.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure what you hope to achieve, as the HECS system is really just a deferral of costs until students could afford to pay as a result of becoming employed.
If they never reached a threshold,then they never paid it…
Interestingly, my Ex still has a HECS debt and never intends to pay it off for a non-completed Uni course.
What has been put as ideas to consider is that the ATO run the scheme in the main. That participants or "customers" who have a child support liability would require both parents to file and complete tax returns within 90 days of the end of the financial year. That estimates are reconciled at the end of each financial year as part of the tax return and any shortfall debited and any overpayment credited. That the assesment is based on ATO assesable guidelines with particular guidelines for self employed deductions for Child Support. That a portion of the savings made through the merging of CSA and Centrelink staff be available for the ATO to make payments from that pool as well as other existing sources to ensure the Payee is receiving funds for Child Support. That the funds are calculated to the real costs of raising children. That CSA officers move to Centrelink or be made redundant. If there is any entrenched resulting debt then it sits as a tax payer debt or credit for use in any taxable year. If there is long term debt the ATO have appropriate collection activities and it does not remain like HECS as uncollectable.  What it does do is make sure there are payments made every fortnight or month and resolved at Tax time as well as a system of calculating income that is consistent with the general populous established practice.
whatbus said
Of interest is the recently raised (on this forum) that it seems OK for a payee to decline to work and "study", but it's not acceptable for a Payer….
…Personally, I'd be comforted if C$A published figures on the number of Payee vs Payer investigations they handled.
Someone has to pay for the child(ren) at the end of the day but you raise an interesting point that it is okay for a Payee to take up a four day working week or run a system (if employers allow) such as a .8 job (where it is part of a full time job) and the employee has enjoyment of being able to work "part" of the full time job.

Surely this then raises the question around the "Capacity to earn" rules and should those CSA clients who elect a decimal point job (.8/1) be required to (where that job is actually a full time position) have their income assessed at the full time rate. The opting for a lesser than full time position for a cosy arrangement to forge money that would come from the other party (because of the formula).

It is probably off topic but if you work a part time position (probably easier in a Government job) perhaps the employer has to be willing to sign something to show that where a job that is less than a 1.0 (Full time position) is being operated then that is the maximum employment hour offered in that role/job. In other words someone else other than the payee must certify that position. There are a couple of cases I am aware of that have that particular issue currently where the Payer bears the brunt of the Payee decision to work a .7 job where a full time job is available.   


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
 
Sleepy said
Success…I think.

My proposal has been forwarded to the CSA customer review team by the minister's office. Interestingly, I found out from my new (third) personalised services officer David.

My letter was deliberately short on detail, particularly dollar values and percentages so until CSA or the minister disprove my theory I'll continue to send letters, increasing the detail each time.

If by chance this works it'll be the greatest positive change I've ever been witness to.
A very significant amount of work has gone into your matter…


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
 
Do you mean my personal dealings with CSA or the letter/idea put to the minister?
Secretary SPCA said
Someone has to pay for the child(ren) at the end of the day but you raise an interesting point that it is okay for a Payee to take up a four day working week or run a system (if employers allow) such as a .8 job (where it is part of a full time job) and the employee has enjoyment of being able to work "part" of the full time job.

Surely this then raises the question around the "Capacity to earn" rules and should those CSA clients who elect a decimal point job (.8/1) be required to (where that job is actually a full time position) have their income assessed at the full time rate. The opting for a lesser than full time position for a cosy arrangement to forge money that would come from the other party (because of the formula).
SPCA,

I'm sure more than one Payee has done the math, whereby if they work part time, they end up with the same amount of money in their pocket because of the C$A formula and FTA, FTB etc.

It is human nature to at least look at the situation and ask, "why work full time, when I can work part time and get the same money anyway?"
It is unfortunate that children are withheld so as to manipulate the C$A formula and that the C$A "Guidelines" not only encourages it, but rewards it!

There is NO equity between Payers and Payees.
whatbus said
Secretary SPCA said
Someone has to pay for the child(ren) at the end of the day but you raise an interesting point that it is okay for a Payee to take up a four day working week or run a system (if employers allow) such as a .8 job (where it is part of a full time job) and the employee has enjoyment of being able to work "part" of the full time job.

Surely this then raises the question around the "Capacity to earn" rules and should those CSA clients who elect a decimal point job (.8/1) be required to (where that job is actually a full time position) have their income assessed at the full time rate. The opting for a lesser than full time position for a cosy arrangement to forge money that would come from the other party (because of the formula).
SPCA,

I'm sure more than one Payee has done the math, whereby if they work part time, they end up with the same amount of money in their pocket because of the C$A formula and FTA, FTB etc.

It is human nature to at least look at the situation and ask, "why work full time, when I can work part time and get the same money anyway?"
It is unfortunate that children are withheld so as to manipulate the C$A formula and that the C$A "Guidelines" not only encourages it, but rewards it!

There is NO equity between Payers and Payees.
 

I can vouch for this 100%.

My ex said straight to my face "why would I want to work fulltime when I would lose some Pension (and added benefits), CS, FTA, FTB, CCB, and the freedom to play mummy and spend time with my friends whenever I like".

My ex got herself a part-time job with minimum hours (to make up for what she lost in benefits due to our daughter turning 6) despite now being a fully qualified chief (which I paid for with my child support for the first 5yrs after we separated because she didn't have a job and went to TAFE to ensure she met the minimum criteria to get maximum Government/CSA benefits!).  She could earn a fairly good salary if she worked fulltime however has calculated down to the last cent what she can earn without it affecting any of her benefits (as seen from her taxable income as it has always been a couple of $$$ under the required thresholds) so that she can live a taxpayer/ex funded life.
Here is the problem with child support when one person is on welfare and the other person is on an average wage.  I just did the maths and you can see the problem.  During Settlement the ex received more than enough money to buy an house outright.  I was left with my super and not much cash.   I can't do anything with my super for years to come. 

CSA says I pay 15070 thus that what I pay.  I have a mortgage but I pay a bit more so I pay 1000f/n and the ATO wants their share about 16000 a year.




     Me      Ex
Wages / Welfare 75000 13858
Child Support -15070 15070
FTB A/B 7538
Mortgage  -26000
Taxes -16050
17880 36466




So my ex chooses not to work and she live on welfare with no mortgage and is a lot better off than me, by almost double!   She gets over 36000 tax free!  Does anyone see anything wrong with this.  Why would she ever want to work. 

When the children enter their teens some part of the child support equation should make an adjustment to give the person on welfare for over X amount of years some kind of penalties for not working.  Why should the tax payers and me fund her choice in what now amounts to a lifestyle.
Newguy, of course what you have posted clearly shows the transfer of wealth from those who actually create the wealth. However, what you have posted does not portray the complete situation and in doing so greatly undercuts the amounts that are actually transferred from those who derive the wealth. For example the welfare recipient will be provided with other benefits (e.g. below cost healthcare) (of course the person more in need, due to the actual income they have, would not qualify).

Of course the "hidden/disguised" transfers of wealth from those who derive that wealth to the recipients of benefits is a very complex issue. As an example of the complexity, the welfare recipient may well be taking measures to wrongly inflate what they receive. They could for example be claiming rental assistance and "single" benefits when they are not actually single. Another example could be that healthcare costs are increased as a result of their actions. A child abused due to a recipient denying that child the humane right to know and be cared for by both the child's parents would very likely be generating additional healthcare costs (e.g. such a child could require extra than normal/average healthcare due to being driven to depression due to such a denial of contact with the other parent, it is highly likely that the parent of the abused child would very likely also suffer unnecessarily at a cost to the derivation of wealth and thus further exacerbate the ridiculous situation of welfare recipients being wealthier than those providing the welfare).

Obviously the examples above are just one of many possibilities.
Newguy,

Firstly let me say, I feel your pain!

But if I could play devil's advocate for just a minute..

It looks like from your numbers, that if you didn't pay child support you and your ex would receive about the same after tax..

As she gets FTA/B, she also gets cheaper healthcare, car registration etc etc.

BUT, and I'm assuming here, she has your kids for more time and thus C$A determine that she has a greater cost in providing for these kids….and they say it costs $15K/year…

So in theory, it is balanced, BUT (another assumption) she doesn't work the same hours as you and gets the additional benefits that provide for a reduced cost of living - thus making her $$ go a lot further.

So in summary, she DOES get a better lifestyle AND benefits subsidised by you and the Australian taxpayer.

Is that close to being right?
Yes she does have "100" % care of the children, I put "100" in quotes as my oldest child now goes to boarding school (there is no year 11 and 12) in the town the child lived in and receive Assistance for Isolated Children from Centrelink.  It is my understanding this has no impact on my exs welfare benefits.  So this year he will be away from home for the 40 weeks of the school year.   AIC covers the whole cost of boarding for the child.  My Child Support stays to same.

I do want to make this point the 100% care was not my idea and as many on this board know, I fraught for years to try to get time with my children and in the end the FCWA put my case in the too hard basket and nothing was going to be done as the mother did not want it to happen. 

I am well aware of the additional benefits one gets when one is on Centrelink such as reduced rates and such.  In fact one of the Australian single mums group has a forum and I wanted to read what the other side thinks so I used to read their post and they had a chat feature that guest could post and one of the member posted something and I asked what about FTB and utility allowance and phone and reduced cost on public transport etc.  All valid questions you know what happened the IP address I was using got banned by the administrator no problem I know it was going to happen and just switch to a different proxy server and log in and read them basically laughing that I got banned.  I then wrote a long post and asked why I was banned when I was never violated any of their policies in fact by them laughing and making fun of me they violated their own policies.  The administrator told me not to contact the Mum again so I left.  So yes I know many for the additional benefits one gets on welfare and know when you point them out you get your hand smacked.

When I go to the chemist to buy a PBS medication I pay about 36 dollars when she goes she pays about 3-4 dollars.  There are also thing like the education bonus that she receives yet my child support goes up each year.   Does the CSA say I should receive some kind of credit for the bonus she receives from the government - NO 

So Mr Secretary here are some issues that need to be address by CSA what happens with when a child goes to boarding school and receives AIC and Why a payee with less than 35% care does not receive some kind of credit for additional government bonus received by the payee.  There is also my original question about the payee not working when a child is in their teens and a penalty should apply.
Newguy - I hear you too but I'll also play the devils advocate : Where is the cost of the children for the ex?

Assuming that the children cost precisely the $15k that you pay in Child support then the difference is $3516.

You also don't mention the Super you're putting away.

I'd also presume you agreed to the settlement terms of her getting such a large cash payout?

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."

 
Willfred said
I'd also presume you agreed to the settlement terms of her getting such a large cash payout?
  wilfred,

unfortunately, these "agreements" are done under huge pressure - sometimes with a metaphoric "gun to your head" at Court.
I thought I was a pretty tough negotiator, but fell victim to this pressure and made an "agreement" that I regret to this day.

It seems when a mother is determined to exclude the father - she can.
Further the "System" supports it.
I'd like to see a few things reviewed :
  • closer connection between agreed care levels (by consent, parenting plans etc) and the care levels determined by CSA. Often orders or agreements are in place however if the children change their time with either parent against these agreements CSA (and probably the legislation) determine that regardless of the agreements say it's based on the actual nights. I think a big factor in parental alienation is the CSA carrot available to the parent who best convinces a child to stay with them. I also think that if a parent encourages a child to change care different to those agreed then that should have no impact on CS Payable until a new agreement or orders are drawn up. If a parent takes the child without having agreement from the other or from the courts then they should wear the cost.
  • There should be a cooling off period for CSA intervention when care levels change. The immediacy of changes to CS payable effects the immediate everyday living plus effects your future living . e.g. I rent a 5 bedroom house to house my partner, my 2 kids 50/50 & her 3 kids 100%. My ex does number on my kids & they go off to her 100%. My child support then increases by $17,000 per year. I can then no longer afford the 5 bed house so we are forced to move. By virtue of me then not having bedrooms or space for my 2 kids they are very unlikely to want to come back to live as they are squeezed into the smaller dwelling.

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."

 
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