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CSA Minister Ludwig announces additional compliance measures

Today in Parliament, Minister for Human Services, the Honourable Joe Ludwig announced four key measures to ensure compliance and payment of arrears of Child Support. These measures are released to raise compliance. Compliance with Child support obligations is a key priority for me. I know it is a priority for everybody in this room

  • Optical surveillance program - Where separated parents tell the CSA they are not working and cannot pay their child support but there is evidence to indicate something else.
  • Getting to the Assets - A new MOU with the insolvency and trustee Service of Australia.
  • New Tax return lodgment rules - ALL child support parents to lodge tax returns unless income less than 18,252
  • Salary sacrifice of Superannuation schemes will be added back for calculation of income for Child Support
The Minister was appearing at the Child Support National Excecutive Stakeholder Engagement Group (CSNSEG) in Parliament house today. A full publication of the speech will be provided.
Minister, Senator the Honourable Joe Ludwig said
I want to reinforce this message to parents who fail to meet their obligations: If you don't do the right thing, you will be caught and will have to face the consequences.

Parents should do the right thing by their kids and give them the level of support they deserve.
The Minister announced the measures at the launch of the Child Support Agency's first compliance strategy, "CSA: Supporting parents to meet their child support obligations 2008-2010."
Senator Joe Ludwig said
In the past two years, the Child Support Compliance Program has collected almost $100 million in overdue payments for the children of separated parents.

The measures I've announced will strengthen the CSA's hand in its efforts to collect outstanding child support payments.

These measures are an essential component of the wider changes in the Child Support Scheme.

The new scheme is a fairer and more balanced approach to assessing child support and will start in a week's time.

The CSA's compliance approach underpins the integrity of the new scheme with a balance of education, support, advice and compliance activities," Senator Ludwig said.

The CSA's compliance program aims to ensure child support assessments accurately reflect both parents' incomes and that the right amount of child support is paid in full and on time. While most parents do the right thing, the CSA will pursue parents who try to unfairly advantage themselves through inaccurate income reporting or nonpayment.

This compliance program has also resulted in more accurate assessments being issued. Some reassessments have been a result of receiving parents being investigated for under-reporting their income in order to maximise child support and Family Tax Benefit.

These measures are about putting kids first and ensuring the children of separated parents get the support they need. The new measures will ensure more separated parents meet their responsibilities to their children.
Matt Miller, General Manager of the CSA said
Lighter touch interventions, pro active outbound calling has had a great result. The area we need greater traction is in getting more timely payments. We need to move over a range of fronts.
The Child support agency is using employment withholding to collect around 30 million a month. 
Wayne Butler, Executive Secretary of the Shared Parenting Council said
Advice was received on clarification of the issue around grossing up of Fringe Benefits tax for workers in volunteer groups. It appears the Government is not going ahead with changes announced in the budget that relate to Family Tax Benifit Fringe benifits deductions in that area. The Government will change back the legislation announced in the budget measures where FTB is taken into account for Child Support but not for family tax benefits and will change it back so it is exactly the same as the current situation. The matter will be referred to a tax review so it can cover the fringe benefits tax side and look at a holistic sense across the board.
Some 4500 investigations have recovered 11 million in funds and last year 9 milllion was recoved from 1800 cases.
Tony Miller, the founder of Dads in Distress, DiDS said
Shame that a similar compliance scheme with the same weight has not been rolled out to combat the issue of contravention of court ordered access. A smaller program was announced recently with little fanfare. Nothing as glorious as these new provisions.
329 views (76 KB) Minister Ludwig indicated his real problem and need to address was the continual growing debt which was increasing at a rate of around 5.6% but was unable to provide any figures as to the make up of the debt other than the 236 Million in oveseas debt accrued through migrant child support liabilities.
The Minister said
Some of the old debt is one thing but it is the growth of new debt that has us very concerned. There are more people who are not paying the full amount than are paying so there needs to be more activity around addressing these issues
The minister also indicated that the Government is keen to see people move off social welfare programs and additional provisions will be announced in the near future. [quote"The Minister also"]I am advised that the Commissioner will make a regulation under his delegated powers to require all child support clients to lodge a tax return, unless they have taxable income of less than $18,252 and they received income support for the whole of the income year.

Attachment
Minister, Senator the Honourable Joe Ludwig speech on the new measures
Attachment
Minister, Senator the Honourable Joe Ludwig. The compliance launch
Ed Dabrowski from the Shared Parenting Council said
The issues around compliance also go to some extent to the making of contact arrangements early on for the payer. Often where these arrangements are not adequate we start to see avoidance measures. We would like to see additional provisions around increased contact, upholding contravention proceedings where contact is witheld and the expansion of the "personalised services unit" that has had many outstanding resolutions to support arrangements.

The money spent on spying would be better spent on a program within the Child Support Agency called the Personalised Services Program. An officer from the agency recently told the Parenting Council about the scheme. We heard stories that brought tears to our eyes, agency officials who would go to meet the parents, talk to the mother, talk to the father, find out how they were faring, and what were the objections to paying child support, and quite often it was a misunderstanding, denial of contact, or some other conflict that was getting in the way. The result in many cases was that payments were restored, and in some cases contact with the children was restored, so the children fare better in these arrangements, and a lot less conflict between the parents.

It kind of makes a lot of sense. If you take an interest in people and understand where they're coming from, then things tend to work out.
This will now apply to receiving and paying parents in line with the more equal treatment their incomes receive under the new child support arrangements.
Background on the new compliance initiatives:

Optical Surveillance Trial: From 1 July 2008 the CSA will trial covert optical surveillance in a limited number of serious cases where there is a suspicion that a parent has committed an offence under child support legislation, such as providing false or misleading information in relation to their child support case. The trial is set to run for 12 months.

Tax Return Regulation: For the 2007/08 financial year all Child Support Agency parents (not just paying parents) must lodge a tax return, unless their taxable income was less than $18,252 and they received Australian Government pensions, allowances or payments.

Insolvency Trustee Service of Australia partnership: The CSA has entered into a partnership with the Insolvency Trustee Service of Australia (ITSA) to seize and sell a parent's assets where they have not complied with a court order for payment of outstanding child support.

Salary Sacrificing: The CSA is working with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to automatically add salary sacrificed amounts to income for child support purposes, to ensure child support assessments are correct and people aren't salary sacrificing in order to reduce their child support income.

Further details about the initiatives announced by the Minister are included
Access the CSA Media Kit here
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