February 20, 2007 12:00am
UP to 10,000 single mums are lying about their incomes to squeeze maximum child support payments from former partners. Child Support Agency general manager Matt Miller told The Daily Telegraph many single mums were not being honest about earnings above the $39,500 threshold - where child support payments start reducing. Mr Miller estimated the 10,000 figure as he confirmed the CSA, for the first time in its 11-year history, would devote some of its growing investigation resources to checking the financial affairs of custodial parents.
Mr Miller's comments follow The Daily Telegraph yesterday revealing that hundreds of non-custodial dads living in Sydney's most affluent suburbs were paying just $6 a week in child support - a token amount paid when incomes fall to about $15,000 a year.
Matt Miller from the CSA saidIt has been the case that in the past the focus has been on the income of the non-custodial parent, we know there are custodial parents who are not telling the whole story.
These rich deadbeat dads are to be a major target of the CSA, which will use $46 million in new funding for investigations over four years to expose them.
Major reforms to the child support system which have slowly been rolled out commencing in July 2006 , July 2007 and July 1, 2008 rely equally on the income of both parents to determine child support obligations. A big change is a reduction in the $39,500 threshold for custodial parents to $17,500.
Matt saidSingle mums with affluent lifestyles, little declared income and no Centrelink payments would also be prime targets. Deceitful working mums may have got themselves cash jobs on the side or were using other techniques traditionally used by deadbeat dads such as heavy salary sacrificing.
We will be working closely with the tax office and looking at the mismatch between lifestyle and income
Wayne Butler the Executive Secretary of the Shared Parenting Council saidThere is a lot of work to do for the SPCA over the next year disseminating what are quite significant changes to the whole fabric of the way Child Support works. We are also aware of numerous cases where appropriate monies are not paid and that tax evasion,sole traders,shelf companies, large business write downs and numerous FBT and other income reducing tactics are used to mitigate and lower CSA liabilities. The CSA is partly to blame for the acceptance at face value of the ATO returns. An appeal on a decision is usually frustrated by a valid ATO return. This is an area that we will be looking at. The other area we have concern is payments are not linked to contact. There is a solid view that more payments would be made if delinquent "Lives with" parents offered more time for the payer.
He acknowledged the agency received many complaints about ex-partners receiving cash income.
Matt Miller saidWe are not waiting for the new scheme to start.
Barry Williams from the Lone Fathers Association saidWe applauded the change of focus. Income minimisation was a problem "on both sides". "There are lots of custodial parents earning cash in hand, we know that - sadly the CSA has not been breaking its neck to find out,"
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