One successful case involved a client with a Family Tax Benefit (FTB) debt of $4,463. She was being paid an amount commensurate with the child maintenance she received and she was entitled to under a private agreement with her ex-husband.
In short, the other party provided an estimate of nil income to the Child Support Agency (CSA), resulting in the maximum FTB being paid. A routine reconciliation by the Tax Department and the CSA resulted in an amended CSA assessment leading to a recalculation and overpayment of the FTB. As often occurs with private maintenance agreements, it is left to the payee to pursue arrears of child support and in this case, such efforts were thwarted by circumstances such as the liable party becoming unemployed. Although the debt was set aside by the Child Support division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Secretary appealed to the General division, arguing inter alia, that under the Family Assistance Act (1999), our client was deemed to have received the maintenance she was entitled to, rather than paid by her ex-husband. In a pre-hearing submission, we identified some relevant inconsistencies in the Act, along with our client’s special circumstances, and demonstrated that she had taken more than the requisite ‘reasonable steps’ to recover the amount owed to her.
The secretary responded with an offer to settle the matter by way of an agreement between the parties that the debt be upheld but the right to recover waived. Our client accepted the offer, thus avoiding the strain of another tribunal hearing and possible reinstatement of the debt.