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What can I do if Centrelink sends me a debt notice?

If you've been sent a letter of debt from Centrelink that doesn't look accurate to you, here's what you can do about it. (Source: Getty, AAP)

Has Centrelink sent you a debt that seems incorrect to you?

You might be one of hundreds of thousands of Australians caught up in Centrelink’s ‘robo-debt’ scheme.

The scheme has been labelled “inaccurate”, “deeply flawed”, and even “extortion” or “like the Mafia” by critics and those who have had an inaccurate debt raised against them.

Centrelink’s robo-debt scheme, which rolled out July 2016, has raised 410,000 debts between the scheme’s inception and October 2018.

But roughly 70,000 of these debts have ended up being reduced, wiped to zero, or “written off permanently”, as reported by The Guardian.

So if you’ve been sent a debt notice from Centrelink that you think is questionable, there’s something you can do about it.

You’re allowed to repeal any decision that Centrelink makes about you – even if you’ve already paid your debt.

You’ll need to get in touch with an authorised review officer (ARO) that hasn’t dealt with your matter before. After they review it, they’ll be able to do the ‘correct’ thing, which means they may reduce or waive any debts owed, but it could also mean maintaining or even raising the sum.

You can reach them in a number of ways:

  • in person at your local Centrelink;

  • by phone (call the number on your Accounts Payable notice);

  • online (via myGov under ‘Complaints’, or the Review of Decision form on Centrelink’s website);

  • in writing (Legal Aid Victoria has a template letter applicable to Australians of all states that can be downloaded and filled out);

  • by fax at 1300 786 102.

Not happy with the ARO’s decision? You can appeal further by turning towards the AAT and apply for a review through the AAT website.

If you’re not happy with their decision, either, you can ask for another AAT review – which should be made within 28 days of receiving the AAT’s first review decision.

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