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Centrelink seizes tax returns of Aussies appealing robo-debts

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Centrelink is seizing the tax returns of robo-debtors. Source: AAP
Centrelink is seizing the tax returns of robo-debtors. Source: AAP

The tax returns of Australians appealing robo-debts from Centrelink have been seized by the Department of Human Services, according to new reports.

Compliance officers from the Department of Human Services told ABC’s 7.30 they were experiencing a large volume of calls from Australians how had their tax returns garnished over alleged robodebts, The ABC reported.

One Australian said she received a debt notice from Centrelink for $8,920, which was later reduced to $2,117. When she received her tax return, that debt had been deducted.

Now, the onus had been flipped on her to prove she did not owe money.

The Department of Human Services’ policy guide states debt recipients who have lodged reviews are exempt from the garnishing process, but a spokesman for the organisation told the ABC it garnished tax returns in accordance with the law.

It’s not the first time Centrelink’s been in hot water with robo-debt

Centrelink has been facing mounting criticism over its robo-debt structure.

Earlier this year, Deanna Amato also discovered an incorrect Centrelink robo-debt when she lost her tax refund.

“They took every cent. It was shocking that they could take the money without me even knowing that a debt existed and without actual proof. It felt like guilty until proven innocent.”

The executive director of civil justice access and equity at Victoria Legal Aid, who was championing Amato’s case, said the court needed to examine the process Centrelink uses to charge robo-debts.

It was also labelled an ‘elaborate sham’ by QC Gavin Shilbert, after he engaged with Centrelink on behalf of a person who received a debt notice of $10,230.97.

Centrelink has also been slammed for issuing a debt notice to the amount of $6,744.52 to the mother of a disability pensioner, who had died six months earlier.

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