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Tuesday, 22 October 2002
Page: 5590


Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) (3:04 PM) — On 20 August Senator Bishop asked me a question relating to my own portfolio, as did Senator McLucas on 21 August. I seek leave to have the answers incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answers read as follows

On 21 August 2002, Senator McLucas asked me:

“Can the Minister detail how many families who received Family Tax Benefit B in the financial year 2000-01 changed the income estimate for the parent whose income determined they were eligible for this payment? Can the Minister provide the number of these families who incurred a year-end debt, and the average amount of that debt?”

I undertook to ascertain for the Senator whether it was possible to extract this information from the Centrelink computer system.

Answer:

Information in the form requested by the Senator is not readily available. The number of families who updated their income estimate is available only as a combined figure for Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A, FTB Part B and Child Care Benefit. It is not broken down either into the individual payments or between those families who incurred an overpayment and those who did not.

On 20 August 2002, Senator Mark Bishop asked me:

“Given the Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services told a Senate estimates hearing on 21 February this year that no decision had been taken to recover family payment debts by stripping people's tax returns, when did the government change its mind and why weren't Centrelink families warned?”

I undertook to provide the Senate with information on the decision to not turn off tax reconciliation.

Response:

Arrangements for tax refund offsetting for the 2001-02 tax year were developed over a period of time, beginning in the second half of 2001. They were finalised later in the 2001-02 tax year, prior to the release of the Tax Pack. I am advised there is no single date or decision.

The Government's decision not to apply tax refund offsetting for overpayments from the first FTB year was part of the transitional arrangements to help families adjust to the new system. As was made clear at this time, this was for one year only (2000-01).