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Average family tax debt.



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MEDIA RELEASE

Senator Chris Evans Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Shadow Minister for Social Security

02 February 2005

AVERAGE FAMILY TAX DEBT SOARS

New figures reveal that the average family tax benefit debt has soared by 20 per cent, and that only 1 in 25 Australian families are now getting their correct fortnightly entitlement on time (see attached table).

Struggling families are now being forced to repay the Howard Government an average of $1,026 each - up from $860 each last year.

Labor is also concerned that the new figures, which show that 126,000 families have incurred a family tax debt so far this year, are misleading because they do not reveal the full extent of the problem.

This is because the Howard Government is now excluding from the figures those families whose debt was cancelled out by the $600 payment.

It is also clear that hundreds of thousands of Australian families have resorted to overestimating their income to avoid being saddled with a family tax benefit debt at the end of the year.

Last year only 4 per cent of families actually estimated their income correctly and received their correct fortnightly family tax benefit entitlement.

The Howard Government has now had four years to fix the problems with its complicated family tax benefit system, but has failed to do so.

The result is that many Australian families are being put under unnecessary financial strain each and every year.

Labor believes that the family payments system should provide Australian families with financial support when it is most needed - not saddle them with debts year after year.

For further information: Chris Evans 0419 983 593 Mathew Stephenson 0408 577 617

FAMILY TAX BENEFIT RECONCILIATION OUTCOMES 2003-04

2003-04

(As at 26 November 2004)

Number of families 125,845

% of total number of families 8% Total amount $129m

Overpayment

Average amount $1,026

Number of families 59,707 Nil Change % of total number of families 4%

Number of families 1,406,038

% of total number of families 88% Total amount $1,856m

Top-ups

Average amount $1,320

Total 1,591,590

Source: Department of Family and Community Services, Answers to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice, February 2005.