MY MONEY

How to get your share of the $720 million robodebt refund

By

The federal government is set to return more than 470,000 robodebts valued at $720 million, after admitting that its method for assessing the income of welfare recipients was flawed. But how do you know, and what should you do, if you're due for a refund?

In 2016, Centrelink rolled out an automated system to detect overpayments to recipients of social security payments. It cross-checked income information held by government agencies, typically the Australian Tax Office (ATO), with a person's reported income. If the system detected a difference between the two, you got a letter from Centrelink asking for further proof of income.

If you didn't comply, Centrelink went ahead and averaged the data from the ATO over multiple fortnights to arrive at a debt it asked you to pay.

centrelink robodebt refund

Following a case brought by Victoria Legal Aid on behalf of Deanna Amato, the government accepted that income averaging was an unlawful way to calculate debts. This was followed by a class action from Gordon Legal, which resulted in a court order for all affected robodebts to be returned.

"Robodebt hit people even when they were going through the hardest of times - after the death of a family member, in the wake of a natural disaster, and when they were living on next to nothing, getting rejection after rejection with not enough jobs available," says Australian Council of Social Service Acting CEO Jacqueline Phillips.

"Robodebt was proven to be unlawful and it should never have been unleashed on the community. It is disappointing that it has taken almost four years for the government to admit it got this so wrong."

If you've been affected, there's not much to do except sit back and wait. Those of you affected would have received a notice through your MyGov portal informing you of your membership in the Gordon Legal class action, and the option to opt out.

According to Gordon Legal, you're a member of the class action if you were in receipt of one of the following Social Security payments:

  • Newstart Allowance
  • Youth Allowance
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Austudy Allowance
  • Age Pension
  • Carer Payment
  • Parenting Payment
  • Partner Allowance
  • Sickness Allowance
  • Special Benefit
  • Widow A Allowance
  • Widow B Pension.

And if at any time after April 2015:

  • You received or were sent Centrelink letters or other correspondence or notification which requested that you check, confirm or update employment income information; and
  • Following this, Centrelink asserted that you owed a debt and demanded repayment of the debt; and
  • In calculating your debt, Centrelink applied data from the ATO to your record for some, or all, of the debt period.

And if:

  • You have paid, or had recovered from you, any debt or part thereof (including through a payment plan, garnishing of tax return or payment of the debt in full).

The federal government says it will automatically contact those eligible and commence refunds from the July 1.

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David Thornton is a journalist at Money magazine. He previously worked at Your Money, covering market news as producer of Trading Day Live. Before that, he covered business and finance news at The Constant Investor. David holds a Masters of International Relations from the University of Melbourne.
Comments
Lee Crosthwaite
June 12, 2020 4.35am

I have a debt of around $9000 that I was put on a repayment plan but every 3 months it cancelled out and unless you contact them on a particular date they set, they garnish payments at top rate just under or around $200. I have an ABI and PTSD amongst other things.I c ant remember what I had for breakfast let alone 3 months ahead. Last time they done this my daughter's father just died, the fires SUROUNDING us were just put out by the floods basically and when I called debt recovery they said it wasn't unforseen circumstances and too bad. It was the start of their penny pinching. My daughter's money family tax benefit A and B had been garnished around $30 fortnightly because her father died and they need to reassess child support, JUST a few days after he passed. I was told this could take around 6 months to adjust!!! We havnt received any extra money from the carona money as everyone else I know gets it fortnightly. Other payments people get I don't because of the debt but it DOSNT even come off my debt.. it just disappears. My DAUGHTER got caught up at her friends family's home while lock down, of course I pay her board while she is there and some spending money for essentials. Then there is my rent to pay, I'm so broke I can't even afford the gas bottle for heating MY Son's birthday was 2 WEEKS ago and his GRANDMA just died, the funeral is Saturday and I have to go to Melbourne for the funeral. I feel so ashamed and humiliated to see my son as I can't afford to buy him a birthday card let alone a present . In fact I can't afford the train fair so I'll just have to take a chance and catch the train without a ticket. I have to . I Love my family ,,I miss my Son and I'm left feeling a failure. Oh and I received a letter today from child support stating my daughter's deseast father owes us $500 that they want to get out of his estate. OMG!!!

Please just let us grieve without the DEPRESSION BROUGHT ON BY CENTRE LINK. PLEASE HELP US , STOP PUTTING SALT INTO OUR WOUNDS

Cheryl McKenny
June 12, 2020 9.12am

Last year I got a over payment on newstart of about 7000

Which is not correct

Kylie Hockley
June 16, 2020 1.13pm

I received a robodebt in 2016 for $1300 paying back any money that you should'nt owe sucks. I use to work in a call centre for centrelink and knew first hand about report correctly. Besides why would you if you worked for the company. I tried for a few months over the phone to sort this out but got no where like most. I was told to appeal the debt but would need to provide all payslips etc but my argument was that due to not being able to report on the same day as you get paid how can they know how many hours for each day as payslips don't normally have your roster on it. Which then lead to having to try and find that information to know what hours for each report. I know what I had report for that year was correct. I now use the reporting tool in the app. I also request payment summaries from my employer for

a breakdown of my hours should anything like that happen again. Also if your paying a debt off with centrelink you can have your payment reduced due to financial hardship. I know that every 3months the payment automatically reverts back to the normal payment amount this is a pain in the backside for most. I guess its away to remind people of there debt. I think there should be away online that you answer a few questions and that determines and reduces it back to what you can afford without having to ring or go in this would save people alot of stress. I know if I don't get refunded I'm going to appeal it along with one I got for around $500 when the corona hit and things got crazy. I reported my earnings and I still got paid the full amount of job seeker. I just assumed it was correct after all I did the right thing and reported ??

Good luck everyone I hope we all get our money back.

Harley Sommerville
July 3, 2020 7.34pm

I got sent a debt of $9000 which I don't owe, they took $780 off me and I'm waiting on a repayment.

Tina Mcgeough
June 12, 2020 10.01am

After my eldest son move out. And changed his address ,& 6months later i got a msg saying that i owe 12 thousand for a overpayment but i know i wasn't over paid ask for a review. And nothing except for a debt i dont owe .

Riki Gallagher
June 12, 2020 7.46pm

I received a robo Dept from smoking on a train platform and wasn't issued an infringement off police or anyone.The mind boggles

Crystell MacPherson
June 24, 2020 4.35pm

Mate really

Robyn Scells
June 12, 2020 1.18pm

How do I get my money back that Centrelink said I owed in that robo debt do I have to do anything

Jim pecen
June 13, 2020 5.35pm

1st of july i belive it will be refunded . Id like my $16,000 back also , i have not recived any notice from center like on it though. I dont trust it . Or belive it .

Aaron Bean
June 12, 2020 8.23pm

The last 4 Years or so centrelink has been taking my tax for a debt I don't even have

Aaron Bean
June 12, 2020 8.27pm

Do I have to do anything to get the money back through the robodebt scandal

Ahmed Mohammed
June 12, 2020 9.25pm

About those who are still paying fortnightly

Melissa Slattery
June 17, 2020 11.34pm

I got a robodebt saying I owe Centrelink $28,800 which I surely dont

Tammy Tam
July 6, 2020 9.18am

Did you receive a letter in your MyGov account from Gordon Lawyers?

Jim Pecen
June 13, 2020 5.29pm

I have a $16,000 robo debt on me . They just take $140 each pay , i have no choice to reduce it or nothing , i have not recived any letters or mail on my centerlink app/ account? ?? i have major cronic PTSD anxiety and major depression

Tammy Tam
July 6, 2020 9.20am

They will most likely pay back if it was wrongfully taken but they can't assist with Anxiety.

Elisha Trevena
June 14, 2020 8.28pm

Hi joined the class action about a year ago when Gordan legal first advertised, centerlink was sending me letter asking me to opt out or i will be liable for court fees, I didn't & I'm getting all my money back.

Garth Baker
June 24, 2020 10.33pm

I've been paying a Robo debt since 2010 of $64000 I have so far payed back over $ 27000 Centrelink have take $130 p/f for the last 198 fortnights will I get this money back or not ,I've been in the class action for the last 6 months,I suffer with copd an chronic kidney disease an on 24/7 oxygen.

paul mack
June 25, 2020 9.31am

no mate robodebt only started in 2015....you will still be paying that off for years to come...sorry

Talk Shit
June 29, 2020 7.40pm

Mate robo debt back tracked to 2011

Get your facts right

Simon Hams
June 15, 2020 12.29am

I have a debt that went to court. I have now found that those debts fall into the robodebt timeframe. Will my debt be wiped and my record cleared of it.

James A
June 30, 2020 10.45pm

Hi Simon, I am on the same boat with you mate. I was criminally recorded and asked to do 300 hrs of community work in 2017. My debt raised in August and they prosecuted me in 2017. I couldn't provide Centrelink with payslip to disproved the debt. I was tossed no question, I just have to plead guilty to avoid jail.

I check last year in 2019 and I found they used income averaging and fake banks record which couldn't matched my banks statement. I waiting the outcomes of robo-debt class action and I will take them to court to quash my criminal record of robo-debt.

L A
June 15, 2020 5.12am

Do you need to go through Gordon Legal for this or do all robodebt victims get their money back?

Utifila Tuiono
June 15, 2020 6.43pm

How do I know if what I had paid back to Centrelink was part of the Robo Debt.

I had paid about $8,000 in refund that was calculated by the ATO from Centrelink which I was confused about as that advised they had overpaid me in tax return and incorrect information...I am still confused to this day but paid it al back.

Can someone advise how I can determine if I am entitled to get this refunded?

Thank you????

Sharon Trindall
June 17, 2020 8.59am

I had a debt of $6.000 which was paid off now I have debt for $13,000 which is so wrong , I really don't know how I got a debt like that so overwhelming, so will I get $19.000 back ????

Donna Clark
June 23, 2020 4.48pm

You should get refunded for the amount paid and the remaining waived . Hope this helps .

Troy Wilkins
June 16, 2020 5.57pm

I also got stung by the robo debt I'm really hoping they stick to there word and pay back the money

I went through tough times due to that money getting taken out in lump sums

Colin Liebelt
June 16, 2020 9.12pm

My Partner was told she owes $12000 to centrelink so when we rang to dispute and get evidence of this bill they refused to supply any evidence and not only that we rang multiple times as the amount that was said to be owed CHANGED everytime we rang. It went from12k to 10k to 8 k back to 10k .they kept her tax refund and stopped her family tax part B for her daughter.They were always rude and manipulative and not helpfully at all .we didn't know who we could go to and was an emotional and financial strain to survive.

Susie O
June 26, 2020 4.02pm

Exactly the same thing happened to me. I finally got some spreadsheet sent to me as I asked to see how the debt was calculated It was useless lists of numbers that had no point of reference. When I rang to advise they had the wrong number of children (3 instead of 4) they said it wouldn't matter!!! Fingers and everything else crossed we all receive the money back without drama.

vince latella
June 17, 2020 10.44am

howdo iclaim this money back can someoe give me a web page or site where to claim please

Joe Joe
June 17, 2020 11.05am

EVERYONE you all need to relax centrelink has a automated program that uses algorithms to identify all debt repayers and when 1st July comes around it will automatically begin it's repayment process you don't have to do anything your current debt payments should have been placed on pause pending this Goverment enquiry, EVERYONE of anyone will get paid just remain patient and the money you have paid when you were suffering and needed it, it's all coming back with interest my robodebt value is 17890 I repaid 8850 I'm confident that it will be all ok

Seriously .
June 17, 2020 4.36pm

You are very confident considering it was Centrelink's programs and algorithms that started all this.

Melissa Rawle
July 6, 2020 11.37pm

My repayments say pasued but money is deducted still each fortnight i hope i get at least some of the $5000 back

Tina whye
June 17, 2020 4.37pm

I got two debts that one currently had been paid back and I now paying back 14000 dollars from 2016 that I don't believe that was correct in overpayment

Marietta Diaz
June 18, 2020 2.50pm

I am on a worker's compensation with a 27pc wpi. 2013 I lost my benefits when the new govt of Barry O 'Farrell change the constitution and lost my benefits. In the meantime I applied in Centrelink for a disability pension. My partner have a Commonwealth pension and he is on the age pension.I got 430 dollars a fortnight and at the same time they increase my partners age pension to 430 a fortnight too.

In 2016 the Baird's govt changes to the worker's compensation Act again to return some of the benefits of the injured workers and fortunately return again my benefits.for 3years I am living on a 200 dollars weekly benefits from Centrelink .

The changes include the return of my weekly benefits and pay me back the 3years of loosing my weekly income which is much comfortable than having the Centrelink 200 dollars fortnightly. The worker's compensation will pay my lost weekly income for past 3 years...thank god... It is only right that I pay back the disability pension I got from Centrelink which is amounting to 26 ,500 there about..but unfortunately for me I have to pay back what they increase in age pension of my partner which is amounting to 28,500 there about.all in all 55 ,000 dollars ..

If only they just gave my full fortnightly disability pension to me instead of giving half to my partner I am very gladly accepted the ruling. I challenge it to the tribunal and lost... That 3 years backpay is supposed to be my weekly income instead of trying to survived on a 200 dollars fortnightly...

My question sir.. is this a part of robo debt ? Sorry to come out like greedy but that is part of my hardship of 3 operation on both knees plus a reconstruction.. the pain and addiction of morphine and then withdrawal after 3years of taking pain killer and panic attack, depression and anxiety... Still on pain...

Thank you very much I hope I got an answer...

Psul Mack
June 23, 2020 8.46am

no mate your not part of this

robodebt is income averaging using ATO data

nothing to do with your scenario

sorry man you still owe the dough

Patricia Fleming
June 18, 2020 9.00pm

I was told by Centrelink I owed $4000.00 but couldn't understand as I wasn't getting much money from them if any I have already paid $2000 and still owe $2000 can I find out how to claim

jack jones
June 23, 2020 6.33pm

my repayments are put om hold at the moment i just wish i knew if i was getting anything back. Along with my health problems its just the not knowing that is hurting if they could just sent you a letter saying yea or nah would be good.

amanda burman
June 30, 2020 12.08am

mine says they are paused but they still take it out of my pay

Jennifer Rivett
June 23, 2020 10.02pm

My mother got notices from Centrelink saying according to her ATO records she was not entitled to the small payments issued because of her low superannuation payments. One at least was issued before her tax return was completed. At this stage she had suffered a severe stroke so I needed to act on her behalf. In faith after Centrelink escalated the debt to a collection agency about 4 weeks after their initial letter I paid back the so called debt. Does anyone know how to check if a deceased estate is getting a refund and the process to ensire Centrelink has the correct information.

paul mack
June 25, 2020 9.42am

tricky one....ring centerlink after july 1st

karen middlehurst
June 24, 2020 3.35pm

in approx 2016 I received a phone call from the taxation dept saying i hadnt reported my wages correctly and owed approx $4000 whch they said I could get a discount if I paid it then over the phone. I refused as I was only working part time and reprorted my wages every fortnight which were only $315 per week. I said surely that cant be correct as I can add p two lots of $315 and opted to check my payslips. First of all I found my boss at the time had not added up my wages correctly. the gross figure as wrong by over $1000....ended up owing $1340 which I paid in a lump sum.....I firmly believe this to be incorrect...

Money magazine
June 24, 2020 3.55pm

Hi Karen,

This sounds like it could be a scam - the ATO will not call you and ask you to pay something over the phone.

If you're not sure if contact from the ATO is genuine, you can call them on 1800 008 540 or visit https://www.ato.gov.au/General... to report a scam.

Stay safe!

- Money team

paul mack
June 25, 2020 9.39am

if you paid them back over the phone you got scammed

ato never ever ring you , its all letters....a paper trail.

the old ato scam rolls around every year and it sounds like you got took

karen middlehurst
July 3, 2020 7.52pm

no i have a receipt from the taxation dept showing I paid them $1340.....I had to show all my payslips to centrelink.....I recived a letter from centrelink saying I could opt out if I wanted too but I didnt I added my interest to via computer to the legal company representing this class action......when they phoned me they told me I could get a reduction if I paid over the phone...I didnt... I paid via bank transfer...

alison walker
June 26, 2020 10.45am

i recieved a robodebt in 2016 for 4,600 an apparant overpayment which is not correct ive stressed over this since i recieved it, so much that ive been hospitlised twice with anxiety. with the robodebt highlited now i think im intitled to recieve it back , also centerlink are still taking $$ from my account just yesterday was taken out , im discusted with this situation .... $$$$$ bak please

Chris Masters
June 27, 2020 4.17pm

Im sure i hace paid money bacj to centrelink around 2015...2016 but dont remember it being a robo debt. I recieved the court sms but how do i knkw how much if anything i will get refunded? Thanks

Steve Eastman
June 29, 2020 1.55am

I hope that those responsible (Ministers in this Liberal Government) end up in court and are cross-examined about their roles in this unlawful process and its damaging economic, social and physical and mental health consequences.

michelle strehse
July 2, 2020 1.12pm

they took the money from my tax refund, I thought we were supposed to have this refunded yesterday, I have not seen this, I also suffer extreme ptsd and could not afford counselling after they took the funds, and I have argued repeatedly for the evidence and they advised me it was up to me... like wtf seriously, I just want my money back

has anyone received their so called refund??? I have called centrelink, they refuse to tell me anything, and the team apparently working on it are not allowed take calls, so they can steal your money, and not advise if your getting it back. They took funds I don't owe from apparently 2013 so I don't know how that is legal

Brendan Lewis
July 1, 2020 6.07pm

I have been paying a Centrelink DEBT now since 2015 from this Robo I told Centrelink that it was wrong and all the rest I lost my car and a lot more the stress and the rest of it and looking after someone with cancer it's so wrong with Centrelink to do this and you can't even get any assistance from Centrelink in loanwise and that as say own money but we're in the right so I hope they pay it all back with interest and all loans and kids tax money you have stopped and taking back over the 5 years that's my thoughts

Zena Taouk
July 2, 2020 2.48am

I was shocked when I received a call from Centerlink advising me I owe them money and requesting I send them payslips and bank statements, automatically knew something was definitely wrong as I know I reported my income correctly every fortnight.

I was so stressed at the thought of trying to find every single payslip dated almost 5 years ago (what a joke). At the time I was advised about the money I owe (approx. $3200 ) I had found out my mother was diagnosed with cancer and I was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases that required treatment which had taken a toll on my body let alone my mind, I almost lost my job and just signed a 12 month lease for the house I was renting. I had taken a lot of time off work to care for my mother and having a job that I only got paid for the days I worked I struggled so much that I had a nervous breakdown and ended up in hospital. The phone call from Centerlink advising me I had to pay this money back is what had pushed me over the edge it was bad enough trying to pay the rent. I couldn't believe that I was owing Centerlink money it just was not making sense and with everything happening they made me feel like I was a fraud, this Robodebt couldn't have come at a worse time this should've never happened in the first place.

Heather Townley
July 2, 2020 5.15am

Due to our lack of confidence in our corrupt government, especially centrelink, my partner and I would claim Family Tax Benefits at tax time essentially to eliminate the possibility of owing them money as our amounts to what we earned was with the ATO and our accountant. I received a letter in 2018 saying the $1200 i received for family tax benefit in 2016 i was not entitled to. I had stopped working in 2014 as i have MS and as my partner was a FIFO he was concerned i was taking on to much - working, we had 3 children, our eldest had her own job at 15 so i was running her to and from work, 5 yr old son and a 18 month old daughter so all this did put a strain on me and i would end up in hospital a couple of times a year and then recovering from a relapse would take at least 3 months.

When i spoke to centrelink regarding this debt, the person i spoke to on the phone was great, he also couldn't understand how i got this debt and he gave it to another dept they were looking into it but no one got back to me from however my debt was passed to Probe, i spoke to them once, finding that my debt had gone from $1200 to $4000, i told them i wasn't going to pay and was informed that court proceeding my comment due to my lack of conforming, yet never got a summons to attend a court hearing.

In Oct 2019 my partner passed away, we had been together 27 yrs and as he was the sole provider of our finances, to get by i was using savings etc and then i was informed that i could apply for a bereavement allowance. It is a payment of $900 p/fnt for approx 9 fortnights. Being a bereavement didn't stop them from taking money for this debt i "owed". I have not received any money from centrelink for at least 3 yrs, which is why i was refusing to pay, and still refusing as i still do not receive any benefit from centrelink and i prefer it this way.

Kathryn McGregor
July 3, 2020 8.22pm

This scheme caused people to go bankrupt. The Federal Government should be obliged to cancel those bankruptcies.

I am also aware of a number of suicides. In this case why is the Minister not being held accountable for manslaughter?

Brooke Harman
July 4, 2020 3.41am

I had two debts at the one time bith for around 5000 since i registered with gordon legal i can not find any record on my centrelink online or my gov about one of the debts its like it never existed but i sure as hell paid it back i also disputed both if those debts but didnt get anywhere with the it

Suzanne Osullivan
July 7, 2020 4.36am

I was sent a $24000 debt from Centrelink DESPITE receiving no letter requesting I update my income. Just a letter out of the blue claiming I was overpaid. This was 2 days after my mother passed away in the NT. I am in NSW. Because of this debt I couldn't afford a flight home and missed her funeral. Then, I was accused by my now EX husband of hiding money (as Centrelink claimed I was paid more than what I had previously told him. Centrelink were wrong. However, the damage had already been done and my marriage of 17 years dissolved. I hold Centrelink and the PTSD from YEARS of dealing with constant payment suspensions due to Centrelink making all my appointments on one of the 3 days a week I was working at the time. I would miss the appointment and attempt to rebook. Never could get through. When debt was raised I emailed and called Centrelink a financial line and was told it was up to me to PROVE I DIDNT have the debt. What the hell. Part of my debt was from 2011. I didn't have payslips and couldn't get them as the business had sold. I have spent 4 years having tax returns garnished. When I DID attempt recently to restart my payment plan after not receiving a Centrelink payment for 2 years, it wouldn't allow me to set it up as the MINIMUM payment I could make was $960 a fortnight !!!! It's a joke. The emotional trauma I have suffered at the age of 45-50 is rediculous. This debt has affected people's lives in a MAJOR way. I have a friend who committed suicide leaving 4 small kids because she knew there was no way she would ever be able to pay it back !!! I am part of Gordon Legals class action, and I'm going for MORE than the Centrelink debt. I want to be compensated for the loss of my marriage, and I want an official letter of apology !!

Skye Sticken
July 5, 2020 1.11pm

I also got this as well I had to pay back 5000 I just thought they were right and never went through with asking any questions but I knew something was up

Deahlia Robbs
July 6, 2020 12.26am

Question, Has anyone received their refund yet?

It's now the 6/6/2020 and I haven't heard of anyone getting a refund, the remaining debt wiped or any correspondence from centrelink confirming a date for it to be done.

I have a robodebt of $15000 and have paid $3600 of it. They stopped taking payments out of my pension in December and I got the "opt out" letter so I know I'm on the refund list. I'm on a current pension so they know my "up to date details".

I just wanna know if ANYONE can confirm that they have received they refund so far

Suzanne Osullivan
July 7, 2020 4.37am

Hi There, yes, a friend of mine received her refund on the 3/7. Hope that eases your mind.

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