The partnership between FCVic and Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV), the Integrated Services Project (ISP), aims to improve client outcomes through financial counsellors and social security lawyers working together more effectively.
It’s that time of the year – again. The time of year when a number of people hurriedly complete their returns in order to claim refunds. It’s also the time of year however, when many of your clients may – by choice, by coercion or through the simple stress & pressures of their lives – not complete their returns or check whether they need to.
At SSRV our focus is on the social security structure and how we can assist clients to navigate what is an often-daunting environment. Like financial counsellors, we also know the value of preventative actions and in trying to ensure that clients will not need our services. This typically applies to communicating any change in personal circumstances, but it also relates to tax. For Services Australia, there is a very simple directive; if you receive a Centrelink payment or pay or receive Child Support, then you should check to see if you need to lodge a tax return. Read more about this on the Services Australia website.
A regular cause of calls to our service, both directly from members of the public and through the Worker Help Line, is debts raised by Centrelink regarding tax, with Family Tax Benefit a particular ‘favourite’. This is seldom related to the complexity of peoples’ tax affairs and more typically related to the simple absence of a return being lodged, or of making Centrelink aware that lodgement is not required.
There are a number of supports for you and your clients in navigating this process; the fact that they are engaged with you already, is however perhaps the most powerful form of assistance. The ATO have recently developed a step-by-step tool to assess whether a return needs to be lodged: click here to view this on the ATO website. There is also assistance in completing a return when required and help for those facing particular challenges.
Rather like those conversations with clients in the run-up to Christmas about simple steps to make for a debt-hangover free January, it’s the right time of year to talk about preventing Centrelink overpayment hangovers by staying on top of tax returns.
Centrelink Working Group
We would like to remind and encourage you to attend the FCVic ‘Centrelink Working Group’ where financial counsellors, community advocates, social security lawyers and guest speakers meet to discuss policy concerns, trends in casework and challenges/successful outcomes.
You can join through the FCVic membership portal, or by emailing the convenor Elizabeth Stary at [email protected]. The next meeting is Tuesday, 8 August.
Keep in touch
Thank you to those financial counsellors who are regular users of our referral and secondary consultation services through the Worker Help Line: www.ssrv.org.au/worker-assistance
SSRV is now producing a regular newsletter. If you aren’t receiving it already, you can subscribe using the link at the bottom of our website. We regularly post news and other updates there. You can also follow up on Facebook.