6 April 2021: Own Motion Investigation into Services Australia’s Income Compliance Program: A report about Services Australia’s implementation of changes to the program in 2019 and 2020

Today, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Michael Manthorpe PSM, released the report Services Australia’s Income Compliance Program: A report about Services Australia’s implementation of changes to the program in 2019 and 2020. The Ombudsman investigated Services Australia’s administration of the Income Compliance Program since November 2019 to seek assurance that Services Australia’s processes for identifying and refunding debts raised using income averaging was, and continues to be, fair and transparent.

“My Office previously investigated this program in 2017 and 2019. The focus of the current report is on the steps taken by Services Australia to remediate issues with the Income Compliance Program which arose following the Australian Government’s announcement on 19 November 2019 that Services Australia would no longer raise debts solely based on averaged income information received from the ATO,” Mr Manthorpe said.

“Mindful that, since 2019, legal proceedings have been ongoing in relation to the Income Compliance Program, including the Katherine Prygodicz & ORS v Commonwealth of Australia (VID1252/2019) class action, this report does not traverse the matters of law subject to those proceedings. Rather, its focus is on how the debt refund process, impacting several hundred thousand Australians, has actually been administered.”

The report makes nine recommendations focusing on communication, remediation of debts, reviews of debts, and possible future activities. The report also makes seven additional comments where the issues raised no longer require action but provide lessons for the future.

“I am pleased that Services Australia accepted seven of the nine recommendations. I acknowledge Services Australia’s effort to implement the Government’s decisions and their cooperation with this investigation.”

The report can be found on the Commonwealth Ombudsman website.