Owing money

If you owe us money, you'll need to pay us back.

If you owe us money but don’t get a Centrelink payment, avoid an interest charge. Use Money You Owe to pay in full or set up payment arrangements.

Letting you know

We’ll tell you if you owe us money. We'll send you a letter which will tell you:

  • why you owe the money
  • the amount you owe
  • when you need to pay the amount due, and
  • how you can make the payment

Also, we may call you to talk about your debt and how to pay it. We may:

  • send you an SMS, or
  • ask you to call us back on one of our Debt Recovery phone numbers 

These numbers are genuine and aren't a scam. Learn more about how to identify scams and stay safe.

It’s important to keep us informed of changes to your address while you’re paying back your Centrelink debt. Read more about change of circumstances.

Payment of Centrelink debts

If you get a Centrelink payment

We may reduce your payment to help you pay back your debt. The standard rate is 15% of your income support payment. If you have other income, such as earnings from employment or investments, the repayment rate can be higher. Different rates apply to other payment types.

You may not be able to get an advance payment until you have repaid your debt. Read more about an advance payment.

If you have questions about the amount of money we're withholding from your payment call the Centrelink debt recovery line. If you're Indigenous, call the Indigenous debt recovery line.

10% recovery fee

A 10% recovery fee will apply to your payment if you:

  • refuse or don't give us information about your income, or
  • give us false or misleading information about your income

This fee relates to the following payments:

  • Newstart Allowance
  • Youth Allowance
  • Disability Support Pension
  • Wife Pension
  • Widow B Pension
  • Parenting Payment single

Payment rate change

If we agree to a lower rate, it will only be for 3 months. After this time we'll review the rate based on your income and assets.

If your payment rate is going to change, we’ll send you a letter before the new rate starts.

If you no longer get a Centrelink payment

We can ask you to pay off your Centrelink debts at any time. Even if you no longer receive an income support payment.

You can use the Money You Owe service to:

  • pay your debt in full, or
  • to set up a payment arrangement

To do this, sign in to your Centrelink online account through myGov and select Money You Owe.

There are different ways you can repay your debt, some options are:

Payment method Information
Direct debit You can set up automatic deductions from your bank account. Use myGov to access the Money You Owe service in your Centrelink online account.

You can make payments using BPAY by phone or internet banking. You can access this service through your bank.

You’ll need the Biller code 21915, and your reference number. This is on your Account Payable letter or any other letters you get from us that have payment options displayed.

If your bank allows you to make a BPAY payment from your credit card, you can do so. However, your bank may charge you additional fees or interest. You should check this before making a payment.

Australia Post

You can make a payment in person at any Australia Post office or postal outlet using:

  • cash
  • cheque, or
  • money order

You’ll need a barcode to do this. You can find it:

  • on your Account Payable letter
  • on any other letters you get from us that have payment options displayed
  • in the Money You Owe section of your Centrelink online account or Express Plus Centrelink mobile app

You can use a payment card to make regular payments at any Australia Post office or postal outlet. To request a card, call the Centrelink debt line. If you're Indigenous, call the Indigenous debt line instead.

You can make a payment through Australia Post’s POSTbillpay service. You’ll need the Billpay Code 0802 and your reference number. This is on your Account Payable letter or any other letters you get from us that have payment options displayed.

If you can’t pay online, call Australia Post’s POSTbillpay line on 131 816 to make a payment.

Credit card You can make a payment using your Visa or Mastercard. Use myGov to access the Money You Owe service in your Centrelink online account. Before using your credit card, please check with your financial institution as there may be additional fees and charges.

Contact the Centrelink debt line if you can’t pay the owed amount by the due date. Then we can talk with you about payment options. If you're Indigenous, call the Indigenous repayment of a Centrelink debt line.

Failure to pay

You should pay your debt by the due date. If you don’t, we may ask the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to send us your tax refund. If we do we’ll send you a Recovery of your Centrelink debt letter.

If you aren’t repaying your debt over time or if we haven’t agreed to extend the payment time, we may:

  • add an interest charge to your debt
  • refer your debt to an external collection agency
  • reduce your income support payments to help pay the amount owing
  • recover the amount from your wages, other income and assets, including money you may hold in a bank account
  • refer your case to our solicitors for legal action
  • issue a Departure Prohibition Order to stop you from travelling overseas

Interest rates and charges

The rate of interest we apply to your debt reflects the current rate the ATO applies to tax debts. You can read more about interest charge rates on the ATO website.

We won’t charge you interest if you:

  • are currently getting a Centrelink payment
  • have entered into an acceptable payment arrangement, and
  • continue to honour that payment arrangement

Departure Prohibition Orders

We may issue a Departure Prohibition Order if you aren't repaying your debt. It will stop you from leaving Australia until you pay your debt in full or enter an acceptable payment arrangement.

We don’t need a court order to stop you from leaving Australia.

External collection agencies

We use external collection agents to follow up outstanding Centrelink debts. So you might get an SMS, phone call or a letter from:

  • Milton Graham, formerly known as Dun and Bradstreet
  • the Probe Group, or
  • the Australian Receivables Limited (ARL)

If you get a letter from one our collection agents, it’s important you contact them immediately. They will discuss your payment options with you.

While your account is with one of our collection agents the privacy and security of your personal information is protected. Your Centrelink debts will not affect your credit rating.

If you have a complaint about the service you get from a collection agent, you can give us feedback. Read more about complaints and feedback.

Recovering debt for other Australian and New Zealand government departments

We may deduct money from your Centrelink payment to recover money you owe to other Australian Government departments. This includes the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

We also recover some overpayments on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand. We’ll let you know if we’re going to recover any of these overpayments from your income support payment.

Bankruptcy and debt agreements

If you can’t make payments, consider entering into a debt agreement. This is as a way of managing your debt and avoiding bankruptcy. A debt agreement is a legally binding agreement between you and us. If a debt agreement is unable to resolve the debt, you may still enter into bankruptcy.

Entering into bankruptcy or a debt agreement doesn't eliminate all debts. But we won't recover some debts for the duration of your bankruptcy or agreement.

You must take steps to begin the debt agreement process and tell all your creditors. Read more about how to begin the process of a debt agreement on the Australian Financial Security Authority website.

An administrator will contact us with details of your case. We'll review your outstanding debts, take the appropriate action and advise you in writing of the outcome.

Review and appeal

If you don't agree with a decision we've made about the money you owe let us know. You have the right to ask for a review and appeal of the decision.

Page last updated: 12 July 2018