Avoid a debt
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- Reo Maori Kuki Airani / Rarotongan
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When former customers still owe us money
- العربية / Arabic (Transcript)
- 简体中文 / Chinese (Transcript)
- Ελληνικά / Greek (Transcript)
- Italiano / Italian (Transcript)
- македонски / Macedonian (Transcript)
- Српски / Serbian (Transcript)
- Español / Spanish (Transcript)
- Türkçe / Turkish (Transcript)
- Tiếng Việt / Vietnamese (Transcript)
Call our Multilingual Phone Service to speak with us in your language about your Centrelink payments and services.
If you owe us money, you'll need to pay us back.
Even if you don’t currently get a Centrelink payment, you may owe us money. If you do, you may be getting charged interest. Read about how to avoid interest charges.
If you change your address while paying us back, it’s important you let us know. Read more about change of circumstances.
How you’ll know if you owe us money
If you owe us money, we’ll let you know. We’ll write to you and tell you:
- why you owe the money
- the amount you owe
- when you need to pay the amount due
- how you can make the payment.
We may also call you to talk about your debt and how to pay it. If we can’t reach you on the phone, we may do 1 of the following:
- send you an SMS
- ask you to call us back.
If we ask you to call us back, it will be on 1 of these phone lines:
These numbers are genuine and aren't a scam. Learn more about how to identify scams and stay safe.
You can pay your Centrelink debts online by selecting Money You Owe from either your:
If you get a Centrelink payment
We may reduce your payment to help you pay back your debt. We may reduce your income support payment by our standard rate of 15%. 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’ve repaid your debt. Read more about an advance payment.
If you have questions about the amount we're withholding from your payment, call the Centrelink repayment of a debt line. If you're Indigenous, call the Indigenous repayment of a Centrelink debt line.
10% recovery fee
A 10% recovery fee will apply to your payment if you do 1 of the following:
- refuse to give us, or don't give us, information about your income
- 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 payment 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 back 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
- set up a payment arrangement.
There are different ways you can pay back the money you owe. Some options are:
|Direct debit||You can set up automatic deductions from your bank account. You can do this through the Money you Owe service. Sign in to your Centrelink online account through myGov and select Money You Owe.|
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 with your bank before making a payment.
You can make a payment in person at any Australia Post office or postal outlet using one of these options:
You’ll need a barcode to do this. You can find it:
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. You can do this through the Money you Owe service. Sign in to your Centrelink online account through myGov and select Money You Owe. Before using your credit card, please check with your bank as there may be additional fees and charges.|
Contact the Centrelink repayment of a debt line if you can’t pay us back by the due date. We can talk with you about payment options. If you're Indigenous, call the Indigenous repayment of a Centrelink debt line.
When you don’t pay us back
You should pay your debt by the due date.
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
- use your tax refund
- refer your debt to an external collection agency
- reduce your income support payments to help pay the amount you owe
- 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
We won’t charge you interest if all of the following apply. You:
- are currently getting a Centrelink payment
- have entered into an acceptable payment arrangement
- continue to honour that payment arrangement.
Tax refund garnishee
If you owe us money, we may ask the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to help us get it back. We can ask them to withhold or give us some or all of your tax refund or available credit. If we do we’ll send you a Recovery of your Centrelink debt letter.
Our Tax Garnishee Program Protocol has information about data matching. It’s for people who have outstanding debts.
If you aren't repaying your debt, we may issue a Departure Prohibition Order. 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. You may get an SMS, phone call or a letter from one of these agents:
- Milton Graham, formerly known as Dun and Bradstreet
- the Probe Group
- the Australian Receivables Limited (ARL).
If you get a letter from one of our collection agents, it’s important you contact them immediately. They’ll talk to you about your payment options.
While your account is with one of our collection agents the privacy and security of your personal information is protected. Your Centrelink debts won’t 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.
How we recover 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.
What is 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.
When to ask for a review or 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. Contact us as soon as possible if you want to have a review. You may have to pay back the money while we review the decision.