If you do owe Centrelink money
You may have received a letter demanding payment within a few weeks. Remember, you can ask for a repayment arrangement if you can't afford to repay the money immediately. Here's what to do:
a. Work out what you can afford to pay
- Add up your income
- Add up all of your expenses
- Subtract your expenses from you income
Find out more about working out what you can afford to pay.
b. Negotiate a payment plan with Centrelink
Ask for a payment plan that you can afford to pay. This would be an amount each fortnight, or month so that you pay off the debt over time.
- If you're still receiving Centrelink, this amount may be deducted from future payments.
- If you're no longer receiving Centrelink it's important you start making the payments you can afford straight away
c. Ask Centrelink to waive your debt
Centrelink will only waive the debt in limited circumstances, which are if:
- you didn't contribute knowingly to the overpayment (usually an administrative error); and
- there are special circumstances (such as severe financial hardship, poor health or high medical costs)
It's important to hang in there and keep asking Centrelink to waive your debt. It may be useful to ask your doctor, counsellor or community caseworker, if you have one, to provide reports to help explain your circumstances.
Usually, you'll need to try more than once to get Centrelink to waive the debt. If they refuse, you can appeal that decision (see Step 3a).
Tips for contacting Centrelink
- Centrelink’s phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm local time. The Family Assistance Office is open from 8am to 8pm local time
- Waiting times are usually shortest early in the morning or on Wednesdays and Thursdays
- Stay on the line – hanging up and redialling may mean a longer wait than staying on the line
- Keep records of your payments so you know what you owe or what Centrelink owes you