If you are in receipt of social security payments you are required to notify Centrelink of any changes in income, assets and other circumstances. This obligation is stated on letters sent to clients, usually pre-printed on the reverse side of Centrelink correspondence. Centrelink has wide powers to obtain information from any person (including government agencies, banks and employers) on any matter relating to a person’s social security entitlement [see Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) ss 192 and 195]. For example, Centrelink can obtain tax records to check information about a recipient’s income, or personnel records from employers to check a recipient’s employment status.
Centrelink also conducts random reviews of clients’ eligibility and entitlements, and participates in data matching programs with other government departments as part of its program to limit fraud. Centrelink will investigate information which comes to it from any source, anonymous or otherwise. Investigating officers, usually part of mobile review teams, may conduct field visits to investigate allegations of fraud, or as part of a standard review.
As a recipient of a Centrelink benefit you have the responsibility to keep Centrelink informed of any changes in your circumstances, including where:
- there are any changes to your income (including compensation payments)
- there are changes to your assets
- there are changes to the amount paid in rent
- you change your address — if mail is returned to Centrelink unclaimed, payments may be stopped
- you vary your enrolment/study load
- you become a member of a couple
- you cease to be a member of a couple
- you have a dependant child leave your care
- there are changes in your partner’s income
Any change in circumstances must be provided within 14 days of the event occurring. Notification can be made in writing, over the phone or in person at a Centrelink office.
If you fail to notify Centrelink about changes in your circumstances, you may find yourself in debt. If it is determined that you deliberately did not tell Centrelink about your changes you could be charged with fraud.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.