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We had an enquiry recently (in November 2016) from a person who retired in 2011 and had just received a Centrelink letter regarding apparent “discrepancies” in what she told Centrelink at the time of retirement and what the ATO has conveyed to Centrelink as to her income as lodged in the 2011 tax return. She has been to Centrelink to try to get it sorted, and has rung them, but getting no real sense out of them, has turned to Hills Accounting to sort the mess out. On investigation, it appears that she correctly told Centrelink her lowered income after retirement, but the new Centrelink software seems to average the total income over the year, rather than take into account the lowered income from a certain date, as it is legally required to do. Consequently, our new client, who is aged and has a number of medical issues, has mental health stress due to the demand from Centrelink to repay a large debt which does not appear to be legal. Where will this end? From the media it seems that quite a number of people have been stung by this new Centrelink software. How many lives will be lost as a result? Will a government be lost over the debacle? Has the government not learned from the Census problems that you cannot solely rely on software? Where does the human element come in? These people are disadvantaged people and cannot afford to pay large accounting and legal fees to sort it out, and are old and generally technically illiterate when it comes to computers. We will not charge this lady for our services for helping her, but how long can we sustain this if we get flooded with enquiries? Something should be done about this NOW, and Centrelink management should stop denying there is a problem. The people at the coalface of Centrelink sure know there is a problem – they are hearing about it.

Please Mr Ombudsman, can you sort this quickly?