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  1. #1
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    Default Centrelink emergency! Please help.

    Hi there.
    I am really afraid about a terrible situation I’ve put myself into with Centrelink. I’m actually hugely terrified about this and it was completely unintentional, although I’m aware that the reasons for my behaviour sound a little bit weak. I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who can help with any of my questions and especially if there is someone who works with or for Centrelink to give me some idea on how this might go down.

    Some info about me so as to understand where my circumstances are.
    I’m currently pregnant. I am 34 years of age. This is my first baby conceived by donor IVF after many years. I work from home and it has taken me years to get into such a good position where I can work from home. I have major anxiety and depression and a severe eating disorder although that part has subsided with my pregnancy somewhat. The fact that I can work from home and not full time is hugely beneficial to my anxiety and psychiatric issues. I have an excellent reputation with the three companies that I’m employed by and have never had an issue with Centrelink. Everything has been perfect in terms of that.


    I am on Disability Support Pension and have been for approximately 5 years and have a squeaky clean record.


    This past year I received a job for which I obtain payments that are in USD. I am paid monthly for this job and have also another one for which I’m paid anywhere from 3-4 months apart. I am paid my DSP fortnightly as standard. The reporting dates do not line up well with these two particular jobs.


    What I did wrong was, when I got this online job from America I actually forgot to report my income from it. I reported income from my other two jobs as per usual but because I was not quite sure what to do with the American job I overlooked it for several months and when reporting income in the usual way I always ticked that ‘No other income from other sources’ box. I remember thinking in the back of my mind what do I do and was confused about it but by the tme the payment was made to me and I rarely check my bank balance, I had forgotten.


    This went on for months. Even I do not know really how I overlooked it so long. But when I realised what I’d done and how much income I haven’t reported to Centrelink, admittedly purely out of forgetting to do it on so many occasions due to my anxiety over other things and long periods of chronic migraines and not being sure how to go back on this without getting into a huge amount of strife. The amount I have under-reported has added up to 8.5k.


    Questions I have are:
    I want to go into Centrelink and tell them this, dob myself in so to speak because I had never intended to rip off the system that has supported me problem-free so many years when I’ve needed them. Will this mean they are unlikely or far less likely to prosecute if I bring them all the information and all statements/invoices for the unreported income?

    Anyone have any idea how much the overpayment may be likely to be considering the 8.5k of unreported income?


    Is dobbing myself in rather than waiting to get found out likely to mean no prosecution?


    How much is my actual debt likely to be ? Of course I know that the 8.5k is just the total income, but I don’t owe that much to Centrelink. I’ve got no idea how they calculate what your actual debt is.


    This has been exactly one year – to me it sounds like a really terrible timeframe to have overlooked a monthly payment.


    If I go in there and report myself saying I’ve under-declared over the year and I’m very sorry, here’s the evidence would I perhaps be not prosecuted/investigated? I know all the actual debt has to be repaid, no question, but my biggest fear is getting a criminal offence and/or jail sentence.


    My parents are very supportive and willing to help me get a very good lawyer if it comes to my needing one or getting a summons to go to court. But have I any defence whatsoever? I could have easily probably just rang up Centrelink at any time and asked how to report this income correctly. I don’t know how I failed to do this right at the beginning. I just overlooked it completely.


    Likely penalty if they decide to prosecute??? For this amount of money and with consideration of a bit of a **** weak excuse and with my circumstances as being pregnant and wanting to be able to continue to provide an income for myself and baby?


    How likely is a criminal offence and how likely is jail? Criminal conviction is a huge fear for me considering it will impact on my ability not only to keep my job but to obtain employment for the next 10 years and I have a baby I want to be able to continue to provide for.


    I also wanted to know if in an investigation they can give information to your employers about what they are investigating and so you get red flags raised with your employers?


    Do they check your actual bank accounts if they have all the information provided from the invoices I give them and the
    How likely is it that with good legal representation I may be able to get a fine, good behaviour bond, community service etc?


    How much does it count in my favour that I ‘dobbed myself in’ and that there was never any INTENT to commit acts of fraud? My lack of intent and knowledge that I’m a good person is one thing, but all they will see will be what I did and how easily I could have avoided this situation if I didn’t intend to do it.


    If I was intending to fraud then I’d never report myself without any prompting. It’s because I’m not a dishonest person that I feel the need to do this. Surely this will be seen?


    Plan at this stage is just to walk in there and tell them. I’ve read all about the procedure and possible prosecution interview and investigation, referral to CDPP if they decide to do so, letter about the debt you owe and administration fee (least of my concerns).


    I would do anything if I could just escape a conviction and custodial jail sentence, even if I had a fine and community service or good behaviour bond. Is this outcome worth hoping for or am I fooling myself?


    Or is it even possible that Centrelink will say, ‘Thank you for providing this information to us, and you will just have to repay the overpaid amount.’ With no further investigation or prosection? Best possible outcome for sure but is this wishful thinking?


    Please, please, help. My anxiety has risen 1000% over the past several days.

  2. #2
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    I think you are overthinking it.
    Just contact Centrelink and tell them what you have just posted here.
    They will probably set up a regular deduction from your pension to pay back any potential overpayments.
    Good luck

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    Gracie's Mum  (11-09-2015),Skysilver  (10-09-2015)

  4. #3
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    As another poster said above, if you give them a call, let them know, apologise and ask the best way for you to repay the amount that they determine you owe, you will be fine.

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  6. #4
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    Perhaps call them anonymously to determine the consequences?

    I think you'll be ok, especially once you get it off your chest. This stress won't be good for baby!

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    Skysilver  (10-09-2015)

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    I knew someone who had a kinda similar issue on their hands. Basically they just have to repay centerlink.....but not in one hit, just a small amount each week I think until all is repaid.
    Try not to stress, all will be ok.

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    Skysilver  (10-09-2015)

  10. #6
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    definitely over thinking it

    try not to stress so much

    first things first
    - get the bank records and details of the payments that you have received (from all jobs)
    - go into centrelink (or call them) and report this yourself. its ALWAYS better if you report than if they find it via cross matching.

    - if you report it, they are very likely to understand that it was an error. receiving money in another country/currency/overseas bank account is easy enough to overlook so they will understand.

    - being considered an error and understatement of income will mean that you should be just looking at repayment of the DSP amounts that you received that you shouldnt have

    (so for example if you get $200 per fortnight, and with the higher income you should have only been getting $150 per fortnight then you will just have to repay the $50 per fortnight overpayment. And they will usually be happy with a payment arrangement over a period of time in order to work it out)

    If you stress and worry, and leave it ... and centrelink gets data from other sources (bank, tax, various companies which report end of year tax information tot he ATO etc) and contacts you, it will be harder to make them see that it was an error and not a deliberate under-report.

    People make mistakes and under or overstate their income regularly. Its what you do about it now that you have realised that will make the difference in how this works out.

    So dont stress. But do get your information together as soon as you can, and sort it out ASAP


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  12. #7
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    The thing is the American USD job, for those invoices the amounts are in USD but the payments were always entered into my Australian bank account about a week later, so they were converted to AUD. So I didn't receive the money in USD just invoiced for it in USD and the exchange rate has been pretty massive so the amounts differed greatly.
    The work was also not paid for until the following month after you actually performed it, making things more confusing, though I shoudl have been keeping records of my working hours other than just keeping the invoices really.
    Can they actually just randomly check people's bank accounts? I had understood the data matching between Centrelink and ATO was based upon your invoices submitted to the ATO and the data Centrelink has for how much they've paid you rather than bank accounts? They could just check my bank account at any time to find the overseas money and come back at me later?
    The amounts I get paid vary hugely from fortnight to fortnight, and the American job and one other job I do don't fall into the Centrelink reporting period either. So sometimes more income and sometimes barely anything because I work two other jobs which are also very variable so it is very difficult for me to even predict with any degree of certainty how much the actual debt owing could be.

  13. #8
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    Definitely don't stress yourself about it, give them a call and as others have said they'll just alter your payments to cover the under-reporting.
    I've sat in on many commonwealth court matters involving Centrelink fraud and almost all are just ordered to repay the overpaid amount, even when deliberate deception over a number of years in involved.

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  15. #9
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    Thank you so much for your replies ladies.
    Can centrelink just look into your bank account at any time? I had understood the ATO data matching waas between your submitted invoices for tax and the data Centrelink's computer system holds as to when and how much they paid you. I hadn't heard that they can check banks?
    My pay is so variable across three jobs so that makes it really really hard to predict how much the debt owing would be. I'm assuming if it was all averaged out (and I'm not sure how they calculate it) I would assume I'd be in debt of around $4K but I would have thought Centrelink would be going back to the dates around the time of this income and trying to slot it into their fortnights.
    God I'm so scared and feel so stupid stupid stupid. All it would have taken was a phone call or two and better record keeping probably and I wouldn't have this massive thing happening to me now.

  16. #10
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    Whoops, I thought my last post hadn't gone through so I reposted some of the same stuff again.
    You don't think the time period of 12 months is also pretty hefty to have 'overlooked' this in their consideration?
    So criminal conviction is very unlikely?


 

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