How to get your Robodebt cash refund

 

If you're owed money by the government thanks to the Robodebt debacle, then there's only one thing you need to do - and that's sit tight.

Yesterday, the government announced its plan to refund $721 million worth of debt to almost 400,000 Australians, with repayments beginning from July and continuing throughout the 2020-21 financial year.

The huge refund of cash will also involve paying interest to thousands of Australians who were forced to repay debts before joining a class action against the Commonwealth.

And the best part if you're owed money? You don't have to lift a finger.

Human Services Minister Stuart Robert assured Australians with an outstanding debt that they did not need to contact Centrelink.

"Australians don't need to do anything in terms of getting a refund," Mr Robert said yesterday.

"We'll be actively contacting those Australians impacted, we'll be paying some 190,000 from the 1st of July, whose details we have.

"The remainder we'll be contacting to update their details.

"We'll be proactively rectifying the record we have with them."

He told Australians to head to www.servicesaustralia.gov.au or call 1800 061 838 if they had any further questions.

Australian Human Services Minister Stuart Robert has spoken out about Robodebt. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP
Australian Human Services Minister Stuart Robert has spoken out about Robodebt. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP

The government website reiterated his message, saying "You don't need to do anything now".

The announcement is great news for welfare recipients who in some cases were hounded for years over the debts that were wrongly issued.

In many cases, victims of the Robodebt debacle didn't owe the government any money whatsoever.

"All unpaid debts using averaged ATO income information will be revised to zero," the government website said.

Some people want to go a step further and claim damages as well as getting their debt repaid, with interest.

In a statement, Gordons Legal, the law firm acting for hundreds of Australians hit by Robodebt confirmed it wasn't dropping the case.

"Our clients do not consider that it is reasonable for the Government, having now conceded that it acted unlawfully, should unilaterally decide that it can take its time to pay it back and not be responsible to those affected for the loss and damage its unlawful conduct has caused,'' James Naughton, a partner at the firm, said.

"In our view any process undertaken will need to be approved by the Court to ensure that the rights of those affected, including their right to claim damages and interest are safeguarded."

More than 370,000 Aussies were affected by the Robodebt debacle, with some having been issued multiple notices. Picture: Glenn Hampson
More than 370,000 Aussies were affected by the Robodebt debacle, with some having been issued multiple notices. Picture: Glenn Hampson

However, it's not good news for everyone hit by debt.

"If you repaid an income compliance debt that didn't apply averaged income information, you will not get a refund," the government went on.

Essentially, only if your debt was issued using averaged ATO income information - an AI software - are you getting your debt waived.

So you're not in the clear if you've got a regular debt that needs to be paid off.

Averaged ATO income information is the name of the AI system which used data from the Australian Taxation Office and matched it with income reported to Centrelink by welfare recipients.

However, the AI used the information incorrectly, often finding huge deficits and amounts owed when there was none.

It's where the name 'Robodebt' came from.

Continue the conversation | alex.turner-cohen@news.com.au | @AlexTurnerCohen

Originally published as How to get your Robodebt cash refund


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