NSW Disputing Child Support Assessment?

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Been2Trial

Well-Known Member
12 July 2017
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Hi,

My ex recently filed for a change of assessment with child support. Her contention is that I am misrepresenting my true income.

In the initial decision by CSA, the assessor had a brain fart and somehow just didn't see my up to date and filed Tax Returns (personal and business). So she has instead retrieved three months worth of bank statements from my bank. The problem with this being, my work is very seasonal and only makes an income over about 5 or 6 months of the year. The rest of the time it is for all intents non operational and does not trade or bring in any income.

It also just happens that the 3 months of statements they have drawn on are in the absolute peak period of the work. So essentially, what CSA have seen is 3 months of me making hay whilst the sun shines in perfect weather and from that they have extrapolated the income for that extraordinary period, multiplied it by 4 to give the total over 12 months and of course concluded that I have an annual income that is about 2-3 times what it actually is.

So, I have at that point of course disputed the decision with CSA and the process began. I wrote a number of emails and letters to CSA during this dispute period as well as phonecalls with the dispute assessor where I made it very very clear that seasonal nature of my work and income and in depth phone discussion regarding this was definately had.

I again lodged my current latest tax returns as part of my dispute and they clearly show an accurate representation of my annual income.

The kicker is though - CSA have for some reason refused to accept them as evidence of my income and they tell me that this was based on a request by my ex to set them aside.

I have just lodged my application for review with the AAT, but I have some questions that hopefully someone can help answer for me...

Firstly, can CSA just refuse to accept an accurate, professionally produced by my accountants, filed and up to date tax return as evidence of my income? I'm absolutely stunned if that is indeed something they can do!

Secondly, would making the argument to the AAT that these tax returns should be the evidence used to make the assessment and should have been relied upon (given the fact they are pretty much the main legally accepted statement of annual finances relied on by the ATO etc) be a wise plan of action?

I'm concerned that I could go in arguing the wrong case - because if the decision to set aside the tax returns in their dispute assessment is indeed something they have the discression to do (which is insane...), then I would lose my appeal with the AAT because they would rule that CSA were not obligated to rely on the Tax Returns and indeed, given the 3 months of financial statements they had available to them in the dispute review, the only conclusion they could come to was the albeit inaccurate one that they have.

What should I be presenting to the AAT as acceptable evidence of my annual income? I've got nothing to hide, my tax returns are accurate and fair, there's been no accounting wizardry or tricks - I stand by them.

Sorry for the long post, thanks for any help and input!
 

sammy01

Well-Known Member
27 September 2015
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Yup - they can ignore tax returns. So in my case, the ex is a massage therapist. Runs her business from home, goes to weekend markets and has a stall... Most of her work is cash in hand. Lots of tradies do the same... So If CSA can see a discrepancy, they'll jump on it.

You need to make the case that your work is seasonal. My concern is this... Let's say you work at the pool as a life saver. Good job for summer and some of autumn and Spring... But 6 months you're unemployed. You have the capacity to work, packing shelves? Doing some other type of paid employment... So why aren't you working?

Next - how has child support been getting paid? Just for the months you work? Then nothing? Or do you make sure the ex gets some $$$ every month?

Look AAT is better than CSA. CSA really are a law unto themselves... But you should feel confident AAT will give you a fair hearing.
 

Been2Trial

Well-Known Member
12 July 2017
99
18
354
Thanks for your reply Sammy, I'm glad I asked - I would have looked like a muppet walking in there to argue my case on that point... all over before it even started :D

Your question is valid and its one that in fact was listed as one of the criteria to be met in order to satisfy part of the change of assessment with special circumstances. In the original decision, this was rejected by the decision maker. There are many reasons why what you have raised is not a consideration, although my business operates on a seasonal timetable. It is flat tack during these months, I'm on call and available 24/7 (and I have subcontractors who I manage and send out to jobs when its my parenting time) and there are some days that start at 5am and don't finish till 3 or 4am the next day, only to kick off again at 7am...

It's hectic and being on call 24/7, gets old pretty fast... but there really is no one else who does what we do and the only other people licensed to do so work for me... So what I am saying is, I spend those 5 or 6 months giving it 110% - the income brought in during that period is not gonna see me driving a Lambo any time soon, but its probably more than many people make in a year. It's reasonable.

Given that I am working 24/7 in season, I have no time to spend my money on anything really, so that helps me budget and save enough to see me through the winter months until things slowly start up again.

I am also engaged in further training, getting marketing in place and doing other unpaid but ultimately beneficial to the business things like media interviews and appearing in/advising on documentary's related to my work... So I'm not sitting completely idol and the spare days I have between parenting time is spent doing business relative things ;)
 

Rob Legat - SBPL

Lawyer
LawTap Verified
16 February 2017
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Gold Coast, Queensland
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CSA can and will do exactly this sort of thing. It doesn't help that they're often 'represented' a particular scenario by the other parent and make their mind up about it before they even ask your side of the story - a mindset that can tend to make anything you have to say about it as an excuse.

Your lot should be slightly better as a business owner in taking it to the AAT (which I strongly suggest you do, but with the caveat that it will really come down to the member you get). You'll likely be best showing that the nature of your business is such that the lean periods support the income heavy periods. Think similarly to a farm. There's no income during the planting and growing seasons, it all comes when the harvest happens; but you can't harvest without having planted and grown the crop.

Think carefully about getting some expert evidence to appear for you. This could be your accountant, to give a report about why the financials are the way they are. Also someone who can tell the Tribunal that the way you're operating is the way that the industry operates. It could be the same thing you're saying, but it will be coming from someone who isn't directly interested in the outcome of the decision.

You should also be aware that CSA don't appear at the Tribunal. It will be you and the other parent.