Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Simplify and streamline FTB to safeguard against overpayments

The Australian Government is working to streamline and simplify Family Tax Benefit (FTB) payments to reduce the likelihood of overpayments. More than two million families receive an average of $6000 a year in FTB assistance.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, rejected as false Labor claims that families were being short-changed and that the system was not fair.

“Under the Howard Government, Australian families are getting $2 billion a year more in Family Tax Benefit (FTB) payments than they did under Labor,” she said.

“Under Labor, no Australian family got a top-up payment if they overestimated their income,” she said.

“Mr Swan’s Labor Party was the only one responsible for short-changing people.”

“Under Labor’s rules, if a family estimated their income incorrectly and did not get their full entitlement to family payments it was too bad. The family had to wear it and they lost out.

“Labor denied top up payments to 530,000 Australian families. The Howard Government has restored fairness to the system, paying an average top up of $885 to these families.

Senator Patterson said two-thirds of the more than two million Australian families receiving a record $10.5 billion a year in FTB received their correct entitlement or a top-up payment.

“I am committed to working on ways to reduce the likelihood of overpayment for the one-third of recipients who experience an overpayment,” she said.

“I am working to simplify the claim forms and make them more user friendly in explaining choices available to families to ensure that families are best able to manage the record benefits they are receiving from the Howard Government in family support.

“I want to reduce the likelihood of families receiving an overpayment.

“Rather than misleading Australian families by suggesting they are not getting what they are entitled to Mr Swan needs to demonstrate a bipartisan approach by supporting changes which are designed to make the FTB system simpler and fairer.

“Those families who are at risk of an overpayment might consider the option to take some of their FTB during the year as a fortnightly payment and hold some back until they lodge their tax return.

“This would be at the very time when they have got bills around Christmas time or the beginning of the year when a small lump sum would help with school uniforms and books.”

The fact is more than two million Australian families receive an average $6000 per year in FTB assistance.