Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

New measures help families in receipt of Family Tax Benefit

The Howard Government’s unprecedented level of support for Australian families will be further boosted by the introduction of new measures to assist families receiving Family Tax Benefit (FTB).

The Minister for Family and Community Services Senator Kay Patterson said the new measures would build on the success of previous measures, which have reduced by 73 per cent the number of families receiving an FTB overpayment.

The measures include assistance to help families estimate their annual income, fairer treatment of lump sum child support payments from previous years and providing extra assistance to customers identified as being at risk of receiving an overpayment of FTB.

Senator Patterson said “The assistance for estimating annual family incomes will ensure that families receiving fortnightly FTB payments start each year with an updated estimate.

“This new measure, starting July 1, 2006, will give families greater confidence when estimating future income for the purposes of FTB entitlements.

“Families will be advised at the start of each income year of a default estimate that will be used to calculate their fortnightly payments for the year.

“This default estimate will be calculated by increasing the family’s existing estimate in line with movements in Average Weekly Earnings (AWE). When the actual income for the previous year becomes known through the lodgement of an income tax return, the default estimate will be compared with actual income (increased by AWE) and the higher value will be used as the default estimate.

“Families will be advised of any change and will have the opportunity to provide an alternative estimate.

“Families receiving arrears of child support from previous years will also benefit from a new measure that allows them to access any unused ‘maintenance income free area’ from previous years to offset late maintenance payments.

“Many child support payees are unable to control when they receive their child support payment and may be disadvantaged if they receive lump sum arrears.

“Currently, families who receive arrears of child support do not benefit from the free area that would have applied had they received the child support income in the year that it was due. Significant arrears payments may have led to the family receiving an FTB overpayment in the year the child support payment was received.

“This change will increase the FTB entitlement for those families which receive late child support payments.

“These important changes enhance the family assistance system that has delivered nearly $17 billion to Australian families in 2003-04.

“Under the Howard Government, families are receiving record levels of family assistance. These changes build on the $22 billion announced last year for measures including the 30 per cent child care tax rebate, a $300 increase in the maximum rate of FTB Part B, and the maternity payment which will increase to $4000 next July,” Senator Patterson said.