National

Centrelink accidentally pays man $6000 then refuses to take it back

Centrelink accidentally pays man $6000 then refuses to take it back
Having thousands of dollars unexpectedly land in your bank account might seem like good news.
But a Perth man says he has been left with nothing but headaches after Centrelink accidentally paid him $6000 by mistake last month.
Ryan, who asked for his surname to be withheld, told nine.com.au he was surprised to see the money come into his bank account from Centrelink on June 17.
Having not received any payments from Centrelink in two years, Ryan – who works full-time - said he thought it was probably a mistake, but was "a tiny bit hopeful" it wasn't.
"I called up Centrelink straight away because I wanted to see if I was eligible for it. If I was, I would have been like score, perfect time to get some extra money," he said.
The Centrelink payment of just over $6000 was made as a result of "human error" Services Australia says. (Supplied)
When Ryan called Centrelink, a staff member confirmed it was a mistake.
"They said it was a computer error and that the $6000 was the equivalent of all the payments I have ever received from Centrelink," Ryan said.
Then came the bizarre twist, with Centrelink telling Ryan he would need to keep the money until October because of a current freeze in place on debt recovery activities due to COVID-19.
"They pretty much said don't spend it, it's not yours, we will ask for it back in October," he said.
Ryan said when he asked if Centrelink could just override the system and take the money back, he was told it wasn't possible.
Ryan said he was also told he needed to claim the $6000 as part of his taxable income for the 2019-2020 financial year.
"Unfortunately, this means that when I do my tax I will need to declare this money on my tax return. Centrelink will even send this information to the ATO without my permission," he said.
Ryan said he had been expecting a tax refund this year but would now owe money to the tax office because of Centrelink's mistake.
"You might think it's great to have this money …but I just don't want it. I'll get it out of the bank and take it into their offices if that helps," he said.
"I've spent 30-35 hours in total trying to get a handle on all of this and now I'm going to have to pay for my own accountant, which Centrelink is refusing to foot the bill for."
A letter received by Ryan, which confirms he will be unable to return the money accidentally paid to him until October. (Supplied)
Services Australia denied the payment into Ryan's account was made because of a "computer glitch" and said it was a result of "human error".
"We sincerely apologise for any distress this has caused. We'll continue to work with (Ryan) to address his concerns and resolve the issue," Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen told nine.com.au in a statement.
"In situations like these we can work with customers to find a suitable arrangement for recouping the overpayment."
However, Ryan said he contacted Centrelink again after Services Australia issued its response to nine.com.au, only for it to be reiterated to him that his only option was to repay the money in October.
A spokesperson for Services Australia told nine.com.au she was not aware any other accidental payments being made to any other people.
However, Ryan said he was told his case was far from isolated when he first rang Centrelink.
"When I was speaking to Centrelink, I asked how many more people it had happened to. I think the guy wasn't supposed to say but he let slip that a few more people had called that day about the same thing.
"Imagine if this happened to a single mum who really needed the money, she maybe wouldn't have called Centrelink to check and spent it."
"Then she would have got a debt in the mail in October."
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]