The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to relevant legislation/policy. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia. Waiving a small debt


This topic provides information about waiving (1.1.W.10) the recovery of small debts (1.1.D.60) including:

  • the general provision for debt amounts up to $200
  • a specific provision where the debt amount is at least $50, and
  • the cost effectiveness of recovery.

General provision for debt amount less than $200

A debt must be waived if it:

  • is, or is likely to be, less than $200, and
  • is not cost effective to recover.

This does not apply where the debt:

  • is $50 or more, and
  • can be recovered from
    • FTB instalments
    • social security payments (1.1.S.80)
    • other FA entitlements
    • child care service payments, or
    • an income tax refund.


Debt amounts for FTB determined as a result of reconciliation (6.4.1), and which are not recovered from FTB top-ups, may be passed onto the ATO for recovery from the individual's (1.1.I.90) income tax refund, including where the debt amount is less than $50. If the debt amount is only partially recovered from the income tax refund, the remainder of the debt will be passed back to Centrelink.

If the remainder of the debt is less than $50, it may be considered not cost effective to raise and recover and may then subsequently be waived.

Example: Jane has received FTB by instalment delivery throughout the previous income year but has no ongoing entitlement. Jane has lodged an income tax return and as a result of reconciliation, has a debt of $250. Jane has an available tax refund of $210. The ATO recovers this amount and returns the result to Centrelink. From this point, Centrelink will waive the recovery of the remaining $40 debt.

Act reference: FA(Admin)Act section 99 Waiver of small debt, section 84 Deductions from debtor's FTB, section 84A Setting off family assistance against debt owed, section 87A Setting off debts of an approved provider against child care service payments

SSAct section 1231 Deductions from debtor's pension, benefit or allowance

Policy reference: FA Guide 6.4 Reconciliation

Cost effectiveness

The following factors should be considered in determining whether it is cost effective to pursue the recovery of a debt:

  • the amount of the debt
  • the cost of any further investigation
  • the cost of recovery in terms of staff resources, calculating and recording the debt and advising the debtor, and
  • the prospect for recovery.

If the probable cost of recovering the debt is determined to be in excess of the value of the debt, and the amount outstanding is less than $200, the debt must be waived.

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