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. Methods of recovery


If a debtor has not repaid their debt in full by the due date, then only those methods set out in the SSAct can be used to recover the debt.

In Walker v SDSS (1995) 56 FCR 354, the Federal Court held that Chapter 5 of the SSAct is a code providing for the recovery of social security payments listed in SSAct subsection 1222(1).

Act reference: SSAct section 1230C Methods of recovery of debt


The Commonwealth may recover a debt by:

  • deductions from the debtor's social security payment
  • deductions from another person's social security payment, or
  • repayment by instalments.

If the Commonwealth has tried to recover the debt by these means, and can show that the debtor did not enter into a reasonable arrangement or failed to make payments under that arrangement, they may recover the debt by:

  • legal proceedings, or
  • garnishee notice.

Legal proceedings and garnishee notices can be used to recover debt without first trying to recover by way of deduction or repayments by instalments when it has been determined by the Secretary that other methods of recovery are not appropriate.

Act reference: SSAct section 1230C Methods of recovery of debt


A person may repay their debt through deductions from their social security payment or from the payment of another person if that person consents to the deduction. However, if the other person incurs a recoverable debt, this debt must be repaid first.

Example: Mary has a JSP debt, and her partner, John, has given his consent to have deductions taken out of his PPP to recover her debt. John then incurs a PPP debt, repayment of which takes precedence over Mary's JSP debt. The deductions for Mary's debt from John's payment stop immediately. A separate repayment arrangement must be negotiated with Mary.

Act reference: SSAct section 1231 Deductions from debtor's pension, benefit or allowance, section 1234A Deductions by consent from social security payment of person who is not a debtor, section 1230C Methods of recovery of debt

Policy reference: SS Guide Debt recovery by deductions, Debt recovery by reductions from payments to third parties

Repayment of instalments

A person can also repay their debt through instalments. A repayment by instalment could be by direct debit or cash through the Australia Post Billpay service. The rate of the instalment will be agreed upon with the Secretary, and will be determined by the size of the debt and the time it would take to repay the debt as quickly as possible without causing severe financial hardship.

For more information see

Act reference: SSAct section 1234 Arrangement for payment of debt

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