Hit squad targets parents on run in Oz

Last updated 05:00 04/11/2012

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A crack hit squad has been set up by the IRD to track down thousands of parents who have fled the country and skipped on child support payments.

Number one in their sights is one parent who currently lives in Australia and owes $48,812 in outstanding payments.

That person sits atop a list of 18,000 defaulters across the Tasman and another 6900 hiding out in other countries.

The new hit squad has been given access to Australian Government databases to track down the defaulters and the right to contact their known associates.

The taxman now also has the power to apply directly for arrest warrants in Australia and warrants to seize personal property, and even order house sales to pay off the mounting debt the defaulting parents have left back here in New Zealand.

The crackdown comes as the number of New Zealanders owing child support surpasses the threshold which Australian authorities can manage.

About 80 per cent of them are fathers, said Inland Revenue spokesman David Miller.

The IRD's new Direct Debt Team will boost work already under way by Australia's Department of Human Services which manages child support payments for 11,500 New Zealanders through a reciprocal agreement.

"Because not all liable parents residing in Australia are able to be registered with the child support arm of the Australian Department of Human Services, Inland Revenue has been trialling the initiative to contact liable parents," Miller said.

Debtors can also be prevented from leaving Australia under the arrangement.

The team will monitor travel movements of paying parents arriving in and leaving New Zealand, as well as the debt position of non-paying liable parents living overseas. It will work to collect lump sum payments "as much as possible" or have parents enter payment arrangements for larger sums.

The majority of cases - 60 per cent - are for amounts of $10,000 or less.

"A parent who is liable for New Zealand child support is responsible for ensuring that they meet their child support obligations, keeping Inland Revenue up to date with income details or changes in living circumstances, and paying their ongoing liability as well as any arrears."

Meanwhile, the Child Support Amendment Bill currently working its way through Parliament is aimed at introducing a new formula for calculating payments.

It takes into account shared care arrangements, the income of both parents and the decreasing expenditure involved in raising a child as he or she grows up.

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said the current scheme was outdated and the range of proposed changes will improve the system.

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The new formula has been criticised by the Greens and NZ First for being too complex and likely to result in inadequate payments.

- Sunday Star Times

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