The Income Compliance Program impacted hundreds of thousands of people and, for many, resulted in devastating emotional and psychological harm. It has undermined many people's financial security as well as their willingness to engage with and trust government services.
In total, an estimated $1.73 billion in illegitimate debts were raised against approximately 433,000 Australians. Within this group, approximately 381, 000 individuals were pursued, often through private debt collection agencies, to repay almost $752 million to the Commonwealth.
A troubling feature of the program has been the government’s resistance to changing its approach in the face of unequivocal evidence that systemic issues were undermining the program and causing harm to people, during and after the end of the program.
This inquiry has sought to understand how and why hundreds of thousands of Australians were wrongly pursued for debts over a three-year period, as well as the government’s knowledge of the legality of the Income Compliance Program. Questions remain about why the government continued to rely on income averaging despite it being inadequate as a method for determining the existence of a debt; why this practice only ended after the intervention of the courts; when did the government become aware that the program was not legally sound; and why did the government persist with the program despite mounting evidence it was causing real and significant harm.