NSW Government to implement all of Ombudsman’s recommendations in ‘garnishee orders’ report


The NSW Ombudsman today released a report into the recovery of fines under the former Liberal-National government.

The report centred on Revenue NSW’s use of garnishee orders to withdraw funds directly from individuals’ bank accounts between 2016 and 2022.

The Chief Commissioner of State Revenue has written to the NSW Ombudsman and committed Revenue NSW to implementing all of his recommendations.

The Ombudsman’s report concluded that the previous government’s garnishee orders system for fines between January 2016 to March 2019 was unlawful.

It further concluded that Revenue NSW’s implementation between March 2019 and March 2022 was wrong by not providing decision makers with complete information to undertake their work.

The Ombudsman also concluded that Revenue NSW’s conduct to recover state debts from March 2018 to March 2019 was contrary to law as it did not comply with the State Debt Recovery Act.

There is no suggestion that Revenue NSW’s current use of the garnishee order system is unlawful or wrong.

Garnishee orders are a process by which Revenue NSW can withdraw funds directly from an individual’s bank account. They are used as one of the final steps in the recovery of unpaid fines or state debt. Garnishee orders are only issued after multiple contact attempts, where an individual has not engaged with Revenue NSW about their debt, and other recovery or payment methods have been unsuccessful.

Modifications to the garnishee orders system already implemented by Revenue NSW include:

  • Ensuring a minimum protected amount is left in the individual’s account.
  • The introduction of a system identifying and excluding vulnerable individuals from garnishee orders.
  • Improvements to the assessment of garnishee orders so Revenue NSW staff review them before they are issued.

Further modifications to be undertaken by Revenue NSW will offer better protections for those receiving welfare payments and increased transparency of the collection of fines debt and garnishee order processes.

In line with the NSW Ombudsman’s recommendations, Revenue NSW will also be publishing further information about garnishee orders on its website, with a view to better educating the public on how they work and on what grounds they can be challenged.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Finance Courtney Houssos:

“I welcome the NSW Ombudsman’s report. I have already met with him to discuss Revenue NSW’s use of garnishee orders and understand his concerns.

“Revenue NSW has committed to implementing his recommendations in full and already begun that work.

“While garnishee orders can be an important tool of last resort to recover fines and state debts, it is crucial they are implemented in a fair and equitable way.

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