Australian govt rakes back $725 from eBay sellers on welfare

Australian govt rakes back $725 from eBay sellers on welfare

Summary: The Australian Department of Human Services has collected just AU$725 back in a trial to recoup money from Australians using eBay to supplement their welfare payments.


The Australian Department of Human Services has been cracking down on welfare recipients who have sold more than AU$20,000 worth of items on eBay in one year, but so far, it has only managed to win back AU$725.

In June last year, it was revealed that the department had forced eBay to give over the identities of approximately 15,000 eBay users who had sold more than AU$20,000 of items in one year. This was done as part of a pilot to ensure that people on welfare payments from the government, who were also selling goods on eBay, were correctly declaring their income.

eBay was forced to hand over information such as usernames, email addresses, IP addresses, ABN, bank account details, and monthly sales figures.

In a response to a question on notice from estimates hearings late last year, the department revealed that, as of November 8, 2012, 71 cases were being investigated and had found nine debts to six customers with a value of AU$237,861, but so far, only AU$725 had been collected back.

The news comes amid a major campaign in Australia to pressure the Federal government to raise the Newstart allowance from AU$35 per day.

The questions on notice to the Department of Human Services also revealed that in the 12 months between October 2011 and the end of September 2012, the department experienced 137 IT outages, 28 of which were in an outsourced environment.

The department said that it was moving to reduce this over time, and saw a 27 percent decline in outages during July to September, compared to April to June.

The Department of Human Services has brought to an end a number of its outsourcing agreements with HP and IBM, and is in the process of reducing 14 of its datacentres across the department to just three. At the end of last year, the department completed bringing Medicare internally, ending the IBM contract with the agency.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Cost/Benefit Analysis

    I am forced to wonder what the cost of this pilot investigation to the taxpayer might have been. I bet it was more than $238,000.

    At what point do we accept that people forced to live on a subsistence allowance will find ways to supplement their income?

    eBay sales are at least morally acceptable. :)

    Why did we not funnel the cost of the investigation into something moe productive - like a training scheme or job creation program?
    • Read again....

      9 debts, to 6 people.

      Those 6 people had a combined tax debt of $237,861 for an average of almost $40k in owed Tax.

      So those poeple were gaining SIGNIFICANT income from eBay and still reciving government allowances. They should be up for welfare fraud.
  • If people are selling stuff on EBay...'s probably to minimize dependence on government services. If welfare recipients are making small fortunes doing it, then maybe they don't need the help at all (but I'd be surprised if there were a lot of those), but it looks like the Federal Government's enforcement efforts are highly inefficient.
    John L. Ries
    • On the Other Hand...

      ...they'd be hearing a lot of sour grapes if they did nothing to address welfare recipients earning tens of thousands off the books. Yes, welfare rates suck for those who need it, but $20,000 is more than "supplementing". If they can accomplish that much on ebay, I'm sure they can get a job.
      • Do "they" really need a job?

        If someone can generate $20,000 as "earnings" on eBay, I'm quite sure zhe is adequately self-sufficient not to require Welfare support.
  • It also depends on what you're selling and why.

    There would be no point in my declaration of "sales" because I am disposing of existing assets (liquidation) and if I were to waste the money reconciling everything, the Government would end up OWING me.