Child support compliance and tax return non-filing: A feminist analysis

Kay Cook, RMIT University


This paper examines the 2011–12 federal budget measure to strengthen child support compliance in light of gendered assessments of child support reform, particularly those that identify an emphasis on men’s financial autonomy and the buttressing of men’s financial authority beyond the couple relationship. By changing the way non-resident (payer) parent income is calculated for those who fail to lodge tax returns, the government aims to save $78.7 million over four years, with savings to be recouped directly from increased child support assessments and decreased Family Tax Benefits to resident (payee) parents. Given that 87 per cent of child support payers are men, this reform unintentionally legitimises men’s non-compliance with the Australian Tax Office by circumventing the tax system in determining payer income. At the same time, women and children stand to bear indirect financial costs as they face increased reliance on their ex-partner for financial support—a move that increases men’s financial authority over women and children beyond the couple relationship.

Dr Kay Cook <> is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Applied Social Research at RMIT University. Her work examines how gender interests are represented in social policies. She recently led an ARC Discovery project that examined the health implications of irregular child support payments and an ARC Linkage project that examined women’s experiences of welfare to work requirements.

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