IRD comes good with relief for struggling dad – but doesn’t this put a bigger burden on taxpayers?

It looks like a bloke in South Taranaki was somewhat premature in bringing his financial plight to public attention.

This bloke presumably hoped the glare of publicity would embarrass the Inland Revenue Department and prompt it to ease his financial burden.

As things turned out, the IRD has agreed to relax its demands on him to meet his parental responsibilities, which suggests he went public too soon, although he might argue it was the publicity that did the trick.

It also suggests taxpayers will be meeting the difference between the original obligation and the revised one.

The bloke had regaled sympathetic Fairfax reporters with the story behind his straitened circumstances (or some of what no doubt is a much more complex story of domestic arrangements that came unglued) earlier this week.

His fundamental claim was that nationwide changes to the child support system had left him struggling to feed the child still in his care.

Here’s what we were told:

Hawera’s Alan Lyall is one of many parents who have been affected by changes to the way child support is calculated by the IRD. The changes, said to be the biggest in 20 years, came into effect on April 1.

The problem for Lyall is not the fact he has to pay child support but how much he has been told to hand over. Lyall cares full time for his daughter, who is 16, while his other child – a 12-year-old – lives with his former partner.

After being made redundant in January, Lyall is currently on a job seeker benefit and receives about $417 a week. Out of this total, he paid $200 in rent, $60 towards a car re-payment and he saved $30 a week for power. Once the $80 child support payment leaves his account, he said he would only have about $47 to live on for the rest of the week.

“I can’t feed two people on that,” he said.

Lyall can’t complain he was caught by surprise about what he was expected to pay. He said he had received about three letters in as many weeks about his obligations.

The last of these said he was expected to start paying $80 every Thursday, a regime that started last week.

Lyall said this was unfair as the assessment had been based on what he was earning last year, rather than on his current circumstances.

He said while he had made regular child support payments in the past, of amounts varying between $30-$60 a week, the sharp spike he was now responsible to provide was a real worry.

“I don’t know how the hell we are going to survive,” he said.

In the meantime, Lyall said he had no other option but to stay at home to save money and petrol until he finds out if there will be any reprieve.

Of course, he might have sold the car and bought a bike instead. The roads are pretty flat around Hawera and bikes don’t require any petrol.

See. Instant savings. He should have consulted Alf.

He didn’t do that. He did get in touch with IRD, however, and this was smarter than taking your troubles to a newspaper in Alf’s way of doing things.

The 61-year-old said he had sent a form to IRD about his situation two weeks ago but had yet to hear back. A review process is also available for people like Lyall who disagree with decisions made by the tax department and is carried out by an independent officer.

Lyall said he had no family support to call on and had considered the option of selling off some of his personal possessions, including a dining table and chairs, at a garage sale to help make ends meet.

An IRD spokeswoman said the department would not comment on the status of individual cases citing privacy issues. Quite right.

But things happened yesterday and Stuff reports today that Lyall has been told he will now be required to pay only $20 a week for child support.

On Tuesday Alan Lyall, of Hawera, received nationwide attention after going public with concerns he had about making ends meet after his child support payment was re-calculated at $80 per week.

After calling the IRD to get an update about his case, Lyall said he was told a re-assessment had been completed on the same day his plight went public and he would now only be required to pay $20 a week.

“I’m bloody relieved,” he said.

Not bad.

And who is paying the $60 difference?

Guess.

In fact, Alan Lyall has done quite nicely out of taking his story to the press.

While things would still be tight before the revised payment regime started on April 16, Lyall said the help and assistance offered by complete strangers in response to his situation had been overwhelming.

“It makes you feel good that those types of people are out there.”

Donations of money and food were offered to the 61-year-old, something that he would have struggled to accept but might not have been able to turn down if his situation had remained unchanged.

“I’m a proud person. I like to help others but I don’t like to accept it.”

In response to Lyall’s story, others shared their own experiences, and frustrations, with the tax system on-line.

“I think it’s touched a nerve and maybe it will get the Government to take a look at what’s happening.”

Indeed.

But there are two ways of looking at it.

The Government has been bloody unreasonable with its changes to the payment regime.

That’s what the lefties and greenies will want you to believe.

The obverse side of the story is to ask who is really responsible for the child-raising costs when couples get cosy, spawn, and then separate.

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