Help with multiple fines

Information about what help you can get if you have lots of old or unpaid fines.

If you have old or unpaid fines, it may help to get some free financial counselling. A financial counsellor may be able to help you:

  • decide what steps to take,
  • talk to Revenue NSW
  • write letters and fill out forms.

The Financial Counsellor's Association of NSW (FCAN) can help you to find a free financial counsellor. You can find services on the FCAN website or call them on 1300 914 408.

If an overdue fine has been issued and hasn't been finalised, Revenue NSW can make a Community Service Order (CSO) that requires you to do community service work to pay off the fine. Revenue NSW will only make a CSO if all of the other recovery actions have been unsuccessful.

It is often better to try and work out a way to pay the fine or apply for a write-off, rather than wait for a CSO to be made against you. This is because if you breach a CSO, Revenue NSW can issue a warrant for you to be arrested and sent to prison.

If you have been issued with a CSO or breached a CSO, you should get legal advice.

If you can’t pay your fine, you may be able to complete a Work and Development Order (WDO). A WDO involves doing an activity as a way of paying off some or all of your fines. A WDO is only available if you:

  • are experiencing serious financial hardship
  • are experiencing a mental health condition
  • have an intellectual or cognitive disability  
  • are experiencing homelessness 
  • are experiencing an alcohol or substance use disorder 
  • are under the age of 18. 

You must ask the Court that issued the fine (verbally or in writing) within the 28 days of the court order to complete a WDO. If you don't, additional costs may be added to the fine.

Once you make the request, the Court will refer your fine to Revenue NSW. You should then contact Revenue NSW. Revenue NSW will determine if you are eligible for a WDO. 

The activities you can do vary, depending on your personal circumstances. Activities can include:

  • unpaid work
  • medical or mental health treatment
  • a course
  • financial counselling
  • drug or alcohol treatment
  • a mentoring program (if you are under 25).

For more information, see Work and Development Orders.

If you are unable to pay a fine and this is unlikely to change, you can ask Revenue NSW for your fine to be written off.

You may be eligible if you:

  • are experiencing serious financial hardship and are unable to pay your fine
  • have a medical condition or are experiencing a situation such as family violence, that is preventing you from paying your fine
  • are unable to pay your fine via a payment plan or Work and Development Order (WDO).

If Revenue NSW approves your application, they will first postpone your fines for five years. After five years, if your circumstances have not improved, Revenue NSW may agree to write-off your fines completely. 

If you receive another overdue fine or your financial circumstances improve within five years, Revenue NSW may ask you to pay the fine. 

For more information, see Ask to have your fine written-off.

If you have received a fine, you may want to go to court if:

  • you don’t believe you broke the law, or
  • you did break the law, but you have an excuse, and you think the fine is too harsh.

You can do this even if you have paid your fine.

The fine you were given will be cancelled and the Court will decide what penalty you will receive, if any.

To apply to have an overdue fine heard in court, you need to prove that you were prevented from paying or managing your fine before the due date - this is called hindrance. You will need to supply supporting evidence, such as medical or travel documents.

You will also need to show that you took action to manage your fine within a reasonable time once you were no longer hindered from dealing with the fine.

For more information, see Go to court.

If you have a number of debts that you can’t pay, you may be considering becoming bankrupt. If you want to file for bankruptcy, you should first get legal advice and speak to a financial counsellor.

Bankruptcy does not automatically cancel all fines debts. You will still have to pay your court fines and any fines that you have received after you have been declared bankrupt.

For more information, see Bankruptcy.