Responding to Revenue NSW recovery action

Fined Out factsheet 5

If you have been sent an overdue fine notice and you want to avoid further Revenue NSW recovery actions, you can do one of these things:

  • pay the overdue fine,
  • apply to Revenue NSW for a payment plan,
  • apply to Revenue NSW for a Work and Development Order (WDO),
  • apply for a stay of the overdue fine,
  • apply to Revenue NSW for an internal review by following the same process as you do for fine notices,
  • apply to have your fine heard in court to Revenue NSW if you can prove why you didn’t deal with the fine before it became overdue,
  • apply to Revenue NSW for the fine to be written off,
  • if Revenue NSW has refused an application for write off or payment plan, apply to the Hardship Review Board (HRB),
  • apply for remission of the fine, or
  • consider bankruptcy. 

Once you pay the outstanding fine debt and additional costs no more recovery action will be taken.

Contact Revenue NSW to set up a payment plan. You can do this yourself or through an advocate. [* see Factsheet 9]

If Revenue NSW accepts your payment plan application, you will be granted an extension of time – enough to pay off your fines according to the plan.

To apply for a payment plan you can:

  • Call Revenue NSW Monday to Friday between 7am to 7pm, or

o   Fines: 1300 138 118

o   Overdue fines: 1300 655 805

  • complete a written application, or
  • apply online through the MyPenalty or MyEnforcement  portal on the Revenue NSW website.

You should do all this before the due date on the overdue fine (to avoid further recovery action), but you can put in a payment plan application at any time.

It is important that your application is realistic – it’s better for you and for Revenue NSW if you set up a plan you can manage rather than one that is so hard you are likely to default on it.

If you have defaulted on previous payment plans or receive a new overdue fine and are in arrears on your existing payment plan, Revenue NSW may request an increased payment plan amount or lump sum payment.

If your application is approved, Revenue NSW will send you a payment plan which tells you:

  • how much you have to pay,
  • the dates when you have to make payments,
  • how to make the payments including an option to set up direct debit from your bank account, and
  • what overdue fines are included in the payment plan.

Setting up a payment plan should mean that recovery action stops and suspensions on your driver licence or car registration will be lifted, however conditions apply. 

If you are on a Centrelink or Veterans benefit, you can have your payment plan instalments automatically deducted from your fortnightly payments through the Centrepay program. Also, you do not have to wait until you have received overdue fines notice to set up a payment plan using Centrepay – you can do it as soon as you get a penalty notice or court fine. 

To set up deductions using the Centrepay program, contact Revenue NSW or fill in and send them the Payment Plan Application. The second page of the application contains a Centrepay deduction authorisation.

You can also set up your court fine Centrepay payments through the court registry. Ask the registry staff for the form.


If you miss an instalment payment, the rest of the fines become payable immediately and recovery action can be taken. However, if you make the payment within one week of the date the payment is due, you will not be in default.

So, if you:
  • default on a payment plan
  • are going to default on a payment, or
  • have been sent another fine enforcement order,

let Revenue NSW know immediately and, if necessary, apply to set up a payment plan that fits better with your circumstances.

Any Revenue NSW decision about your payment plan can be reviewed by the Hardship Review Board (HRB). The HRB can direct Revenue NSW to:
  • make, revoke (undo) or vary a WDO or payment plan; or
  • write off all or part of an unpaid fine.

See our step-by-step guide for more information on making an application to the HRB.

If you are going to set up a payment plan with Revenue NSW you need to work out how much you can afford for each repayment. One way to do this is to speak to a financial counsellor for free.

A financial counsellor can:
  • work out exactly what your financial situation is
  • help you understand and fill in the application form
  • advise you about ways you can manage your money
  • work out a budget and
  • help negotiate with people you owe money to.

To find out details of free and accredited financial counsellors in NSW, contact the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or visit


WDOs allow eligible people to clear their outstanding fines by doing activities like unpaid work, courses, treatment programs and other activities with an approved organisation or registered health practitioner. Activities must be undertaken with an approved WDO sponsor.

Revenue NSW recovery action stops when the WDO is approved and Transport for NSW restrictions, such as driver licence suspension, are lifted immediately.

Work and Development Orders allow eligible people to clear (pay off) their fines by doing activities like unpaid work, courses, counselling, mentoring (if under 25) or treatment programs. Activities must be undertaken with an approved WDO sponsor.

Revenue NSW enforcement action stops when the WDO is approved and Transport for NSW restrictions, such as driver licence suspension, are lifted immediately.

Who is eligible for a WDO?

You may be eligible for a WDO if you:

  • are under 18 years of age,
  • are experiencing serious financial hardship,
  • receive a Centrelink or Veterans benefit,
  • are homeless,
  • have an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment,
  • have a mental illness, or
  • have a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or other volatile substances (in which case you must do drug or alcohol treatment and/or counselling as your WDO activity if that is your only eligibility).


You only need to meet one eligibility criteria to do a WDO.

A WDO allows you to do an activity or undertake a treatment program instead of paying money for your fine. Activities can include:

  • unpaid work,
  • education, training or life skills courses,
  • counselling (includes case management),
  • financial counselling,
  • medical or mental health treatment programs,
  • drug or alcohol treatment, or
  • mentoring programs (for young people under 25).
Joanne’s story

Joanne is 17 and on Youth Allowance. She’s been couch surfing for a few months because of problems at home. Joanne has fines of $600 for catching trains without a ticket and driving as an unaccompanied learner. She wants to clear her fines so she can get her licence.

Joanne can get a WDO because she is homeless. She is doing some programs at her local youth centre, including a barista course, and is in a mentoring program. Joanne can clear her fines and learn some new skills at the same time.

The rate that a WDO activity reduces a fine debt is set out in the table below. The maximum amount that a fines debt can be reduced each month is $1,000.

You can only have one WDO open at a time. You can do multiple activities in a WDO up to $1,000 a month.

WDO Activity

Some examples



Courses at TAFE, university or college.

Life skills programs like cooking, gardening, anger management, positive parenting or learning to drive programs.

Training courses in computer skills or job preparation.

$50 per hour

Counselling (includes case management)

Individual therapy with a counsellor or psychologist to improve mental health, emotional or behavioural issues.

Family counselling.

Group counselling for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault or support groups for women with postnatal depression.

Financial counselling.

Case management meetings with a social worker.

$50 per hour

Unpaid work

Volunteering at a charity organisation, neighbourhood centre or community garden.

$30 per hour

Medical or mental health treatment

Following a written treatment plan from a health practitioner.

Seeing a psychologist or mental health nurse under a GP’s mental health care plan.

Up to $1,000 per month

Drug and alcohol treatment

Drug and alcohol counselling.

Residential rehabilitation programs.

Supervised outpatient detoxification programs.

Up to $1,000 per month

Being mentored (a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor)

Mentoring program at a youth service.

Working one-on-one with an experienced person, such as an Elder, to achieve your goals

Mentoring for ex-prisoners to provide post-release support.

Up to $1,000 per month

The first step in getting a WDO is to link up with a sponsor. A sponsor is an organisation or health practitioner that is registered to participate in the WDO Program and who is willing to supervise activities under a WDO. WDO sponsors include:

  • non-profit organisations like neighbourhood centres, charities, youth services, drug and alcohol services, some job active providers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations,
  • for profit organisations like job active providers, training organisations and allied health professionals like mental health social workers
  • government agencies like Youth Justice, Corrective Services, education providers and health services, and
  • registered health practitioners like psychologists, doctors, and nurses,

A WDO starts when the sponsor lodges an online application for you with Revenue NSW.

A sponsor organisation cannot charge you to do a WDO. However, you may be asked to pay the normal fees paid by all participants like TAFE fees.
Noel’s story
Noel is an Aboriginal man with a young family. He has unpaid fines dating back to 1998 when he was fined as a kid for skateboarding in a prohibited place. Noel wants his licence back so he can get to work and drive his family around. He is accepted into the WDO program at the local Aboriginal Land Council doing voluntary work. He does seven hours every Friday, which equals $840 a month off his debt. Noel gets his licence back as soon as his WDO is approved and he completes his WDO in just over three months.

If you are working with a support service or health practitioner, they may already be participating in the WDO Program and you could ask them to sponsor you. If they are not already registered, ask if they would be willing to lodge an application to become an approved WDO sponsor. [* see How to become a WDO sponsor]

If you are not already working with a suitable service or health practitioner, there is a list of WDO sponsors on Revenue NSW’s website or you can call the Revenue NSW WDO hotline on 1300 478 879.

If you are having difficulty finding a sponsor in your area, Legal Aid NSW have a WDO Service which may be able to help with a referral. To find a service near you call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or send an email to

Becoming an approved WDO sponsor is straightforward. The WDO Guidelines set out the criteria and supporting documentation to be submitted with the application. You apply online.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a WDO sponsor, Legal Aid NSW have a specialist WDO Service which offers free advice, assistance and education to organisations and health practitioners interested in participating the WDO Scheme. To contact your local WDO Service:

Once you have found a WDO sponsor you will need to get together to work out a plan of activities for you to do for your WDO. This might be one activity or a combination of different activities. You may be doing all the activities with the sponsor organisation or they may refer you out to do some of them with another organisation. The maximum amount you can pay off is $1,000 a month.

There is no limit on the amount of fine debt that can be cleared with a WDO. It is possible to pay off large fine debts with the support of your sponsor.

If you have completed a WDO and still owe money to Revenue NSW, you will need to make an arrangement to pay the balance of the debt. You, or your advocate, can contact Revenue NSW about entering into a payment plan, applying for another WDO or applying for a write off of the remaining balance.

If you do nothing about paying the remaining balance, Revenue NSW will start recovery action, which may result in additional costs and Transport for NSW restrictions or other actions.

Revenue NSW can vary or revoke a WDO at any time if your circumstances change.

Revenue NSW may change your WDO if:

  • you get more fines and you want to include them in your WDO, or
  • you want to undertake new or different activities (if your sponsor is approved for those activities and notifies Revenue NSW).

Revenue NSW may cancel your WDO if:

  • false information is provided to Revenue NSW about the WDO (This may also result in fines debt that had been reduced under the WDO being reinstated if you are no longer eligible.),
  • the sponsor is unable to continue to supervise the WDO, or
  • you have failed without a good reason to do activities under the WDO. Revenue NSW can only do this after they have taken reasonable steps to consult with you and the sponsor.

While there is no penalty for not completing a WDO, recovery action will commence for any outstanding balance unless you make arrangements with Revenue NSW to deal with the fines.

If you disagree with any decision Revenue NSW makes about your WDO you can apply to the Hardship Review Board (HRB) for a review. The HRB can direct Revenue NSW to make, revoke or vary a WDO, or to write off all or part of an unpaid fine. 

You can ask Revenue NSW to hold recovery action for a short period.   You can ask for a hold when you are trying to get information and documents together for a payment plan application, or a write off application, or if you will soon have the money to pay the fine and the additional costs. You can also ask for a hold while you are organising a WDO.

You can apply for a hold either by phoning or writing to Revenue NSW. You will need to explain why you are applying for a hold and may have to provide supporting documents. An advocate can also apply for a hold on your behalf.

Hold on recovery action for prisoners

When you go into custody Corrective Services NSW will let Revenue NSW know that you are in gaol and your estimated date of release.

If you don’t think this has happened you can fill out an Inmate Request for Information Form (IRI), or call Revenue NSW on 1300 554 450. Alternatively, Revenue NSW is also listed on the Common Auto Dial List (CADL).

When Revenue NSW know you are in gaol, you will have recovery action paused until three months after you are released.

You can get IRI forms from Corrective Services NSW staff or from Revenue NSW. These staff will also be able to tell you if you are eligible to do a WDO while in gaol.

You can also apply to have your overdue fine referred to the court and heard by a magistrate if you have a good reason why you were unable to respond to a fine notice earlier. You should contact Revenue NSW in the first instance with your supporting evidence. If this is unsuccessful, you may still be able to apply to have the matter dealt with by a court. Ignorance of the time limit would not be sufficient reason.

Revenue NSW has the power to write off all or part of your unpaid fines in a few circumstances. Revenue NSW can decide by itself to write off all or part of an unpaid fine, or it can do it in response to an application from you, an advocate or a WDO sponsor on your behalf.

To have fines written off, you, or someone helping you, can use the online write off application portal on the Revenue NSW website.

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, or
  • are unable to pay your fine via a payment plan or Work and Development Order (WDO).

You will need to include supporting documents, such as medical reports, financial documents, letters from social workers or welfare agencies, copies of court orders, etc. [* see Part 9]

If your application is successful the overdue fines will be written off, on the conditions that:

  • you do not have any further fines referred to the Revenue NSW for five (5) years, and
  • you advise Revenue NSW if your financial, medical or domestic circumstances change within five years.

If in that five years your circumstances improve or you receive a new overdue fine, Revenue NSW can revoke the write off and start to take recovery action on any unpaid fine.

There are different ways that a write off can be revoked, a Legal Aid NSW lawyer will be able to help you with your situation. Call LawAccess NSW to be referred to the Legal Aid NSW WDO team.

Any Revenue NSW decision about writing off a fine can be reviewed by the Hardship Review Board (HRB). The HRB can direct Revenue NSW to write off all or part of an unpaid fine. For more information on making an application to the HRB.  [* see Applying to the Hardship Review Board (HRB) below]


If your fine is written off it means you don’t have to pay the fine but the record of the offence, and any demerit points you lost, do not change.

How to have your fine written off 

Apply to Revenue NSW and supply your supporting evidence at Write Off Application.

You, or someone acting for you, can apply to the HRB for a review of a Revenue NSW decision about:

  • A payment plan application
  • A WDO application or order
  • Writing off of all or part of an unpaid fine.

An application form and additional information is available on the HRB website.

John’s story

John’s mum worked at the local Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) and had heard that Legal Aid NSW was running a “bring your fines day” at the local community hall. She told John that he should go and the lawyers could help him with his fines. John had $5,500 worth of unpaid fines and enforcement costs. He had also lost his driver licence because of the unpaid fines. John saw Sarah from Legal Aid NSW. He told her that he had been unwell for a long time, with a muscle wasting disease that would eventually mean he would be unable to walk. He could no longer work and received a disability support pension. John said it would be really helpful if he could get his licence back, while he was still able to drive, so he could get out a bit and go to medical appointments.

Sarah wrote to John’s doctor at the Aboriginal Medical Service and asked if she could provide a medical report with information about John’s illness. John’s doctor wrote back detailing John’s condition and confirmed it was degenerative, which would eventually mean John would be in a wheelchair. Sarah applied for a write off to Revenue NSW, based on John’s serious health problems. Revenue NSW wrote John’s fines off. It was clear that he had a serious medical condition and would not be able to pay his fines. When John’s fines were written off his licence restrictions were lifted.

Revenue NSW may suspend recovery action while your application to the HRB is being dealt with, but they don’t have to unless they are directed to by the HRB. The HRB can do its review without you being there. It will look at your circumstances, including your ability to pay now and in the future, what other recovery action could be taken against you and your suitability for a WDO.

The HRB can then direct Revenue NSW to:

  • make, remove or change an order about a payment plan application,
  • make, remove or change an order about a WDO, or
  • write off all or part of an unpaid fine.

Note: The HRB cannot direct Revenue NSW to lift Transport for NSW restrictions. For information about getting Transport for NSW restrictions lifted.

The NSW Governor, on the recommendation of the Attorney General, can remit fines. This means that the fine is treated as if it has been paid. You might apply for remission if your application for write off has been rejected, or if the reason you are asking for remission is different from the reasons you use for a write off.

You must apply for remission in writing to the Community Relations Division, Department of Communities and Justice. You must also give details of why you are asking for it and provide supporting documents. Usually people ask for remission on compassionate grounds. Once your application is in, recovery action stops and any restrictions (such as Transport for NSW restrictions) are lifted until a decision is made. The process can take over two months.

Note: If your fine is remitted it means you don’t have to pay the fine but the record of the offence, and any demerit points you lost, do not change.

Bankruptcy is a big step, and it means serious restrictions on your life. These restrictions continue until you are “discharged” from bankruptcy, which usually happens automatically after three years. When a person is discharged from bankruptcy, they are released from most of their debts, but not all.

A “provable” debt is a debt which will be extinguished when the period of bankruptcy ends. A debt that is not “provable” will continue to be enforceable even after a person is “discharged” (released) from bankruptcy. Non provable debts are listed in Section 82 of the Bankruptcy Act and include penalties or fines imposed by a court.

Fines are not specifically described as non-provable debts in Section 82 of the Bankruptcy Act. It is arguable that they are provable debts in bankruptcy and not enforceable once a person is discharged from bankruptcy. The Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) is the agency that administers and regulates Australia’s insolvency system. AFSA say that even if you go bankrupt, there are some situations where state government agencies may be able to continue with enforcement activity for unpaid fines. Because of changes to the fines system, which take into consideration financial hardship, it is advisable to explore other options for addressing unpaid fines before considering bankruptcy. If you have other debts in addition to unpaid fines a financial counsellor can help to explore options for dealing with these.

If you do not pay your fine, Revenue NSW can ask Transport for NSW to impose restrictions. The restrictions could be a driver licence suspension, vehicle registration cancellation and customer business restriction. They will also add their own additional costs on top of the Revenue NSW enforcement costs.

Note: Community workers, financial counsellors and lawyers can use a special hotline number to speak with Revenue NSW officers. This will often speed up the process of getting Transport for NSW restrictions lifted. To use the hotline, you must be a registered advocate. Most of the contacts listed in the back of this resource are for registered advocates. To become a registered advocate, you can contact Revenue NSW, or you can visit their website.

Revenue NSW can direct Transport for NSW to remove restrictions in the following circumstances:

  • you have paid your fines,
  • you start a WDO,
  • you set up a payment plan, 
  • you have not previously defaulted on a payment plan, 
  • you pay money towards your fine immediately over the phone 
  • there are compelling reasons to lift (or not impose) Transport for NSW restrictions such as:
    • you need your licence to be able to work,
    • you have to drive someone who is ill to medical appointments,
    • you are ill and need to drive yourself to medical appointments,
    • you live in a remote location and have no access to public transport, or
    • you live in an Aboriginal community and have enrolled in a driver training program or school to obtain your licence.

Otherwise restrictions will only be lifted once you set up a payment plan. You may also be asked to make an upfront payment or a number of your part payments before restrictions will be lifted.

Don’t start driving again until you are sure the restrictions have been lifted – always check with Service NSW and Revenue NSW first. Your licence may have been suspended due to other traffic offences like demerit points and will stay in place even if your fines are paid in full or under management.

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