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Inland Revenue undertook research to understand customers reactions to potential changes to the Child Support penalty scheme. The Child Support Amendment Bill was introduced in March 2020 for the purpose of changing some of the rules tested in this research.

We carried out qualitative interviews with 27 customers, including 21 liable parents and 6 receiving parents located in Auckland, Gisborne, Palmerston North and Christchurch. We spoke to customers about their experiences with debt and penalties to understand their motivation for, and barriers to, payment. We also tested scenarios of change relating to the penalty scheme.

The findings show that customers' experiences influence how they engage with Child Support, and they view penalties as being a result of complex rules, competing priorities, precarious employment, emotional and financial stress. The overall feeling was that the payment framework needed to help customers navigate the Child Support journey more easily. Liable and receiving parents wanted the penalties to remain, but expected leniency around application of penalties, grace period for those starting the child support process, and flexibility around the due date.