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LawAccess NSW > Representing Yourself > Fines > Have you got a fine?

Multiple fines

If you have a large number of fines and you don't think you will ever be able to pay them, there are some options you can consider: 

    ​Financial counselling

    If you have a number of 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.

    Community Service Order

    If an overdue fine has been issued and hasn't been paid, 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 order if all of the other enforcement procedures have been unsuccessful.

    Alert Icon  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 order 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.

    Work and Development Order

    A Work and Development Order (WDO) involves doing an activity as a way of paying off some or all of the total fines that you owe. A WDO is only available if you:

    • have a mental illness
    • have an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment
    • have a serious addiction to drugs or alcohol
    • are homeless
    • are experiencing severe economic hardship.

    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).

    Your application must be supported by an approved organisation. The Revenue NSW website has a list of approved organisations. If you want to have medical treatment then you will need a medical practitioner, for example a doctor, to support your application.

    If you think you may be eligible for a Work and Development Order, contact the Revenue NSW Work and Development Order Hotline on 1300 478 879 or see the Revenue NSW website.

    For further assistence, you can contact:

    For more information, see  Fined Out, written by Legal Aid, Redfern Legal Centre and the Inner City Legal Centre.

    Alert Icon  If Revenue NSW refuses your application for a WDO you can appeal this decision to the Hardship Review Board. Before you make this appeal you should get legal advice.

    Write off

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

    You will need to show that because of your financial, medical or personal circumstances:

    • you are not able to pay the fine and will not be able to pay in the future
    • you don't have any property or possessions that can be taken and sold to pay the fine
    • you don't own any land
    • you cannot complete community service
    • a work and development order is not appropriate for you.

    Getting a write off can be a long process. Revenue NSW will first defer your fines for five years. In five years time, if your circumstances have not improved, Revenue NSW may write your fines off completely. Revenue NSW may not give you a write off if you get more fines during the five years that your fine is deferred.

    If you need help asking for a write off, you may be able to get free help from:

    You can also look at a resource called Fined Out. Fined Out was written by Legal Aid, Redfern Legal Centre and the Inner City Legal Centre and contains lots of useful information, together with sample forms and letters.

    For more information, see the Revenue NSW website or get legal advice.

    Alert Icon  If Revenue NSW refuses your application for a write off you can appeal this decision to the Hardship Review Board. Before you make this appeal you should get legal advice.

    Electing (choosing) to go to court

    If you don't believe you broke the law you may want to elect to challenge a fine in court. If you had a reason for breaking the law and you think the penalty is too harsh, you may also elect to go to court and explain what happened. The magistrate must consider your ability to pay any fine they give you.

    For more information, see Electing to go to court.

    You can elect to go to court up until the due date on your penalty reminder notice. If this date has passed, you will need to wait until you receive an overdue fine from Revenue NSW. You can apply to have an overdue fine cancelled (annulled), so that you can then challenge the fine in court. You will need to show that there is a good reason that explains why you did not elect to go to court earlier.

    For more information, see What if I do nothing?

    Alert Icon  Challenging a fine in court can be complicated and you may have to pay costs for the court to hear your matter. Before you elect to go to court, you should get legal advice.

    Bankruptcy

    If you have a number of debts that you cannot 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 end all fines debts. You will still have to pay fines that have been ordered by a court after your period of bankruptcy ends (usually three years). You will also have to pay any fines that you have received after you have been declared bankrupt.

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