More “free” money from the Government… but don’t spend it all at once

There are two key dates in the year that are important to anyone who receives a Centrelink benefit. Those dates are 20 March and 20 September.

It is on those days that pension and allowance benefits increase.

On 20 March 2015, the age pension for a single person increased by $5.90 per fortnight to $860.20 per fortnight. The rate for each member of a couple increased by $4.40 per fortnight to a combined rate of $1,296.80 per fortnight for a couple.

The Seniors Supplement which is paid as part of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, increased by $7.80 per annum to $1,262 per annum, for a single person and by $5.20 per annum each for members of a couple, increasing their combined annual payment to $1,898.

Readers may recall that in the 2014 Budget, the Government proposed stopping the payment of the Seniors Supplement for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders. The amending legislation is still before the Senate.

Deeming rates, which apply for the purposes of calculating income derived from financial investments, were also reduced to record low figures from 20 March. The new deeming rates are 1.75% up to the threshold, and 3.25% for financial investments over the threshold. The threshold for a single person is $48,000, and $79,600 for a couple, combined.

The email I received from the Department of Human Services made another important comment in relation to grandfathering of account based pensions for income testing purposes.

Where a person was in receipt of Government income support, such as an age pension before 1 January 2015 and they also had an account based pension in place before that date, the account based pension would continue to be assessed under the former (and often more favourable) income test rules. If the account based pension ceases for any reason, or the income support benefit ceases, even temporarily, the account based pension will then be subject to deeming.

The Department has reiterated that grandfathering will be lost where the benefit recipient receives no benefit payment of a “whole pay period”.

In a practical sense, this means people who have grandfathered account based pensions will need to exercise caution if planning on taking on casual work, even if only for a short period. If a fortnight’s income from casual work results in the loss of the age pension for just one fortnightly pay period, then the grandfathering of the account based pension is lost.

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