Centrelink / Govt Payments

Concession cards

Centrelink offers a range of various concession cards which some people are eligible to receive. These cards provide people with financial benefits and access to services that will assist them in their day-to-day lives.

There are many different concession cards that are offered by Centrelink, however the three most common cards available are the:

  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Low Income Health Care Card

Details of each of the cards are provided in the table below.

Concession Card Available to those … Benefits Provided
Pensioner Concession Card Who are receiving a Centrelink pension, Carer Payment or Newstart Allowance
  • Reduced cost of medicines
  • Reduction in property and water rates
  • Reduction in energy bills
  • A telephone allowance
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Who have reached age pension age but do not qualify for the Age Pension.
  • Reduced cost of medicines
  • Bulk-billed GP appointments, at the discretion of the GP
  • Reduction in out-of-hospital medical expenses
  • Seniors Concession Allowance
Low Income Health Care Card Who satisfy the specific income test and meet other residency requirements
  • Reduced costs of medicines
  • Commonwealth health concessions
  • State and Local Government concessions

All concession cards have their own set of qualifying criteria that must be met before eligibility is achieved. Each concession card provides you with different benefits, which may vary from state to state.

We recommend you contact your financial planner to assess your situation and determine your eligibility for these concession cards.

Age Pension

To be eligible for Age Pension you must be 65 years of age or older.

From 1 July 2017, the qualifying age for Age Pension will increase from 65 years to 65 years and 6 months.

The qualifying age will then increase by 6 months every 2 years, reaching 67 years by 1 July 2023.

This is outlined in the following table.

Date of birth Females Males Earliest date of eligibility
Before 1 Jan 1949 Attained Attained Already eligible
1 Jan 1949 – 30 June 1952 65 65 1 Jan 2014 – 30 June 2017
1 July 1952 – 31 Dec 1953 65.5 65.5 1 Jan 2018 – 30 June 2019
1 Jan 1954 – 30 June 1955 66 66 1 Jan 2020 – 30 June 2021
1 July 1955 – 31 Dec 1956 66.5 66.5 1 Jan 2022 – 30 June 2023
On or after 1 Jan 1957 67 67 1 Jan 2024 onwards

In addition to the age restriction, you must also meet certain residency requirements before being deemed eligible to receive any Age Pension benefits.

The maximum pension you are entitled to receive will depend on whether you are single or part of a couple. The following table provides a breakdown of the maximum fortnightly pension entitlements. (current until 30 June 2017)

Relationship Status Maximum fortnightly pension (including supplements)
Single $888.30
In a couple $669.60 each

The actual amount of pension benefits you receive will be determined by applying both the Income Test and Assets Test. The test that results in you receiving the lower entitlement will be used.

Matters involving Centrelink can include some highly complex issues, therefore we recommend you contact your financial planner for further information.

More information regarding Pension benefits can be found on the Centrelink website at http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/subjects/age-pension-and-planning-your-retirement.

Income Test

The pension amount you receive from Centrelink may depend on results of the Income and Assets Tests, depending on the type of benefit you receive. If your benefit is subject to these tests, they will be applied to your circumstances and the test that results in the lower entitlement will apply.

For Centrelink purposes income is defined to mean any amount you earn, derive or receive for your own benefit, from within and outside Australia. It also includes any periodic payment you receive as a gift or allowance.

Payments from a superannuation income stream such as an account based pension are also included in the Income Test, however you will receive a deductible amount based on the breakdown of your super benefits. This deductible amount will help reduce the amount of the income stream which is assessed under the Income Test.

All earned income is directly included in the test, while your financial investments are subject to deeming rates, regardless of the income they actually produce. The deeming rates used on your financial investments depend on:

  • The amount of your investments
  • Whether you are single or part of a couple

There are upper and lower thresholds for the income test, which means you are able to receive an amount of income without it affecting your pension eligibility. If your income breaches the lower limit you may still be eligible to receive a part pension benefit, providing your income does not exceed the upper maximum limit.

Income Test Lower Threshold (fornightly)* Upper Threshold (fortnightly)*
Single $168.00 $1,944.60
Couple $300.00 $2,978.40

* These amounts are increased by up to $24.60 for each dependant child.

The deeming rates in effect 1 July 2016 are illustrated in the following table:

Deeming Rate Single Couple (Combined)
1.75% p.a. Balance up to $50,200 Balance up to $83,400
3.25% p.a. Balance over $50,200 Balance over $83,400

Use of these deeming rates means your investment income is based on the figures in the table above, and not the actual amount earned. This has been done so the Government can assess everyone based on an average, rather than having to use the time consuming task of working it out for each individual. Therefore, if you receive a better return on your money it may not necessarily affect your pension entitlement.

Your financial planner can help you determine your pension entitlements and also assist in maximising your pension through the implementation of various strategies.

Assets Test

For most Centrelink benefits, an Assets Test will be conducted along with an Income Test to determine your eligibility. The test that results in the lower entitlement will be applied.

The Assets Test examines your existing assets to determine your Centrelink benefits entitlement. This test includes both your financial and non-financial assets, with the net market value generally being the value that is used.

Assets that are not assessed under the Assets Test include your principal place of residence (if applicable) and also your superannuation accumulation benefits, providing you are under Age Pension age. Therefore there may be a possibility to maximise your potential Centrelink benefits by placing some of your superannuation benefits into the account of your spouse.

As is also the case with the Income Test, there are lower and upper thresholds for this test. This means that you are able to hold a certain amount of assessable assets and still receive the full pension entitlement. You may still be eligible to receive a part pension providing you do not breach the maximum assets threshold.

The lower and upper thresholds of the Assets Test vary depending on:

  • Whether you are single or part of a couple
  • Whether you are a homeowner or a non-homeowner

 

The table below details the relevant thresholds for the Assets Test. Pensions start reducing when assets are more than the following amounts.

 

Family situation Homeowners Non-homeowners
20 March 2017 20 March 2017
Single $253,750 $456,750
Couple combined $380,500 $583,500
Illness separated couple combined $380,500 $583,500
One partner eligible, combined assets $380,500 $583,500

 

Assets test limits for part pensions

Part pensions cancel when assets are more than the following amounts.

 

Family situation Homeowners Non-homeowners
20 March 2017 20 March 2017
Single $550,000 $753,000
Couple combined $827,000 $1,030,000
Illness separated couple combined $937,000 $1,176,000
One partner eligible, combined assets $827,000 $1,030,000

Your financial planner can assist your in determining your eligibility and can also suggest various strategies which may maximise your potential pension benefits.

First Home Owners Grant

The First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) is a Government initiative that has been created to help first home buyers meet the costs associated with the purchase of their first home. By providing a supplementary payment the government has made it significantly easier to buy your first home.

The exact details of each FHOG will vary between each state and territory, but you may also be eligible to receive a stamp duty transfer exemption. This will further assist you in meeting the costs of purchasing your first home.

To be eligible to receive the grant you must satisfy certain qualifying criteria in relation to the following matters:

  • Your residency status.
  • Your age.
  • Any previous residential property ownership.
  • The occupation of the home you plan on using the grant to purchase.

Each state and territory has their own specific set of qualifying criteria, therefore it is advised that you contact your financial planner for further information about this valuable grant.

Further information can also be obtained from the Australian Government’s Department of Family and Community Services website www.dss.gov.au.