Indexation of certain limits and thresholds for pensions and allowances took effect at the beginning of last month. Basil La Brooy, from National Seniors’ independent Financial Information Desk (FID), explains the changes.
While thresholds have increased, payment rates remain unchanged. Changes to the rates occur on 20 March and 20 September each year. Both assets and income tests determine the initial and continued rate of payment and whichever results in the lower payment applies.
Assets test thresholds
Under the assets test for pensions such as Age and Disability Support (aged 21 or over), a single homeowner can now have up to $258,500 of assessable assets before a reduction in the pension applies. A non-homeowner can have $465,500.
A part-pension is payable when assessable assets exceed these amounts. The pension reduces by $3 for every $1,000 above the thresholds. This is known as the taper rate and results in no pension being payable to single homeowners with assessable assets of $561,250 and above or to non-homeowners with $768,250 and above.
Homeowner couples can have up to $387,500 combined and non-homeowners can have up to $594,500 combined before payments reduce. The cut-off limits are $844,000 and $1,051,000 respectively.
For couples who are separated by illness, the threshold is the same as for other couples, but the limits where pensions cut out are $993,000 for homeowners and $1.2 million for non-homeowners.
The assets taper rate for couples is $3.00 per $1,000 combined or $1.50 per $1,000 each.
For pensioners who continue to qualify for payment under the transitional pre-20 September 2009 system, the assets limit for a single homeowner is $512,500 and for a non-homeowner $719,500. For a homeowner couple, the limit is $797,500 combined ($1,004,500 for non-homeowner couples). For couples in this group who are separated by illness, the limit for homeowners is $895,500 combined ($1,102,500 for non-homeowners).
For those in receipt of an allowance such as Newstart, the assets test limits remain the same. For recipients who own their own home, the payment cuts out when their assessable assets reach $258,500 for singles and $387,500 combined for couples. For non-homeowners the limits are $465,500 and $594,500 respectively.
Income test thresholds
The amount of income a pensioner can earn before the pension begins to reduce is $172 per fortnight for singles and $304 per fortnight combined for couples. For single pension recipients, the maximum income limit before they lose their pension is $1,987.20 and $3,040.40 combined for members of a couple. For couples separated due to illness the amount is $3,934.40 combined.
For those who continue to qualify for payment under the pre-20 September 2009 system, the income limit for a single is $2,077 while for a couple it is $3,378 combined. For those in this group who are illness separated couples, the limit is $4,114.
For singles and each eligible member of a couple in receipt of an allowance, the maximum assessable income before a reduction is $104. The income limits are: Single, 22 and over with no children $1,053.34; Singles over 60 and in receipt of payments for nine months $1,139.17 and partnered $963.50 each.
Within the income Test, the deeming system enables the assessment of income from certain financial assets held by those in receipt of or applying for GIS. For more information about Financial Assets please contact FID.
The deeming rate of 1.75% applies now to the first $51,200 for singles and $85,000 for couples combined, with the balance of financial assets deemed to earn 3.25%. For couples on allowances, the threshold is $42,500 each.
The use of the deeming rate means that single people in receipt of a pension who do not have any income from other sources and are within the Asset Test limits, can have financial investments of approximately $161,230 before their pension would reduce under the Income Test. For couples this amount is $282,430 combined.
For singles on an allowance the amount is $106,831 while for couples it is $102,815 each.
National Seniors’ members can use our free, independent Financial Information Desk by calling 1300020110 or emailing email@example.com. For specific Government Income Support enquiries call the Department of Human Services Financial Information Service on 13 23 00.
The information in this article does not constitute or imply financial advice. It is recommended that you seek professional financial advice and / or seek clarification from any relevant government department or licensed financial services provider before making financial decisions.