5 Posts

Potential Seniors Entitlements

Posted on November 22, 2019 by Helen Cooper

We have received a number of enquiries from clients seeking information on whether they qualify for a WA Seniors Card or Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card and how to apply for them. We have summarised the key points for each entitlement and trust you may find this information useful.

WA Seniors Card – Department of Communities

Seniors Card Holders are entitled to a range of government concessions and discounts of 10% to 50% off the price of goods & services.  The Seniors Card is combined with the Transperth SmartRider card allowing free travel on any Transperth bus, train or ferry at certain times on weekdays, concession fares at other times during the week and free travel all day Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

The Seniors Card Benefits:

  • Free off-peak travel as summarised above
  • Entitled to receive a rebate of up to 25% on Water & Local Government Rate charges capped at $100 (50% rebate if you hold a WA Seniors Card and also a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card capped at $600 for Water Service Charges and $750 for Local government rates)
  • Entitled to a 50% rebate on Driver’s licence
  • A Directory from over 600 businesses is posted to all Seniors Card holders every 2 years and can be sourced online.

To qualify:

  • To be eligible you need to be aged 63 years or above, please refer to the table below
  • Working less than 25 hours per week of paid employment (averaged over 12 month period)
  • Permanent Resident of Australia

Date of birth

Age to qualify for a WA Seniors Card

Before 1 July 1955

60 years

1 July 1955 to 30 June 1956

61 years

1 July 1956 to 30 June 1957

62 years

1 July 1957 to 30 June 1958

63 years

1 July 1958 to 30 June 1959

64 years

After 30 June 1959

65 years

The WA Seniors Card is a lifelong card that does not need to be renewed as long as the eligibility criteria are met.

  • Application Form is available on the Department of Communities WA Seniors Card Centre website www.seniorscard.wa.gov.au.
  • Download the Application Form from the above website or pick up a copy at the WA Seniors Card Centre or at your local Australia Post outlet
  • Telephone 6551 8800 or 1800 671 233 (country free call)
  • Email: info@seniorscard.wa.gov.au

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card – Department of Human Services

The Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card is available to self-funded retirees who have reached Age Pension age (currently 66 years or older for both men and women) and who are not eligible to receive the Government Age Pension. This health card is subject to an adjusted taxable income test plus any deemed amount from account-based pensions.  There is no assets test applicable.

If you hold a Seniors Card AND a Seniors Health Card you are entitled to receive:

  • Up to a 50% rebate on annual Water and Council rate charges
  • Discounts on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescription medicines
  • Government provides financial incentives for GPs to bulk-bill concession card holders
  • Reduction in the cost of out of hospital medical expenses through Medicare Safety Net
  • Concessional travel on Great Southern Rail services (The Ghan, Indian Pacific and The Overland)

To qualify:

  • Reached Pension Age – currently 66 years or older.
    • From 1 July 2019 the qualifying age for Age Pension will increase by 6 months every 2 years reaching 67 years by 1 July 2023.
  • You do not qualify for the Age Pension or Veteran Affairs benefits
  • Australian Resident
  • As at 20 September 2019, have an annual adjusted taxable income of less than:
    • $55,808 if you are single
    • $89,290 for couples
    • $111,616 couples separated due to ill health or respite care

Note :

Adjusted Taxable income is the sum of:

  • Taxable income as per your personal Australian Taxation Office Notice of Assessment
  • Add total net investment loss – eg. rental property and financial investment losses
  • Add any foreign income received that wasn’t taxable
  • Add the value of any employer provided benefits above $1,000 – eg. Car, Health Ins.
  • Add reportable superannuation contributions and reportable fringe benefits
  • If you are granted a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card on or after 1 January 2015, deemed income from an Account Based Pension entitlement including income deemed from an Account Based Pension owned by a card holder’s partner who is aged 60 years or more.

Deeming assumes that financials investments are earning a certain rate of income. The deeming rate applicable to an Account Based Pension entitlement from 1 July 2019 is as follows:

  • For singles – 1% is applied to the first $51,800 of the Account Based Pension entitlement and anything over $51,800 is deemed to earn 3%
  • For couples with at least one receiving an account based pension – 1% will apply to the first $86,200 of the combined value of the Account Based Pensions and 3% over and above $86,200
  • For couples with neither receiving a pension, 1% will apply to the first $43,100 of your own and your share of jointly owned financial investments and 3% over and above $43,100

If your investment return is higher than the deemed income, the extra income doesn’t count towards your assessable income. You may be ab le to get a deeming exemption in some cases.

The Deeming rates are updated annually in July. Based on the above rates, if for example you have no other Taxable income, you can qualify for the Commonwealth Seniors card if you’re Account Based Pension entitlement/s are below the following:

  • Single – Account Based Pension entitlement of $1,894,800 = deemed income of $55,808
  • Couples – Combined Account Based Pension entitlements of $3,033,800 = deemed income of $89,290

There is no asset test applicable to the Commonwealth Seniors Card.

You can apply for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card if you already have a Centrelink online account or through your myGov account linked to Centrelink. Otherwise print and complete the Claim for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card form available on the Human Services website www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/forms/sa296

Alternatively please contact our office on (08) 9316 7000 if you need assistance with completing an application or if you are unsure if you qualify.

What happens if I can’t afford my tax bill? Individuals with financial difficulties and serious hardship

Posted on by Tashia Jayasekera

Individuals and businesses go through ups and downs all the time. The ATO understands that because of this there may be times where you’re unable to lodge or pay by the due date. There are a number of ways that the ATO can help. The important part is making contact before the due date so that an efficient solution can be worked out. It is important to remember that it is your responsibility to meet your obligations, even if you use a tax agent.

So, what happens if you don’t pay on time?

  1. General interest charges accrue on any unpaid amounts
  2. The ATO may use any future tax refunds or credits automatically to repay your debt
  3. Your debt may be referred to an external debt collection agency
  4. The ATO can issue a garnishee notice to a person (e.g. your employer) or business (e.g. a bank) that holds money for you, or may hold money for you in the future. This requires them to pay your money directly to the ATO to reduce your debt.
  5. The ATO can file a claim or summons. This can lead to the court filing or serving a bankruptcy notice.

The list below steps through the options available to individuals experiencing financial difficulties and serious hardship. You can be considered to have financial difficulties where unexpected or extenuating circumstances leave you unable to pay your tax debt for a period of time. The ATO takes many factors into account when assessing a claim for financial difficulties and may request that evidence be provided in support of your request.

Lodgement extensions

Lodgment deferrals extend the due date for lodgment of a document providing additional time to lodge without incurring a failure to lodge on time (FTL) penalty. Generally, most requests for deferral are approved given that the ATO has been provided with all the necessary information. Most often these requests are denied for reasons such as if an individual has a long record of late lodgments’ including poor compliance with deferred due dates.

Payment plan

If you can’t pay by the due date, you may be able to set up a payment plan which allows you to pay in instalments. You need to consider what you can pay to ensure you can meet each ongoing payment amount, and future obligations. It is important to note that even if you’ve made a payment plan to pay late or by instalments, interest will accrue on the unpaid debt. The ATO has an online payment plan estimator which is helpful in determining how quickly you can pay off your debt including how much interest you’ll be charged.

Priority processing

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and expecting an income tax refund, the ATO accepts requests for priority processing. However, it is important to note that if you have an existing debt with the ATO, this action can result in a requirement to pay outstanding liabilities first.

Early access to your superannuation

Generally, you must be of preservation age to access your super. However, you may be eligible for early access in a limited set of circumstances. These include severe financial hardship, compassionate grounds and if you have a terminal medical condition. To be eligible under severe financial hardship, an individual must show that they are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses. The individual must also have received Commonwealth income-support payments continuously for 26 weeks.

Release from your tax debt

In certain circumstances, the ATO will remove some or all of an individual’s tax debt. The ATO can only assess releasing you from debt in circumstances where you are experiencing serious hardship. The definition of serious hardship is when payment of your debt would leave you unable to provide food, accommodation, clothing, medical treatment, education or other necessities for yourself, family, or others for whom you are responsible. Please note that only individuals can apply for release. It does not relate to companies, trusts or partnerships.

If you are experiencing financial difficulties and have any questions in relation to what options are available to you, please contact one of our Team on (08) 9316 7000.

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