Government Benefits All Retirees Should Know About (Part 1)

By Jack Standing | More Articles by Jack Standing

If you are a retiree in Australia, there is a range of government financial help available if you meet eligibility requirements. Contrary to popular belief, there is no ‘official’ retirement age in Australia. You can retire at any age you like, provided you can afford it. You can also work for as long as you like, provided you’re physically and/or mentally capable and you have a job.

However, there are specific ages when you become eligible to access a range of government financial benefits in retirement. In part 1 of this series, I will take a look at the following financial benefits, their specific eligibility requirements, and how you can claim them.

• the age pension
• the Pension Concession Card
• the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
• Seniors Cards
• rebates on utility bills
• the energy supplement
• discounts on council rates
• driver’s licence and vehicle registration concessions
• public transport and travel concessions
• Australian Defence Force concession cards

1. The age pension

Full or partial age pensions are available if you meet four requirements1:

• age eligibility.
• Currently, you must be at least 66 years of age. This age will rise to 66 years and 6 months on 1 July 2021 and 67 years on 1 July 2023.2
• you pass the age pension income test.
• Any income that you (and your partner, if you have one) receive must fall within specific threshold limits.3
• you pass the age pension assets test.
Any assets that you (and your partner, if you have one) own must fall within specific threshold limits.4
• you have been an Australian resident for at least 10 years.

Both full and partial age pension rates are reviewed twice a year by the federal government (in March and September).5

You can apply for the age pension through Services Australia (www.servicesaustralia.gov.au) within the 13 weeks before you are due to reach your age pension eligibility age.6

If you’re already receiving the age pension, make sure you keep Centrelink updated on your income and asset levels. If they drop, you (and your partner, if you have one) could be eligible for an increased pension.

2. Pensioner Concession Card

You can get a card if you get any of the following payments:7

• Age Pension
• Bereavement Allowance
• Carer Payment
• Disability Support Pension
• JobSeeker Payment or Youth Allowance and are single, caring for a dependent child and looking for work
• Parenting Payment single.

Your Parenting Payment single ends when your youngest child turns 8. You can keep your card for 12 weeks after your Parenting Payment ends.

You don’t need to apply for a Pensioner Concession Card. We’ll send you one if you’re eligible.

If you’re 60 and over, you can get a card if for more than 9 months you’ve been getting any of the following payments:

• JobSeeker Payment
• Parenting Payment partnered
• Partner Allowance
• Sickness Allowance
• Special Benefit
• Widow Allowance.
• If you have a partial capacity to work

You may also get a card if you have a partial capacity to work and you’re getting any of the following payments:

• JobSeeker Payment
• Parenting Payment partnered
• Youth Allowance as a job seeker.

If you find a job, you may be able to keep your card for a short time. It will be automatically sent to you once you qualify for the age pension. A Pensioner Concession Card entitles you to cheaper health care and medicines.

3. The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

If you aren’t eligible for the age pension (and therefore for a pensioner concession card), you may still be eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. This is a concession card that also allows you to access cheaper health care in Australia. It can enable you to:8

• get cheaper prescription medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
• bulk-bill doctor visits.
• get a larger Medicare refund on medical costs for out-of-hospital costs.

To be eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, you must meet four requirements:9

• you have reached your age pension eligibility age.
• you’re not eligible to receive for any payment from the Department of Human Services (including the age pension) or from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
• you’re an Australian resident and you live in Australia.
• Alternatively, you may hold a special category visa as a New Zealand citizen living in Australia.
• be under the income test limit
• It’s important to understand that the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card income test has different thresholds to the age pension income test.

You can apply for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card through accessing Centrelink via your myGov account.10

4. Seniors Card

You don’t have to be retired to access a Seniors Card. In Australia, you’re generally eligible to apply for one from your State or Territory government once you turn 60 years of age and you’re not working full-time. Eligibility criteria and the benefits you’re entitled to vary depending on where you live.

Examples of benefits that you can potentially obtain with a Seniors Card include discounts on government services such as public transport, council rates and utilities like electricity. You’ll also be entitled to any discounts or special deals offered by commercial businesses to Seniors Card holders.

5. Rebates on utility bills

All States and Territories in Australia offer rebates for age pensioners and seniors on utility bills like electricity and gas. Rebate amounts differ depending on where you live, but they could save you a significant amount over the course of a year.

You can find out about your potential rebate entitlements via the relevant government or council authority in your State or Territory. For example, in New South Wales, you can find out about the Seniors Energy Rebate at Service NSW (www.service.nsw.gov.au).

6. The energy supplement

You need to get certain payments or services from the government to get Energy Supplement.

You get Energy Supplement if you live in Australia and get either:

• an income support payment11
• ABSTUDY Living Allowance.

You might get Energy Supplement if you either:

• get Family Tax Benefit
• have a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.

If you get either of these 2 and an income support payment, you may not be eligible for the energy supplement. This depends on when you started getting the Family tax benefit or a commonwealth seniors health card. Detailed breakdown on eligibility dates for the Family Tax Benefit and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card below:

Family Tax Benefit

Date you became eligible for FTB Date the government will pay your energy supplement
After 20 March 2017 The government won’t pay it.
Between 20 September 2016 and 19 March 2017 The government stopped paying it on 20 March 2017.
On or before 19 September 2016 The government will pay it with your regular FTB payment. It will continue unless there’s a break in your eligibility for FTB.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

Date you became eligible for a CSHC Date the government will pay your Energy Supplement
After 20 March 2017 The government won’t pay it
Between 20 September 2016 and 19 March 2017 The government stopped paying it on 20 March 2017
Before 19 September 2016 It will continue unless there’s a break in your eligibility for CSHC
Date you started being eligible Date the government will pay your Energy Supplement
On or before 19 September 2016 The government will pay it with your regular CSHC payment. It will continue unless there’s a break in your eligibility for CSHC

7. Discounts on council rates

If you own or are paying off your home, all councils in Australia offer rate discounts for age pensioners and seniors. Again, the discount amounts vary depending on where you live, but you could save a significant amount over the course of a year.

You can find out about your entitlement to discounted rates by contacting your local council directly.

8. Driver’s licence and vehicle registration concessions

All States and Territories in Australia offer concessions on driver’s licence and vehicle registration costs for seniors and pensioners. Yet again, the concession amounts vary depending on where you live, but you could save a significant amount.

You can find out about your entitlement to driver’s licence and registration concessions by contacting the relevant government department in your State or Territory (e.g. Service NSW).

9. Public transport and travel concessions

All States and Territories in Australia also offer a range of public transport and travel concessions to seniors and pensioners. The eligibility conditions, the range of concessions and the amounts vary depending on where you live, but you could save a significant amount. For example, in New South Wales a $250 Regional Seniors Travel Card is available that can be used for fuel, taxi and public transport.

You can find out about your entitlement to public transport and travel concessions by contacting the relevant government department in your State or Territory (e.g. Service NSW).12

10. Australian Defence Force concession cards

If you have served with the Australian Defence Force, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides a range of health concession cards. Healthcare and pharmaceutical benefits are available, depending on whether you have seen active service or not during your time with the Australian Defence Force.

Keep an eye out next week for Part 2 of this series where I will examine the Medicare Safety Net, the Seniors and Pensioners Tax Offset (SAPTO, Dividend imputation credits and Tax-free super.

Reference List

1. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension
2. https://www.dss.gov.au/seniors/benefits-payments/age-pension
3. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/topics/income-test-pensions/30406
4. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension/how-much-you-can-get/assets-test
5. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension/how-much-you-can-get
6. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension/how-claim
7. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/pensioner-concession-card/who-can-get-card#a1
8. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/commonwealth-seniors-health-card
9. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/commonwealth-seniors-health-card
10. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/commonwealth-seniors-health-card/how-claim
11. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/topics/income-support-payment-description/34696
12. https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/regionalseniorstravel

Jack Standing

About Jack Standing

Jack Standing is the National Head of the Advice Team for Spring FG Wealth. His primary responsibilities cover advice and strategy development, adviser training and education as well as being a ‘responsible manager’ of the group’s AFSL. Jack holds a Bachelor of Economics (Finance & Economics), an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning and is an accredited Self-Managed Superannuation Fund specialist.

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