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Benefits and entitlements for retirees and seniors

There are many different payments and supplements available to seniors and retirees to help with daily living and health expenses.

Key points:

  • Different payments and supplements are available to help with daily living expenses 

  • The Age Pension is one of the main income support payments for older people

  • A financial planner can help you access benefits you may not know about

Older man using his laptop to look at options for himself
There are many different benefits available for older Australians to access that can provide financial assistance. [Source: iStock]

You may be able to access financial support towards energy payments, receive a regular payment because you're caring for a loved one or are entitled to free health assessments.

Below we've outlined the most commonly accessible benefits and entitlements to help you get started.

All of these benefits are available from Services Australia and are accessed through Centrelink but it's also a good idea to check with your local Government Health Departments for other available supplements or programs specifically for your State or Territory.

Age Pension

The Age Pension is an income support payment from the Federal Government for people who have reached the age of 66 and over, who have income and/or assets that are under the applicable limits, and meet all residency requirements.

You can receive the age pension straight away after you turn 66 and you retire or can start accepting it after your superannuation is under the applicable income and asset limits.

The maximum basic rate for the Age Pension (as of 1 July 2021) is $860.30 for a single person or $1,309 for a couple combined.

If you own a home, that can impact how much pension you can receive. You will be subject to an assets test to determine how much the Government will pay you. You can receive the full pension if your assets are not more than the current asset test limit, which is up to $270,500 for a single person or up to $405,000 for a couple combined (as of 1 July 2021).

If you aren't a homeowner, you can receive the full pension up to $482,50 in assets as a single person or up to $616,000 in assets as a couple combined.

If you continue working past the Age Pension age, you may be eligible for a partial Age Pension. 

You can claim the Age Pension through Services Australia, however, Centrelink administers the payment. Call the Centrelink Older Australians line on 13 23 00 to see if you are eligible or for more information.

Carer Allowance

Many older people who care for a partner with medical conditions don't see themselves as carers. 

In many cases, in a retiree relationship, either one spouse is providing care to the other or they care for each other. And usually, people are unaware they qualify for financial assistance.

If you provide daily care to an adult or child with disability, you may be able to receive the Carer Allowance.

The Carer Allowance is $131.90 per fortnight (as of 9 February 2021) and covers a maximum of two adults. 

For more information about Carer Allowance, visit the Services Australia website to find out if you are eligible or to claim the allowance, or call the Centrelink Disability, Sickness and Carers Line on 13 27 17.

Carer Payment

If you are providing ongoing or constant care to a person with a disability or illness, you may also qualify for a Carer Payment. This payment aims to assist people who have caring duties that stop or impact them from being able to work in paid employment.

The Carer Payment is an income and assets tested support payment, which is considered a form of Government pension.

The eligibility rates for the Carer Payment are the same as the Income and Asset thresholds for the Age Pension.

To find out more about the Carer Payment, head to the Services Australia website or to start the claim process. Or you can call the Centrelink Disability, Sickness and Carers Line on 13 27 17.

Carer Supplement

The Carer Supplement is a once a year lump sum to top up carers financially besides receiving their normal income payments.

You may be eligible to receive the supplement of $600 per person per year if you receive an income support payment like the Carer Allowance, Carer Payment, Department of Veterans' Affairs Partner Service Pension and Carer Allowances, or Department of Veterans' Affairs Carer Service Pension.

If eligible for the payment, you will receive the supplement for each person you care for. If you are a part time carer, you'll get a part rate of this Carer Supplement depending on how much care hours you currently provide.

You do not have to apply for the supplement, Centrelink will automatically pay you the supplement directly into your bank account if you are eligible and already receive the income support option listed above.

For more information, visit the Services Australia website.

Pensioner Concession Card

Receiving the Age Pension will automatically qualify you for the Pensioner Concession Card.

The Concession Card provides discounts on medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), utilities, council rates, and more. 

This could mean cheaper medication, having your doctor visits bulk billed, bigger refunds for medical costs, and lower rates on household necessities including public transport, motor vehicle registration, and property and water rates.

Additionally, each State and Territory may have different benefits for Concession Card holders.

If you are eligible, you do not need to apply for the Pensioner Concession Card, Centrelink will automatically mail you your card.

For more information about the Pensioner Concession Card, visit the Services Australia website.

Commonwealth Senior Health Care Card

The Commonwealth Senior Health Care Card is similar to the Pensioner Concession Card, however, it is for people that are not eligible for an income payment but have reached the Age Pension age.

You may not be eligible for the Age Pension because of assets exceeding the allowable limits or don't meet the minimum residency requirements. 

Seniors can receive this card if their adjusted annual taxable income (from 20 September, 2020 on) is below $55,808 for singles or $89,290 for couples. 

This card is to provide some financial assistance through cheaper health care and some discounts. For example, medication may be cheaper, you can bulk bill doctors visits, and have refunds on your medical costs, or can have lower electricity, gas, property, water and public transport fees.

To learn more about the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, head to the Services Australia website.

Seniors Card (different from State to Territory)

A Seniors Card is a complementary, free card available to people aged 60 and over who aren't working paid employment over a set number of hours per week. 

The discounts are different between each State and Territory, however, most provide concessions on transport or discounts with certain businesses.  

To apply for a Senior Card or for more information, you will need to go through your State or Territory Government website to apply:

Some benefits can include free travel during off-peak times, local Government rate rebates, water rate rebates, special offers with business partners like allied health, hotels and restaurants, and more, and discounts with hundreds of different businesses in your State or Territory.

Additionally, depending on the bank you are with, you may be able to receive lower bank fees on your bank account if you have a Senior Card or Concession Card.

Some Seniors Cards also run monthly competitions with local businesses, which you could be eligible for winning if you enter.

Seniors and Pensioners Tax Offset (SAPTO)

The Seniors and Pensioners Tax Offset (SAPTO) aims to increase an eligible individual's tax-free threshold, which means you won't have as much income tax to pay. It isn't considered a refund.

Depending on your circumstances, SAPTO could reduce your payable tax to zero, so you may not have to lodge a tax return at all.

Your eligibility for the SAPTO will be assessed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) once you submit your tax return.

To be eligible for the SAPTO, you must be receiving the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) Pension or Age Pension, and you must have a rebate income threshold test to see if you can receive a full or part offset.

Both you and your spouse can be found eligible for SAPTO, and if you have unused SAPTO, this can be transferred to your spouse.

The current (as of 1 June, 2021) maximum tax offset is $2,230 for singles and $1,602 for each member of a couple.

To learn more about SAPTO, head to the Australian Taxation Office website.

Work bonus

If you are a pensioner but still working some hours, you may be able to receive the Work Bonus, which can help you earn more income from working without impacting how much you receive from your pension.

The Work Bonus aims to reduce the employment income amount or eligible self-employment income that is applied to the income test.

The first $300 of fortnightly income will not be assessed and not counted towards the pension income test. These credits will be offset against your employment income before reducing your pension.

For example, if you don't work, you will have $300 added to your Work Bonus balance each fortnight up to $7,800. But if you do work, the Work Bonus eligible income will reduce your Work Bonus balance before reducing your pension.

So if you earn less than $300 a fortnight, Centrelink will reduce your eligible income to zero, or if you earn $300 a fortnight, the $300 Work Bonus will reduce your employment income to zero and it won't change your Work Bonus balance. 

You can get the Work Bonus for employment income if you are working in or outside Australia, on paid leave while employed, director's fees, or self-employment with active participation. You cannot get the Work Bonus on inactive participation for self-employment, investments, or superannuation.

To learn more about the Work Bonus, visit the Australian Government website.

Pension Loans Scheme

If you own property in Australia, you could be eligible for the Pension Loans Scheme.

The Pension Loans Scheme is a non-taxable loan provided each fortnight that is designed to boost your retirement income by up to 1.5 times the maximum of your pension.

This loan does need to be repaid with interest to the Government, and paying back the loan can be done at any time. However, the longer you leave repaying the loan, the more interest you will pay. The current yearly interest rate for the loan is 4.5 percent. 

For more information, visit the Services Australia Centrelink website or to learn how to apply for the loan.

Essential Medical Equipment Payment

If you have medical equipment or medically require heating or cooling in your home, then you may be eligible for a yearly payment to help with energy costs.

You can receive $164 per year (as of 8 July 2021) for medically required heating or cooling and each piece of qualifying essential medical equipment.

Some eligible medication conditions include spinal cord injuries, stroke, brain injury, muscular dystrophies, or rare sweating disorders. Other eligible conditions can be found on the Centrelink website. There is also a list of equipment that would be eligible under the payment.

You might have to provide evidence of the equipment you use and what for, so you can receive the payment.

To claim the Medical Equipment Payment, visit the Centrelink website.

Energy Supplement

The Energy Supplement assists pensioners, income support recipients and Seniors Health Card holders with financial support to pay for household energy expenses.

It is a fortnightly payment with your regular income support payment, or you can elect to receive the payment quarterly.

You can receive the Energy Supplement if you are receiving a form of income support from Centrelink.

There is no application process for the supplement, if you are eligible, Centrelink will include it with your regular pension.

How much you receive depends on your circumstances. For example, if you are single on the Age Pension or Carer Payment, you could receive $14.10 a fortnight (July 2021).

To find out more, head to the Centrelink website.

Rent Assistance

The Rent Assistance payment is a non-taxable supplement for eligible people who live in rentals, like the private rental market or community housing, and need assistance paying for their accommodation.

You can be eligible for Rent Assistance if you are receiving the Age Pension, Carer Pension or Disability Support Allowance, and pay rent at your current home.

Paying rent can be considered either rent fees, retirement village fees, lodging and board fees, or site or mooring fees if you live in a caravan, moveable home or boat.

You have to pay a certain amount in rent to be able to receive Rent Assistance, currently, it sits at a minimum of $125.80 a fortnight for a single person (1 June 2021).

To apply for Rent Assistance head to the Centrelink website.

Continence Aids Payment Scheme (CAPS)

The Australian Government created the Continence Aids Payment Scheme (CAPS) to financially assist eligible people who have permanent and severe incontinence to cover the cost of their continence products.

The payment is non-taxable and provided yearly so you can cover the costs of incontinence products.

For 2021-22, you can receive up to a maximum of $635.10 to manage your incontinence. This payment will not factor into your taxable income and will not stop you from being eligible for other payments.

You can apply for CAPS through the Services Australia Medicare website.

Free health entitlements for seniors

There are a number of free health programs available to people aged 75 and over.

For example:

Many businesses and services also do cheaper prices for older people depending on their circumstances or special discount initiatives.

There may be more supplements you can access, depending on your personal circumstances. Contact Services Australia on 132 300 or visit the website to find out about different benefits.

Engaging a financial planner may be helpful because they know the ins and outs of benefits and entitlements available for retirees and seniors through Services Australia. They can provide advice and assistance about what benefits apply to your specific circumstances.

Have you done research into the entitlements you might be eligible for? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

What a financial advisor can do for you
How to continue funding your new life in retirement

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