Older Australians on JobSeeker see payments threatened as assets test returns

Sep 17, 2020
The return of the asset test could mean many Australians will have their payments axed. Source: Getty.

Among the many forms of Covid-19 financial relief that are being wound back over the coming weeks or months is one that impacts all JobSeeker recipients, including the hundreds of thousands of older Australians receiving these payments.

As a part of Australia’s coronavirus response, the government temporarily removed the assets test for payments including JobSeeker, Parenting Payment, Austudy, Youth Allowance, JobKeeper and ABSTUDY. The asset test exemption meant that those applying for payments who had assets over the allowable limit were still able to receive up to the full benefit payment as long as they met the income test.

The economic impacts of Covid-19 forced unemployment rates up to 7.5 per cent in July, and with the relaxation of the assets test, many Aussies who lost their jobs applied to receive JobSeeker. According to government data, there were 792,814 JobSeeker recipients in March but that number had almost doubled to 1,450,265 by July.

And recent research estimated that up to 30 per cent of those who lost their jobs or had their hours cut back during Covid-19 were aged 51-65, meaning older Australians very likely make up many of those who recently accessed JobSeeker. Older Australians are also likely to own a higher value of assets that could cause them to fall foul of the assets tests in normal circumstances, and are more likely to struggle to find new employment.

But the asset test exemption that’s proved a lifeline for many job-seekers will end on September 24, which means those still out of work but who have assets above the permitted limits are likely to see their payments cut entirely.

The asset limit for single homeowners is $268,000 and for non-homeowners $482,500, while homeowner couples can have $405,500 in assets and non-homeowner couples $616,000.

The partner income test will also resume on September 24, with benefits payments reducing by 27 cents for every dollar that a recipient’s partner earns over the $1,165 per fortnight limit.

Those on the affected payments have until September 24 to tell Centrelink about any changes to their assets in order to receive the correct payment, under the threat that a failure to do so could see them required to repay any funds they weren’t eligible to receive.

Centrelink will send out an SMS to remind the recipients of all relevant benefits payments to update their reported assets through their Centrelink online account, through MyGov or by calling the regular payment line.

Centrelink assesses the value of assets owned in and outside of Australia by taking the market value of the asset and deducting any debt secured on the asset. Assessable assets include real estate or investment properties (but not the family home), retirement village contributions, life interests, financial investments, superannuation (once you reach Age Pension age), income steams, business assets, funeral investments, gifted assets, Special Disability Trust donations and tangible items i.e. vehicles, furniture, jewellery and more.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

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