All Australians are feeling the effects of rising living costs, but those on a fixed income, such as the Age Pension, are hurting more than many. But there are a number of retiree concessions that many older Australians may not know exist.
Navigating the myriad government payments and concessions available is a complex task and advocacy group National Seniors Australia (NSA) says that complexity is causing many older Australians to miss out on benefits they’re entitled to.
To make matters even more confusing, some benefits differ from state to state. You may be eligible for a benefit in one state, but not in another.
To address this, NSA has developed an online concessions calculator. After entering a few basic details, the calculator will tell you all the government payments and concessions you are entitled to.
“There are a wide range of concessions and discounts available to help retirees save some money, but their eligibility rules are often complex and, in many cases, seniors do not even know that certain privileges exist,” says retirement expert Noel Whittaker.
The majority of government concessions for seniors are available to those who hold one of three concession cards: the Pensioner Concession Card (PCC), the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) and the Seniors Card (SC).
Eligibility for these cards is the same across the country, but the benefits card holders receive differ greatly between states.
To be eligible for the PCC, you need to be aged 60 or older and receive one of the following Centrelink payments: Age Pension, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, JobSeeker or the Single Parenting Payment.
The PCC grants the biggest concessions and discounts to seniors, but concession rates differ across Australia.
For example, holding a PCC in NSW entitles you to the low-income household rebate of $285 a year, plus the gas rebate of $121 and a council rates rebate of $425.
South Australia instead offers PCC holders a cost of living concession for homeowners of $217.20 annually, an electricity concession of $233.60 and a rates concession of $320.30.
The CSHC is available to those who have reached Age Pension age and who are not receiving a government payment. There is also an income test for eligibility, which is currently set at $57,761 per year for a single or $92,416 for a couple.
Changes announced by the government last week increased the income cut-off to $90,000 for singles and $144,000 for couples, effective from 1 July.
Nationally, CSHC holders are entitled to cheaper medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and a refund of medical costs once you reach the Medicare Safety Net.
In Western Australia, holding a CSHC entitles you to the $310.60 Energy Assistance payment, as well as $750 off your local council rates.
In Victoria, however, holding a CSHC doesn’t give you any discount on your power bills, but does mean you’re exempt from paying stamp duty on a new house.
While the PCC and CSHC are granted by the federal government, there’s also the Australian Seniors Card issued by the states, each with its own eligibility requirements and benefits.
SCs are usually the easiest of the concession cards to obtain, but offer the fewest discounts. Eligibility is usually just based on being aged 60 or over, with some states requiring seniors to work less than a set number of hours each week.
The main benefit of a SC is a 50 per cent discount on public transport in most states.
In Queensland and WA, a SC also gets you a discount on your electricity and gas bills.
It pays to find out what concessions you may be entitled to, so use the NSA calculator to find out if you’re missing out.
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