How not to fall foul of this Centrelink rule

One of the biggest misunderstandings I hear from customers is that they don’t need to tell Services Australia about changes to their income or assets because they believe we already have access to that information.

I want to clarify that in most cases Services Australia can’t access information about changes to your circumstances unless you let us know about them.

As a Services Australia customer, whether you receive the Age Pension or a carer payment or any other payment from us, it’s important you let us know of changes to your circumstances within 14 days, as these changes could affect your payment.

If you don’t tell us, we may pay you too much and you’ll have to pay the money back.

Read: What happens to your Age Pension if you win the lotto?

To find out what you need to tell us about, a great starting point is to look at the letters you get from us. They give you details about what you need to notify us about. Please make sure you read them carefully.

You can also find information on what you have to tell us on our website. Go to servicesaustralia.gov.au and search for your payment, e.g. Age Pension.

Some of the things you need to let us know about include changes to your address, going overseas, changes to your living arrangements, and if you stop or start working.

Read: How to ensure benefits are paid promptly

If you’re working, you must report what you’re paid each fortnight. You also need to let us know about changes to your financial assets such as significant bank account changes and shares.

You don’t need to tell us every time your bank balance changes, but you do need to tell us if the balance of your combined financial assets increases by more than $2000. If you’re getting a part-rate of pension, it might be in your interest to let us know of any reductions in your financial assets as well.

Shares are a bit different to other financial assets.

Read: Can Centrelink check your bank records?

Services Australia automatically updates the values of your shares twice a year on 20 March and 20 September. If you own shares, you don’t have to tell us of any increase in the market value of those. We’ll take care of that on those two days each year. You do need to tell us if the number of your shares have changed, that is, if you’ve bought or sold some, or if you’ve been given new shares through something like a dividend reinvestment scheme.

It’s easy to let us know about changes. The best way to do this is using one of our self-service options: your Centrelink online account through myGov, your Express Plus Centrelink mobile app, or by calling the Centrelink phone self-service. If you don’t have access to a self-service option, then please call us on your regular payment line.

If you’re thinking about making some big financial changes that could affect your eligibility for your pension or concession card, you can call the Services Australia Financial Information Service on 132 300 to discuss your options.

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Written by Hank Jongen

Hank Jongen is the human face of Centrelink, a government agency on behalf of the Department of Human services, responsible for $100 billion in funds, 40,000 staff and 99% of the Australian population at some stage or another

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