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Factsheet IS89 - Deeming and Financial Assets

Purpose

This Factsheet explains what financial assets are, what deeming is, and how deeming works.

What is deeming?

Deeming is the method DVA uses to calculate income from your financial assets.  Deeming assumes that any money you have invested in financial assets is earning a particular amount of income regardless of the actual return.

What payments are affected by deeming?

The income testing of the following benefits is affected by deeming:

  • service pension
  • income support supplement
  • age pension
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC).

What are financial assets?

For pension purposes, financial assets include:

  • all accounts with banks or other financial institutions (including savings and cheque accounts and term deposits)
  • cash in excess of $500
  • gold and other bullion
  • managed investments such as public unit trusts (including cash, mortgage, property and equity trusts), insurance bonds and friendly society bonds
  • loans you make to other people including family and friends
  • loans you make to organisations, such as businesses, private trusts or private companies
  • bonds and debentures
  • shares in public companies on any stock exchange either in Australia or overseas
  • shares in unlisted public companies
  • money in a superannuation fund where your fund is in the accumulation phase and not paying you a pension (including a retail, industry, corporate, employer or public sector fund, retirement savings account and self managed superannuation fund) and you have reached pension age (qualifying age for a war widow/widower).  For  more information refer to the section “What about superannuation?” below.
  • asset-tested short term income streams
  • certain account-based income streams
  • gifts in excess of:
    • $10,000 in a financial year
    • $30,000 in a rolling five-year period.

*Note: - Accounts (such as home loan offset accounts) where the interest return is immediately applied to a specific purpose such as a loan, rather than being directly received by the pensioner, are still financial assets for deeming purposes.

For CSHC purposes financial assets include account-based income streams.

What are non-financial assets?

Non-financial assets include:

  • an entry contribution to a retirement village
  • real estate investments, such as:
  • vacant land
  • holiday homes
  • farms
  • household contents and personal effects
  • vehicles, boats, and caravans
  • antiques or collections
  • conventional life insurance policies
  • private company shares
  • partially asset-test exempt income streams
  • asset-tested long term income streams.

*Note: - Income streams include purchased superannuation pensions, annuities, allocated pensions, account-based pensions, transition to retirement pensions, market linked pensions or term allocated pensions.  For more information refer to Factsheet IS96 Income Streams.

Why do we have deeming?

Deeming is a simpler, fairer way to assess your income.  It is used for assessing income from financial assets only, because the income generated by some of these assets is not always simple to calculate.  The deeming rates are monitored to ensure they reflect appropriate rates of return.  Any future change in the rates will be timed to coincide with the March and September pension indexation increases and any other time if the financial market fluctuates significantly.

How does deeming work?

There are two deeming interest rates, a higher deeming rate and a lower deeming rate.  The lower deeming rate applies up to what is called a deeming threshold.  Everything above this threshold is deemed to earn the higher deeming rate.  The deeming thresholds are different for singles and couples.  Any changes to the deeming thresholds are made in July each year in line with movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The deeming thresholds are as follows:

  • for singles - $49,200 which is deemed to earn the lower deeming rate of 1.75%
  • for couples - $81,600 (combined) which is deemed to earn the lower deeming rate of 1.75%.

Amounts above these thresholds are deemed to earn the higher deeming rate of 3.25%.

Your deemed income is worked out as follows:

  • The values of your financial assets are added together.
  • The first $49,200 ($81,600 for couples) is deemed to earn the lower deeming rate of 1.75%.
  • Amounts over $49,200 ($81,600 for couples) are deemed to earn the higher deeming rate of 3.25%.

Example 1: The following is an example of a deeming calculation for a couple:

Example deeming calculation
Step 1 Total financial assets $167,788
Step 2 Calculate first $81,600 of total at 1.75% interest  $81,600  x  0.0175 = $1,428.00
Step 3 Remaining balance of total $167,788 -  $81,600  = $86,188
Step 4 Calculate balance of total at 3.25% interest $86,188 x  0.0325 = $2,801.11
Step 5 Add answers at step 2 and step 4 $1,428.00 + $2,801.11 = $4,229.11
Step 6 Divide answer from step 5 by 26 to convert annual income to fortnightly income $4,229.11 ÷ 26 = $162.66
  Fortnightly deemed income $162.66

What is not deemed?

We do not deem income from:

  • failed investments which have been granted an exemption from deeming
  • investments associated with certain church and charitable organisations which have been granted deeming exemption before 1 January 2010 (however, it is important to note that if you earn interest or receive valuable consideration on the investment, the actual interest earned or the value of any valuable consideration received will be included in your pension assessment)
  • certain funeral bonds.

*Note: - New investments in church and charitable funds and additional amounts added to an already exempted fund on or after 1 January 2010 are subject to deeming.  If you need more information on failed investments, or church and charitable funds, contact DVA.

If you need to know which failed or church and charitable investments have been granted exemptions from deeming, contact DVA.

What types of funeral bonds are exempt from deeming?

Funeral bonds are managed investments taken out by a policy holder to either offset, or assist towards, the payment of funeral costs of that person or the person's partner.

To be exempt from deeming, the funeral bond must be considered asset-test exempt.  Up to two funeral bonds per funeral may be assets test exempt if the bonds:

  • mature on the death of the person or their partner; and
  • do not relate to a funeral for which a prepaid funeral arrangement applies; and
  • are not be able to be redeemed before maturity; and
  • are used on maturity to pay the expenses of the funeral; and
  • the sum of the amount invested does not exceed the $12,500 funeral bond threshold.

For more information refer to Factsheet IS95 Funeral Bonds and Prepaid Funeral Plans.

What about financial assets that are encumbered?

Financial assets, such as managed investments, that are purchased using borrowed money, are assessed holding the gross investment value for deeming purposes under the income test.  This applies even when an undertaking is losing money, or where the repayments on the loan are greater than the return from the investment.

This can result in an asset having a different value under the assets test, as opposed to the income test through deeming.  This is because for the purpose of calculating the value of a person’s assets for the assets test, the asset value is reduced by the value of any encumbrance.

What about superannuation?

Superannuation fund investments include money invested in a superannuation fund (including a retail, industry, corporate, employer or public sector superannuation fund, retirement savings accounts and self managed superannuation fund) where your fund is in the accumulation phase and not paying you a pension or income stream.

Superannuation fund investments resemble managed investments but usually cannot be accessed until the owner reaches preservation age (which is 55 years for people born before 1 July 1960, increasing to 60 years for people born on or after 1 July 1964).  Preservation age is not the same as your pension age.  If you want to access your superannuation before you reach your preservation age, it is recommended that you contact your fund with respect to its rules.  The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has also developed special rules, which apply, and the circumstances include severe financial hardship and compassionate grounds.

Income is not deemed on money in a superannuation fund that is in the accumulation phase until you reach pension age (qualifying age for a war widow/widower) (see below).  Early withdrawals from a superannuation fund by a person under 55 years of age are not assessed under the income test, but the withdrawn funds may be assessable under the income and assets test if invested.

After you reach pension age (qualifying age for a war widow/widower), if you:

  • are not receiving a pension or income stream from your superannuation fund, the money you have invested in your superannuation fund will be assessed as a financial asset and deemed;
  • are receiving a pension or income stream from your superannuation fund, the income stream will be assessed under the income stream rules.

What is pension age?

The pension age for a male or female veteran who has qualifying service and the qualifying age for a male or female partner is 60 years.  The pension age for a male or female non–veteran is 65 years.

From 1 July 2017 pension age (non-veteran) will increase by six months every two years until it reaches 67 on 1 July 2023.  This will not affect people born before 1 July 1952.  Veteran pension age (and qualifying age for ISS recipients) will remain at age 60.

The following table provides a guide:

Male and female non-veterans
Date of Birth Pension age
1 July 1952 to 31 December 1953 65 years and 6 months
1 January 1954 to 30 June 1955 66 years
1 July 1955 to 31 December 1956 66 years and 6 months
On or after 1 January 1957 67 years

If you are paid social security age pension by DVA, non-veteran pension age will apply.

What is qualifying age?

For assessment of money invested in a superannuation fund in the accumulation phase, qualifying age applies to war widows and widowers receiving income support supplement (ISS).  Qualifying age is the same age as pension age for a veteran with qualifying service, i.e. 60 years.

Obligations

When you are granted an income support pension, and periodically after that, you will be notified of your obligations.  You will be required to tell us within 14 days (28 days if you live overseas or receive remote area allowance) of changes to your circumstances that might affect the rate of income support pension you receive or your eligibility to receive that pension.  These obligations apply equally to trustees.

Usually an overpayment of pension will not occur when you have met your obligations.  However, sometimes even if you have met your obligations, an overpayment can occur because we have not been able to process the change before the next payday.  We do our best to avoid this occurring, but it is not always possible.  To provide you with your exact entitlement we are obliged to recover overpayments of pension where they do occur.

You do not need to tell us of changes to the interest rates on your financial investments.

Further information about investment products and superannuation

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) MoneySmart website provides financial information to help you make the most of your money.  The MoneySmart website also has a register of suitably qualified financial advisers who hold an Australian Financial Services licence.  You can contact ASIC by telephone on 1300 300 630 or visit https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/

The Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPAA) also provides contact details for financial planners that are members of the FPAA and information about how to choose a financial planner.  FPAA’s website is at http://fpa.asn.au

Further information about superannuation, including early release of superannuation, can be obtained from your fund, or from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).  APRA’s superannuation hotline is 131 060, and their website is at http://www.apra.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx

Centrelink runs a free Financial Information Service (FIS) which provides education and information on financial and lifestyle issues to all Australians.  Any personal information given to FIS officers is treated as confidential.  FIS can be contacted by telephone on 132 300.

More Information

DVA General Enquiries

Metro Phone: 133 254 *

Regional Phone: 1800 555 254 *

Email: GeneralEnquiries@dva.gov.au

DVA Website: www.dva.gov.au

Factsheet Website: www.dva.gov.au/factsheets

* Calls from mobile phones and pay phones may incur additional charges.

Related Factsheets

Disclaimer

The information contained in this Factsheet is general in nature and does not take into account individual circumstances.  You should not make important decisions, such as those that affect your financial or lifestyle position on the basis of information contained in this Factsheet.  Where you are required to lodge a written claim for a benefit, you must take full responsibility for your decisions prior to the written claim being determined.  You should seek confirmation in writing of any oral advice you receive from DVA.

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6 October 2016