4.3.1.10 Determining the rate of income for benefits

Introduction

The rate of ordinary income (1.1.O.30) is a required input to the rate calculation process for social security benefit payments. The rate of ordinary income is the sum of the rates of all components of ordinary income. Employment income (1.1.E.102) is a component of ordinary income, as are financial investment income, deemed income and various other types of income.

Determining the rate of ordinary income (including deemed income from financial assets) for benefits is dependent upon which of the following categories it falls into:

  • seasonal work (1.1.S.60) and intermittent work (1.1.I.195)
  • income taken into account when it is earned, derived, or received
  • employment income taken into account when it is paid
  • non-remunerative income received at intervals greater than a fortnight
  • apportioning remunerative lump sums
  • apportioning non-remunerative non-periodic lump sums over 12 months
  • apportioning non-remunerative periodic lump sums over relevant period (up to 12 months), and
  • borrowings/loans.

These categories are discussed in this topic.

Act reference: SSAct section 9(1)-'financial asset', section 1068 Module B-Maximum Basic Rate

Policy reference: SS Guide 4.1 Deprivation of Income & Assets, 4.3 Ordinary Income, 4.4 Deeming Provisions, 4.7 Business Structures, Primary Production & pre-01/01/2002 Assessment of Trusts & Private Companies, 4.8 Superannuation Funds, 4.9 Income streams, 4.12 Means Test Treatment of Private Trusts & Private Companies from 01/01/2002, 4.13 Compensation

Seasonal & intermittent work

Special rules apply to the assessment of seasonal/intermittent work earnings (1.1.S.61).

Policy reference: SS Guide 3.1.7 Seasonal work preclusion period

Income taken into account when it is earned, derived or received

Ordinary income is assessed in the fortnight that it is first earned, derived or received.

Act reference: SSAct section 1068-G7A Ordinary income generally taken into account when first earned, derived or received, section 1067L-D19 Ordinary income generally taken into account when first earned, derived or received, section 1067G-H23 Ordinary income generally taken into account when first earned, derived or received, section 8 Income test definitions

Employment income taken into account when it is paid

Employment income that has been paid to a recipient in an entitlement period is assessed for the same length of time as the employment period (4.3.3.06) associated with the amount. The minimum period that income is attributed is a single entitlement period, which is a fortnight. For example, an employment period of a week is attributed over the fortnightly entitlement period in which it is paid. Any income paid in an entitlement period will be assessed from the entitlement period start date forward for the number of days to which it relates.

If there is a working credit depletion, the rate of employment income will be adjusted downwards.

Act reference: SSAct section 1073A(2) Attribution of employment income paid in respect of a particular period or periods

Policy reference: SS Guide 4.3.3.06 Employment period, 4.3.3 Income from employment, 3.1.11.30 Working credit depletion

Non-remunerative income received at intervals greater than a fortnight

Income is attributed over a specific period relating to the source of the income, if:

  • it is a payment relating to a period that is greater than a fortnight
  • there are a number of ordinary income payments
  • the amounts of the payments are predictable, and
  • there is reasonable regularity in the timing of the payments.

Example:

  • superannuation pensions
  • overseas pensions, and
  • periodical lottery winnings that are a series of payments under one contract - each instalment is assessed as income over the period it represents. For example, each instalment of $50,000 paid once a year would be held as income over 12 months.

Act reference: SSAct section 1067G-H24 Ordinary income received at intervals longer than one fortnight, section 1067L-D23 Ordinary income received at intervals longer than one fortnight, section 1068-G7AL Leave payments or termination payments in respect of periods longer than a fortnight, section 1068-G8 Ordinary income received at intervals longer than one fortnight

Income from independent contracting

A contract of service or labour indicates an employer/employee relationship. A contract for services to produce a result indicates self-employment.

Income from independent contracting may attract a seasonal work preclusion period (3.1.7).

Policy reference: SS Guide 4.3.3.20 Income from employment or independent contracting

Apportioning remunerative lump sums

Employment income lump sums that represent a period greater than a fortnight are apportioned forward up to 52 weeks from the beginning of the entitlement period in which the lump sum is paid.

Examples:

  • commissions
  • royalties
  • signing on fees or endorsements for professional sports people
  • an industry related payment such as a dairy cash bonus, or payments to leave the industry, and
  • profit sharing.

In limited circumstances where employment income is paid to a person but is not paid in respect of a particular period a delegate of the Secretary will attribute this employment income over a period not exceeding 52 weeks, as appropriate in the circumstances. In most situations, the basis of determining the length of apportionment will depend on the nature of the employment income. The lump sum will be apportioned forward from the beginning of the entitlement period in which it was paid for the relevant number of days.

When determining the period, the delegate may take into consideration the following:

  • the nature of the person's remunerative work
  • the nature of the person's employment income
  • the person's financial interests
  • any financial hardship which may be caused to the person
  • whether the employment income relates to remunerative work that was undertaken at a time when the person was not receiving a social security pension or a social security benefit.

Example: Dan worked on a lobster trawler 3 months ago, with other previous intermittent trips for the same employer during the year, and this was all paid as a lump sum. Records do not indicate a particular employment period for the income paid. Dan was not on income support at the time he earned his pay and has recently been granted JSP. The fact that Dan was not on income support at the time he earned his employment income is taken into consideration and the income is attributed across 52 weeks.

Act reference: SSAct 1073A Attribution of employment income paid in respect of a particular period or periods, section 1073BA Attribution of employment income paid not in respect of a particular period

Apportioning non-remunerative non-periodic lump sums over 12 months

One-off, irregular or non-periodical lump sum amounts, are apportioned as income over a 12 month period in 52 weekly amounts, if they are not remuneration, periodic payments, or an exempt lump sum.

Examples:

  • family trust distributions
  • certain 'loan' arrangements i.e. NOT a bona fide loan to recipients, and
  • dividend distributions from a private company.

The date earned, derived or received is the date the recipient becomes entitled to receive the amount.

Some lump sum payments are exempt from the income test. For example, lottery winnings and commutations from a superannuation fund.

Exception: Lottery winnings that are received as periodical payments. Refer to 'Non-remunerative income received at intervals greater than a fortnight'.

Specific exemptions under SSAct section 8(11) can be found in 4.3.2.35.

Note: The initial exemption of the lump sum amount from the income test does not mean that any on-going income generated by the lump sum is exempt, nor does it mean that the asset the lump sum turns into is exempt. The continuing assets and income tests treatment will be determined by how a person makes use of the funds. The funds may be used to obtain additional assets such as a car. For a purchase such as this the assets test would apply. Or, the funds may be invested with a financial institution. The funds have then become a financial asset (refer to SSAct section 9(1) for all the types of financial assets), assessable as an asset and subject to the income test deeming rules.

When a lump sum amount is apportioned under the SSAct for a 12 month period and a person is cancelled and reclaims, including a claim for a different type of social security benefit, the previously apportioned amount continues to be maintained until the end of the 12 month period, even when the source of the income ceases.

Exception: For attributable stakeholders or controllers, IF the source of income ceases (e.g. trust is wound up or private company being de registered), the previously apportioned amount ceases to be assessed.

What this means is that, for controllers, where a trust or company has been wound up or suffers a decline in its source of income, a disallowable instrument under SSAct section 1207Z will override SSAct section 1073. Where the trust or company has been wound up, the distributions will be ignored. Where the entity suffers a decline in its source of income, the controller can request reassessment of income for social security purposes, based on the estimated income of the entity currently. In this situation, any distribution received by a controller can also be adjusted (Social Security (Attribution of Income) Principles 2017).

For non-controllers, SSAct section 1073 applies to all distribution income or dividend income for 12 months from the date the person becomes entitled to receive the amount, even if the company or trust has been wound up, or the source of income no longer exist.

Act reference: SSAct section 8(8) Excluded amounts - general, section 8(11) An amount received by a person is an exempt lump sum …, section 9(1) Financial assets and income streams definitions, section 23(1)-'social security benefit', section 1067G-H23A Claimant or recipient receives lump sum amount for remunerative work (YA), section 1067L-D20 Claimant or recipient receives lump sum amount for remunerative work (Austudy), section 1068-G7B Claimant or recipient receives lump sum amount for remunerative work (WA, JSP (18 or over), PA, and mature age allowance under Part 2.12B), section 1073 Certain amounts taken to be received over 12 months

Policy reference: SS Guide 4.4.1.30 Scope of deeming, 4.3.1.20 Determining the rate of income for pensioners of age pension age from 20/09/2009, 4.3.2.31 Income Exempt from Assessment - Specifically Approved

Apportioning non-remunerative periodic lump sums over relevant period (up to 52 weeks)

Lump sum payments that are made up of past periodic payments, where the income support recipient did not have notification obligations during the relevant past period, are apportioned, going forward, over a period the Secretary determines, not exceeding 52 weeks, in equal daily amounts. The Secretary will usually determine the period over which the lump sum is apportioned with reference to the past period to which the lump sum relates. The lump sum is apportioned from the day the person receives the lump sum until the end of the relevant period going forward, not exceeding 52 weeks.

Example:

  • Back pay of income protection claims (where an offset clause has not been applied).

Please note that this does not apply to lump sums that are remunerative, one-off, non-periodical, or exempt lump sums.

Example 1: Caitlin is injured at work, and submits a claim for her income protection payment on 1 January 2021. Her claim is initially rejected on 1 March 2021. Caitlin appeals the original decision, and after 6 months of appeal process, her claim for income protection is granted on 1 September 2021. On 1 October 2021, she is paid a lump sum payment for the 8-month period from the date of claim (1 January 2021) and the date her claim was granted (1 September 2021). The Secretary determined that the lump sum is to be apportioned over 8 months from 1 October 2021. This means that Caitlin's assessable income will increase for the next 8 months.

Note: Application of this rule under section 1072A of the SSAct differs from section 1073 of the SSAct in that this rule applies to lump sums that comprise of past periodic non-remunerative payments. Whereas, section 1073 applies to lump sum payments that are non-remunerative payment, that do not reflect periodic payments.

Example 2: Dom was receiving income from his defined benefit pension until it was suspended on 1 January 2021. While his defined benefit is suspended, Dom applies for the age pension, and begins receiving the maximum rate of pension because he has no other income and his assets are below the assets test threshold.

On 1 July 2021, his defined benefit pension is reinstated. On 1 August 2021, Dom also receives a lump sum arears payment of the income he was entitled to while his defined benefit income stream was suspended. The Secretary determined that the lump sum payment is apportioned over 6 months from 1 August 2021, which means that one-thirteenth of the lump sum is added to Dom's other assessable income for the next 6 months.

Act reference: SSAct section 8(8) Excluded amounts-general, section 8(11) An amount received by a person is an exempt lump sum …, section 9(1) Financial assets and income streams definitions, section 1072A Treatment of certain lump sum payments, section 1073 Certain amounts taken to be received over 12 months

Policy reference: SS Guide 4.3.2.35 Income exempt from assessment - s 8(11) exempt lump sums

Borrowings or loans

Bona fide borrowings (loans) are not income. A bona fide borrowing is one where money moves from the lender to the borrower, and there is an intention that the money be repaid.

Examples:

  • credit card borrowings, or
  • personal loans from a bank, building society, credit union or finance company.
Last reviewed: 7 December 2020