Top 3 concession cards

By Stuart Sheary, Senior Technical Manager

For discounts on medicines, utilities, council rates and more, many retirees wish to hold a concession card. These cards are typically income tested and clients may be looking to confirm their eligibility as well as the benefits that come with the card.

This article will look at the eligibility and benefits of the top three cards as well as strategies to obtain and retain the cards.

The three most popular concession cards are:

  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: Available to self-funded retirees
  • Low income health care card: Available to self-funded retirees with a low income
  • Pensioner Concession Card: Available to social security pensioners (such as Age Pension, Disability Support Pension or Carers Pension).

There are others such as state-based seniors’ card which generally becomes available to those aged 60 and not working full time.

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

Self-funded retirees of age pension age may be eligible for the commonwealth seniors health card (CSHC). Card holders are eligible for various discounts and concessions such prescription medicines at concessional rates through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). See ‘Benefits across cards’ table.

Eligibility

In addition to being age pension age to get the CSHC card, clients must also:

  • be an Australian resident and living in Australia
  • not be receiving a Centrelink benefit
  • have adjusted taxable income and deemed income from account-based pensions (unless the income stream is grandfathered) of no greater than
    • $55,808 if single
    • $89,290 for couples
    • $111,616 for couples separated by illness, respite care or prison.

The income test threshold is indexed annually on 20 September. The threshold is also increased for each dependent child by $639.60 per year. There is no asset test for this card.

Tech Tip: Clients who obtain an indefinite CSHC due to losing their Age Pension following changes to the asset test taper rates on 1 January 2017, may retain their card regardless of income. Those who subsequently become eligible for an Age Pension will also be able to retain their CSHC.

Low income health care card

The low-income health care card (LIHCC) may also be available to self-funded retirees. To be eligible for the LIHCC clients must be:

  • living in Australia and be either an Australian citizen or holder of a prescribed visa such as a permanent resident visa
  • satisfy the LIHCC income test.
Tech Tip: Clients may be eligible for both the LIHCC and the CSHC. Clients who have a Pensioner Concession Card are not also eligible for the LIHCC.

Income test

To be eligible, client’s gross average weekly income for the 8 weeks prior to claim must be below maximum income thresholds which will vary depending on whether your client is single, a member of a couple or have dependent children.

Ongoing income test

Upon receiving or renewing the LIHCC, your client’s assessable income must remain below 125% of income limits in any rolling eight-week period. If it reaches these thresholds (outlined below), your client must notify Centrelink within 14 days.

 Maximum weekly income
StatusObtain or renew cardRetain card - 125% rule
Single, no children $636 $795
Couple (combined), no dependent children $1,094 $1,367.50
Single, 1 dependent child $1,094 $1367.50
For each additional child, add $34 $42.50

Ordinary income for social security purposes is assessed for the LIHCC. Ordinary income can include income not captured as taxable income such as ‘deemed income’.

Strategies to assist with the income test for Age Pension purposes can assist clients to qualify for the low-income health card. See table ‘Assessment of income’ below.

Renewal

The LIHCC is issued for 12 months and Centrelink will contact clients towards the end of this 12-month period to remind them to renew their card.

To renew their card, your client’s income must not exceed the maximum gross income to qualify within the 8-week assessment period. This period is assessed between 4 and 12 weeks before card expiration. This period will be identified on the renewal form.

Pensioner Concession Card

Social security pensioners (Age Pensioners, Disability Support Pension, Carers Pension and DVA service pensioners) will automatically receive a Pensioner Concession Card (PCC). Some long-term income support recipients (continuously received a payment for at least 39 weeks) over 60 receiving an allowance such as JobSeeker Payment may also receive a PCC. See Social Security Guide - Qualification for PCC for an expanded list of eligible recipients.

Clients who lost their age pension entitlements on 1 January 2017 due to changes to the asset test taper rates can be entitled to an indefinite PCC as no means testing applies.

A PCC is issued for 2 years and reissued around the time of the cardholder’s birthday, provided they continue to qualify. If a cardholder loses their social security benefit, they are generally required to stop using the PCC.

Assessment of income

Card Assessment of income

CSHC

Adjusted taxable income + deemed income on account-based pensions (non-grandfathered)

Adjusted taxable income include:

  • taxable income as reported on the ATO Notice of Assessment
  • employer provided fringe benefits over $1,000
  • foreign income not subject to Australian tax
  • total net investment loss being the sum their net loss from financial investments and rental property
  • reportable superannuation contributions such as salary sacrifice contributions and personal deductible contributions

Plus

Deemed income from account-based pensions (non-grandfathered).

LIHCC Ordinary income + additional sources

Examples of ordinary income includes:

  • gross employment income
  • reportable super contributions
  • fringe benefits
  • DVA payments
  • overseas pensions
  • real estate and businesses including farms
  • deemed income on financial investments and account-based pensions (non-grandfathered).

Types of ordinary income that affect a recipient's payments can be found on the Social Security Guide website

In addition to ordinary income the following are also assessed:

  • a social security pension or benefit, such as JobSeeker payment
  • A veteran affairs pension, income support supplement, and Defence Force Income Support Allowance
  • Compensation payments.

Details of other income assessed are available on the Social Security website

Pension Concession Card Client’s in receipt of a social security pension are eligible for the PCC. Eligibility to a social security pension is means tested and to qualify applicants must satisfy both an asset and an income test which is based on ordinary income.

Comparison of assessment periods

CSHC

Eligibility under the income test is typically based on income in the most recently completed tax year. If a tax notice of assessment (TNA) is not available for the most recently completed financial year, then the TNA for the earlier financial year can be used. Income estimates for the current financial year can be provided in limited situations.

Acceptable events include reduced income due to retirement, an increase in taxable income due to withdrawals from various sources to fund medical and health care services, transition to assisted living and to cover certain costs associated with natural disasters.

LIHCC

Gross average weekly income for the 8 weeks prior to claim must be below the following thresholds.

VariableCSHCLIHCCPCC
Income reference period Generally adjusted taxable income is based on the Tax Notice of Assessment relating to the previous financial year and current deemed income from non-grandfathered account-based pensions. 8 weeks prior to assessment date Entitlement based on eligibility for a social security pension
Reporting variations Changes to taxable income should be reported within 14 days from the Tax Notice of Assessment. Changes to deemed account-based pensions should be reported within 14 days of the change.

14 days upon breaching 125% rule

14 days of change of circumstance

Temporary overseas travel: Non-cancellation period

CSHCLIHCCPCC
Up to 19 weeks continuously outside Australia Up to 6 weeks continuously outside Australia Up to 4 weeks in a 12-month period. Holders of the indefinite PCC may be outside Australia for up to 6 weeks.

Benefits – Across cards

Common benefits across cards include:

  • Concessions on prescription medicines. Concession card holders only pay $6.60 for an item covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme compared to $41.30 for general patients.
  • Bigger refunds for out of pocket costs via a lower extended Medicare safety net (EMSN) threshold. Medicare will pay up to 80% of out-of-pocket costs for eligible out-of-hospital services over and above the current EMSN of $697 for card holders. This compares to $2,184.30 for all other singles and families.
  • Bulk billing at the discretion of the doctor.

The concessions and benefits extend beyond medical expenses. Card holders can get discounts on utility bills, council rates, car registration as well as cash rebates on energy bills. These benefits can vary across cards and states. The table below ‘Card benefits across states’ provides a good starting point on entitlements.

Ad hoc benefits

Another benefit of holding the card is that clients can become eligible for ad hoc Government stimulus measures or incentives. For example, as part of the Government’s COVID-19 Economic response card holders received two lump sum payments of $750 in 2020.

Dependants

Dependants can be added to the PCC and LIHCC and receive discounted benefits. Dependants cannot automatically be added to the CSHC and they are not eligible for any discounts associated with the card unless they apply and are accepted separately.

Card benefits across states

The table below provides a good starting point for clients wishing to identify available benefits and concessions.

New South Wales

Services NSW

CSHC

LIHCC

PCC

Victoria

Victoria Families Fairness and Housing

CSHC

LIHCC

PCC

Queensland

Queensland Government

CSHC

LIHCC

PCC

South Australia

SA.GOV.AU

CSHC

LIHCC

PCC

Tasmania

Tasmanian Government Discounts & Concessions

CSHC

LIHCC

PCC

Western Australia

ConcessionsWA

CSHC

LIHCC

PCC

Northern Territory

COTA Northern Territory

CSHC

LIHCC

PCC

Strategies to obtain or retain cards

As income and eligibility is assessed differently across cards the following table may assist in identifying strategies to make the various cards become available.

StrategyCSHCLIHCCPCC
Roll part of a deemed pension to accumulation phase Yes Yes - if client is below age pension age Yes - if client is below age pension age (eg on a DSP)
Investment bonds Yes – investment bonds are internally taxed No – subject to deeming No – are asset tested and subject to deeming
Funeral bonds within exempt limit Yes – Funeral bonds are internally taxed Yes - Funeral bonds within exempt limits are not deemed Yes - Funeral bonds within exempt limits are not deemed and are not asset tested
Timing of lodgement of tax return Yes – adjusted taxable income typically based on the most recent Tax Notice of Assessment No No
Timing of retirement and termination payments Yes – timing which year to receive taxable income may assist No No

Add a reversionary spouse to a grandfathered ABP

*It will be necessary to check with the product provider to confirm they can add a reversionary pensioner without commuting the original pension  

Yes – ABPs that automatically revert will retain their grandfathering (provided the surviving spouse is receiving the CSHC at time of reversion) Not applicable

Yes – ABPs that automatically revert will retain their grandfathering

(provided the surviving spouse is receiving an eligible pension at time of reversion)

Gifting Yes – less income producing assets may reduce taxable income. Note there is no gifting limit (but there may be an assessable capital gain which will add to taxable income) Yes – within gifting limits Yes – within gifting limits
Renovating the home Yes - less income producing assets may reduce taxable income. Yes – the home is not subject to deeming under the income test Yes – the home is an exempt asset and is not subject to deeming under the income test

Conclusion

Concession card holders can benefit from many discounts ranging from medical costs to utilities and travel. Identifying available cards and their associated benefits has the potential to save your clients a substantial amount of money.


More information

If you have any questions, or would like more information, please contact the IOOF TechConnect team on 1300 650 414.

Disclaimer
The information in this section of the website is intended for financial advisers only and is not to be distributed to clients. It has been prepared on behalf of Australian Executor Trustees Limited ABN 84 007 869 794 AFSL 240023, IOOF Investment Management Limited ABN 53 006 695 021 AFSL 230524, IOOF Investment Services Ltd ABN 80 007 350 405, AFSL 230703 and IOOF Ltd ABN 21 087 649 625 AFSL 230522 based on information that is believed to be accurate and reliable at the time of publication.