New year benefits changes

Gemma Dale

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Millions could be affected by changes to six government benefits which came into effect on January 1. Some represent a tightening of the rules while others mean people will be better off. A new payment called “Dad and partner pay” will be introduced for working dads and partners, including same-sex couples, following the birth or adoption of a child after January 1. It’s equivalent to two weeks’ pay at the minimum national wage, currently $606.40 gross a week.

Single principal carers receiving the Newstart allowance will have their payment reduced by only 40¢ for every dollar in income they earn above certain thresholds, rather than the previous 50¢ or 60¢. The education tax refund will be replaced by the schoolkids bonus. All eligible families will receive $410 a year for each primary school student and $820 a year for each secondary school student. They will be paid in two half-yearly instalments and you will no longer need to keep receipts to prove you paid for eligible education expenses.

Some less generous arrangements from January 1 include the parenting payment. All parenting payment recipients will only receive the benefit until their child reaches 13 if they were born in the year 2000 and until 12 years of age if born on or after January 1, 2001. Previously the benefit was paid until the youngest child turned 16 years of age.

Those who receive the family tax benefit – part A may also be adversely impacted. The payment will only be available where the child is under 18, unless in full-time secondary study, where it can continue until the end of the calendar year in which they turn 19. Finally, the maximum time that certain government benefits can be paid to people outside Australia will reduce from 13 weeks to six weeks.

Gemma Dale, MLC’s head of technical services

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