Through a good friend who is at the moment hospitalised with a dangerous infection from an operation last year, I learnt recently about the Bonus Pension Scheme. I had heard previously that if a person worked 5 years longer than they needed to (meaning this person was entitled to receive the Commonwealth Age Pension and didn't register for it) then at the end of the 5 years a benefit of $30,000 would be paid, tax free. I thought that it would just all happen naturally without having to fill in any paperwork. After all, big brother and his sister know all about us especially if we pay taxes.
I was wrong! My friend informed me that as I had just gone past the legal age of retirement and was still working (age 63.5 years) I should obtain the forms from Centrelink and register for the Pension Bonus Scheme. I rang Centrelink and in a few days the forms arrived - along with a form to apply for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
I now work 4 days a week after cutting back last year. It was either find some relief or give it up altogether. If you earn over $50,000 gross a year then the bonus is reduced as per the guidelines but my gross income is now close to $48,000 so I am eligible for the full amount. - $33,000 for continuing work for 5 years. Whilst I don't have any intention of working another 5 years, you only need to work 1 year to obtain a partial bonus - tax free. The bonus for 1 year is approximately $1500 for a single person and it grows appreciably each year after.
Once I had the forms completed and had all my identity documents ready I went to a local Centrelink office and spent about 45 minutes with a consultant who checked that I had filled the papers in correctly. I have since received confirmation that I have been accepted for the scheme. So far I haven't heard anything back about the Commonwealth Health Card. This would be a bonus because I have to spend almost $120 a month on eye drops and blood pressure medication. With the health card I would only be paying out $20 a month - a big difference.
The latest news from the Government (a week ago) about the Pension Bonus Scheme is that it will end on 30 September 2009. All people registered prior to that date will remain in the scheme but there will be no new applications accepted after 30 September 2009.
Anyone reading this who has passed the retirement age and is still working should contact Centrelink without delay and if eligible, become registered. After all, we have worked for many years and paid taxes and medicare levies and private health insurance and every other charge they could throw at us, and we deserve at the end of our working lives to be rewarded. My disappointment at the scheme is that there would be thousands of Australians (like me) that don't know about the scheme and will miss out on what they are entitled to. Another well-planned scheme that the Government no doubt hoped not many would apply for.
So go for it!!!!!! Get those forms and go and register. For a couple of hours of your time you could end up with some extra cash to help your life along once you are no longer receiving a salary and are stuck on the pension and scratching to find enough money to live on.
Good luck everyone :)
Vena - 20 June 2009
UPDATE OCTOBER 2009,
I was very excited to receive the Commonwealth Health card. I had applied for it but didn't think that I would receive it. Now I get all my prescriptions for $5.30 instead of anything from $26.40 to $32.40. That makes a big difference when you have 3 scripts a month and sometimes 4.
I also receive payments from Centrelink to help with utility bills, phone and internet. This was an unexpected bonus.
So again, if you are working past retirement age, swallow your pride and go visit Centrelink to find out what benefits you are eligible for. You've earned them!