To reduce the impact of selling and buying a new principal home and to encourage pensioners to downsize, the government, in conjunction with the announcement of its intention to reduce the eligibility age for downsizer super contributions, has introduced a Bill to extend the existing assets test exemption under social security for principal home sale proceeds that an individual intends to use to purchase or build a new principal home. The Bill also seeks to apply the lower deeming rate to the proceeds of sale.
In a bid to support pensioners and in conjunction with the announcement to reduce the eligibility age for downsizer super contributions, the government has introduced a measure to extend the existing assets test exemption under social security for principal home sale proceeds which a person intends to use to purchase a new principal home.
Under the social security system, the level of income support received by individuals depends on their income and assets. For example, for an individual to receive the age pension, Services Australia (Centrelink) will assess the individual’s and their partner’s income from all sources, including financial assets such as superannuation, using deeming. Deeming assumes that a financial asset earns a set rate of income regardless of the actual income generated. Applicants for the age pension also need to pass the assets test, the limits of which change depending on whether they own their own home and whether they are single or in a couple.
Currently, when an age pensioner or other eligible income support recipient sells their principal home to either purchase or build another home, those proceeds are exempt from the assets test for up to 12 months. However, the proceeds will still be subject to deeming. An additional 12-month extension may be granted where the income support recipient has a continued intention to apply the sale proceeds to the purchase, build, rebuild, repair or renovation of a new principal home and has:
• made reasonable attempts to purchase, build, rebuild, repair or renovate their new principal home (eg signing a contract to purchase or renovate etc);
• made those attempts within a reasonable period after selling the principal home; and
• experienced delays beyond their control in purchasing, building, rebuilding, repairing or renovating their new principal home.
The Bill introduced by the government would automatically extend the existing assets test exemption from 12 to 24 months. An additional 12-month extension may also be available in particular circumstances, taking the maximum exemption period to 36 months in total.
It should be noted that only the value of the principal home proceeds that are intended to be used to purchase/build a new home can be exempt. For example, if an individual sells their principal home for $1 million and intends to purchase a new home for $700,000 and use the remaining $300,000 to buy an investment, then the total amount of sale proceeds that can be exempt from the assets test is $700,000, while the other $300,000 is not exempt from the assets test.
In addition to extending the exemption, the Bill also seeks to apply a lower deeming rate to the principal home sale proceeds when calculating deemed income for the period during which the proceeds are exempt from the assets test. For deeming purposes, the threshold is currently $56,400 for an individual and $93,600 for couples. Below those thresholds, the financial assets are deemed to earn at a rate of 0.25%, while anything above those thresholds are deemed to earn 2.25%. If this proposed measure becomes law, the exempt principal home sale proceeds will be treated as a separate pool to the other financial assets and deeming will be calculated at 0.25% instead of 2.25%.
f you would like to know more please contact one of our accountants on 07 4639 1099 or come in and see us at 4 Bowen Street Toowoomba.