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Government assistance for families

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“Tax-time” is often a good time to check out the government support provided to parents designed to offset the considerable cost of raising our children.

Most families will get some Government support in the form of tax breaks or direct payments. Many of the financial payments are “means tested” (determined by your household’s income level), but they can add up to a significant amount of money. This can be helpful when you’re raising a family and managing a tight household budget.

Below is our guide to the common payments. For more detailed information, visit your local Department of Human Services Centre, between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday, or call 13 61 50. Alternatively you can visit the Department of Human Services website.

The Department of Human Services Service Centres delivers social and health-related payments and services. Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support services are now located under one roof in most cases. You can find your closest one here – and a new online claim service is available as well.

It’s a sensible idea to create a myGov account. This will enable you to access a variety of government online services including Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support with one username and password. It will save you valuable time in terms of having to go into the offices and you will be able to do most of your claims and paperwork online. You can access this here.

Note – This information is of a general nature and should not be relied upon to prepare your application to the Department of Human Services and/or Centrelink. 
Each case has its individual merits and should be treated as such.

In most cases, residents of New Zealand living in Australia are entitled to the same benefits as Australian residents.

Topics Covered

  1. General Information
  2. Family Tax Benefit Part A
  3. Family Tax Benefit Part B
  4. Large Family Supplement
  5. Baby bonus
  6. Paid Parental Leave
  7. Australian Childhood Immunisation Register
  8. Child Care Benefit
  9. Child Care Tax Rebate
  10. Other benefits
  11. Medicare benefits for families
  12. Schoolkids Bonus

1. General Information

Becoming a Centrelink customer – when you will be issued with that all-important Centrelink Customer Number – is your first step. To do this you will need to visit a Centrelink office and provide Proof of Identity for you and your partner. Be aware, you will need original copies of the required documents, as photocopies will not be accepted.

Here is a checklist of the information that will be required:

  1. Either proof of Birth in Australia (Original Australian Birth Certificate) or a document proving your arrival in Australia. If born overseas, or other documents that show your legal residence status.
  2. Other documents that will meet the 100-point checklist (This list can be found on the Centrelink website Proof of Identity). It is similar to the paperwork for opening a bank account.
  3. You must have a current bank account to receive your payments.
  4. Your rental details (if appropriate).
  5. Birth Certificate or adoption papers of your child.
  6. If your child is under 2 – their Medicare number or record of immunisation status.
  7. Tax File Numbers (TFN) for you and your partner.
  8. Your family Income estimate.

Note – You will need to provide a fairly accurate estimate of your household income so that your payments are calculated as close as possible to the final amount you are entitled to. If in doubt, it may be better to overestimate your income so that you are not left with a big debt to Centrelink when your tax return is processed.

What Is Income?

Your income is calculated during the financial year, i.e., 1 July to 30 June of the following year. Your taxable income includes all the money you have earned through every source, less any allowable deductions. For more information on estimating your income visit, “What is Family Income?” on the Depart of Human Services website.

Be aware that your assessment is matched to your tax return when lodged at the end of the financial year; if you have under-estimated your family income and have received a higher payment than you are eligible for, you will be required to repay the full amount of the over-payment. However, if you have over-estimated the family income, you will receive the additional amount in a lump sum payment after your tax return has been lodged.

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2. Family Tax Benefit Part A

Family Tax Benefit Part A is an annual tax benefit based on your income. It is designed to assist with the cost of raising your children. Please be aware the information here is a guide and your personal circumstances may be different, so you’ll need to check directly with the Department of Human Services or your tax accountant.

Recent changes to Family Tax benefit Part A mean that it is no longer paid for young people between the ages of 16-17 who have completed Year 12 or the closest equivalent. The details to set up your claim online can be accessed here.

Eligibility:

  • You have dependent children aged from 0–15
  • You have young people aged 16–19 who are in full-time secondary study or are exempt from the education or training requirements, up until the end of the calendar year they turn 19.

How do I claim?

You will need the Family Tax Benefit claim form. Most maternity hospitals issue this to new mothers before they check out; but if you haven’t received one, you can download it from the DHS website, visit a DHS Centre or call 13 61 50 to arrange for a form to be mailed to you.

This payment is subject to an income test and is based on the total income for the household in a financial year.
The Family Tax Benefit can be paid to you on a fortnightly basis or annually if you prefer, based on the total household income estimate that you provide to DHS/Centrelink.

Be aware that if you underestimate your income you will be overpaid and you will be hit with a bill at the end of the year. However, if you overestimate your income, you will receive a top up payment at the end of the financial year – after your tax return has been processed.

Note – From 1 July 2012, you won’t be able to access Family Tax Benefit as fortnightly installments if:

You underestimated your income for two consecutive financial years and

When your income was confirmed by the Australian Taxation Office, it was found you had no entitlement in those years.
You may still be able to get annual payments at the end of the financial year if you lodge a claim.

You may also be entitled to the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement. This is an increase in the annual rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A per child to be paid as a lump sum after the end of the financial year. The Supplement is available to all Family Tax Benefit Part A eligible families, although if you have been overpaid any entitlements then instead of receiving the full amount it will be used to off set, or repay, the outstanding amount.

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3. Family Tax Benefit Part B

The Family Tax Benefit Part B is designed to provide extra financial assistance to single income families and to families with one main income. It is paid on a ‘per family’ basis, and the rate varies according to the age of the youngest child.

Eligibility:

  • You are an Australian Resident or a specific visa holder.
  • You are the main carer of your child for at least 35% of the time.
  • You are the carer of a child up to the age of 16 or 18 if the child is a full time student.
  • You are earning below a certain amount of personal annual income.

How do I claim?

Fill in the Family Tax Benefit claim form, issued to new parents by most maternity hospitals. If you haven’t already received one, you can download it from the DHS website, visit a DHS Service Centre or call 13 61 50 to request that a form is mailed to you.

From 20th March 2012 a new income test will apply. The Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part B will be limited to families where the primary earner has an adjusted taxable income of $150,000 or less. (Previously there was no limit on how much the primary, or higher, income earner could earn and all sole parents, regardless of their income, were eligible.)

The amount of the benefit depends on the lowest income earner’s total income over a financial year.

If you are a two-parent family in which your primary earner has an annual adjusted taxable income of more than $150,000 you will not be eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part B. Currently, the secondary income earner can earn around $5,183 per annum before their FTB Part B payment is affected and payments reduce on a sliding scale until a cut-off of around $26,390 for those with a child under five, or around $20,532 for those whose youngest child is aged five to 18.

For more information, contact the DHS Service Centre on 13 61 50 or visit the DHS website.

You can receive this as a fortnightly payment or claim as a lump sum after lodging your annual tax return.

Note – You cannot receive Family Tax Benefit Part B while you or your partner is receiving Paid Parental Leave. This can be paid once your PPL period ends.

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4. Large Family Supplement

If you have three or more children, and you receive Family Tax Benefit, you may receive an extra allowance of $12.04 a fortnight for your third child, and each child you have after that. You don’t have to apply for this, but if you are not receiving it and you think you are entitled, you should contact the Department of Human Services.

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5. Baby Bonus

The Baby Bonus is paid to families following the birth (including stillborn babies) or adoption of a child who is born or adopted before 1 March 2014. It is a payment made in 13 fortnightly installments that helps with the costs of a child.

As of 1st March 2014 the Baby Bonus will be replaced with an increase of Family Tax Benefit Part A for children who are born, taken into care for at least 13 weeks, or placed for adoption after 1 March 2014.

The Family Tax Benefit Part A payments for families will be an extra $2,000 for their first child and $1,000 for subsequent children. This will be paid with an initial installment of $500. The remaining payments will be rolled into normal fortnightly payments over a three-month period.

Eligibility:

  • Your child is born or adopted before 1 March 2014
  • You are the primary carer of a dependent child (or the partner of the primary carer)
  • You have care of the child within 26 weeks of the birth and be likely to continue as carer for at least 26 weeks
  • You are not receiving Parental Paid Leave for the child
  • You meet Australian residency requirements
  • You meet the Baby Bonus income test. You can check this here
  • You have up to 52 weeks from the birth of your baby or from the time your child enters your care to claim Baby Bonus and provide your income estimate

How much is the Baby Bonus?

From September 1, 2012 the Baby Bonus will be $5000 and will be paid in 13 fortnightly installments. The first payment will be larger than the subsequent payments. It is important to be aware that as of 1st March 2014 the Baby Bonus will be replaced with an increase of Family Tax Benefit Part A

If you are eligible for $5,000, you will get $846.20 in the first fortnight and $346.15 in the next 12 fortnights.

If you are eligible for $3,000, you will get $692.40 in the first fortnight and $192.30 in the next 12 fortnights.

Note – You cannot claim the Baby Bonus if you are claiming the Paid Parental Leave entitlement.

Read in more detail about the baby bonus here.

What if I’m having twins?

The Baby Bonus is based on the number of children you have. So, in the case of twins or triplets, you can claim the Baby Bonus for each child or you could claim a combination of Baby Bonus and Paid Parental Leave.

How do I claim the Baby Bonus?

You can make your claim online at the DHS website, or by visiting your local DHS service centre. You can lodge your claim up to three months before the birth, and you must lodge it no later than 52 weeks from the day after the child’s birth.

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6. Paid Parental Leave:

The Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme for new parents, who are the primary carers of a child born or adopted on or after 1 January 2011, is available for new parents to access. Parental Leave Pay is currently $622.10 per week before tax for a maximum of 18 weeks. This is the hourly rate of the National Minimum Wage x 7.6 (hours in a standard working day) x 5 (days in a standard working work) 
In most cases, the person will receive the payment through their employer. Alternatively, it may be paid direct to you from the Department of Human Services.

Eligibility:

  • The primary carer must be in paid work and have:
  • Been engaged in work continuously for at least 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption of your child
  • Undertaken at least 330 hours of paid work in the 10-month period (an average of around one day of paid work a week)
  • An income test of $150,000 will apply based on the primary carer’s adjusted taxable income in the previous financial year.

The scheme is available to employees, casual workers and self-employed individuals.

Eligible families can choose whether to participate in the scheme depending on their individual circumstances. Changes to the Baby Bonus Scheme means it will no longer be available for children born or adopted on or after 1 March 2014. If your child is born or adopted before 1 March 2014 and you meet the eligibility criteria for both payments, you can use the Paid Parental Leave Comparison Estimator to help you decide which payment is the better financial decision for your family. You cannot claim the Parental Leave Pay and Baby Bonus for the same child. Most eligible families will be better off receiving Parental Leave Pay rather than Baby Bonus.

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7. Australian Childhood Immunisation Register

In order for you to receive Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement, Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate, your child must be immunised or have an approved immunisation exemption.

The National Immunisation Program Schedule is a national register that aids parents and carers in monitoring their child’s immunization history and keeping them up to date. If any of your benefits are not paid because you have not met the immunisation requirements, you have a timeframe of one year from the end of the financial year that your child turned one, two or five, to meet those immunisation requirements.

You need to provide one of the following forms from your immunisation provider or doctor if you have an approved reason why your child is not fully immunised and you want an immunisation exemption.

  • An Immunisation exemption for medical reasons (contraindication) form
  • An Immunisation exemption by conscientious objection form, or
  • A letter explaining why the exemption is necessary

More information and forms here.

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8. Child Care Benefit

Child Care Benefit is a payment to help families who use approved and registered childcare. Child Care Benefit is income-tested.

Types of care that may be covered by the Child Care Benefit scheme includes:

  • Long day care
  • Family day care
  • Occasional day care
  • Outside school hours care
  • Vacation care
  • Pre-school and kindergarten
  • It may also help cover the cost of childcare provided by grandparents, relatives, friends or nannies.

Note – Check with your child care service to find out if they are an approved provider, or go to mychild.gov.au, or call the Child Care Access Hotline, on Freecall 1800 670 305, between 8.00 am and 9.00 pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time

To be eligible for CCB you must:

  • Use approved or registered care
  • Be an Australian resident living in Australia or meet other residency requirements
  • Your child must be up to date with their immunisation (or has approved exemption)
  • Be responsible for all your Child Care costs (check this with your employer if you use salary sacrificing or salary packaging to pay for child care)
  • You may be required to provide details of your employment situation if you wish to claim for more than 24 hours of CCB each week.
  • Meet the income test (Approved Care only)

Approved Care:

You can receive CCB either by arranging to reduce the fees you pay on a daily/weekly basis to your approved Child Care service, or by making a lump sum claim at the end of the financial year from the Department of Human Services or from the Australian Taxation Office. The claim must be lodged within 2 years from the end of the financial year for which you are claiming.

To reduce your fees by more than the minimum entitlement you will need to provide an estimate of your family income.

This benefit is income tested and the amount you will receive varies depending on whether parents are working, studying, training or even looking for work. If you have a partner, their work/study circumstances are also taken into account when working out your entitlement. There is a formula used to work this amount out and can be calculated by your centre, or visit the DHS website for an estimate.

Registered Care:

  • Care provided by family, friends or a nanny for work related childcare as long as they are registered with the Australian Government Department of Human Services
  • Some private pre-schools and kindergartens
  • Outside school hours care

For registered care you can make a claim after the care has been provided and you have paid for the service. To make a claim for registered care you will need to take your receipts to a Department of Human Services service centre (note – you must claim within 12 months of the service). You can only claim Child Care Benefit for registered care if you are looking for work, working, training, or studying at some time during the week in which you use childcare or have an exemption from that requirement. The current (June 2014) registered care rate for a non school-aged child in up to 50 hours of care per week is $0.666 per hour, or $33.30 per child per week.

Please note these rates are adjusted on 1 July each year, in line with the Consumer Price Index. This means that the rates are different for each financial year and are a guide only. You may find that you are eligible to receive a higher payment if you are a grandparent or if your family has special circumstances.

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9. Child Care Tax Rebate

The Child Care Tax Rebate is a payment designed to help working families with the cost of their childcare, regardless of their income. The Rebate will cover up to 50% of the “out of pocket” childcare costs incurred, for approved childcare. You will need to have applied for CCB to be regarded as eligible, and satisfy the CCB work/training study test to be eligible for this rebate.

The Child Care Tax Rebate is a separate payment to the Child Care Benefit (CCB) – and is not means-tested. The Child Care Tax Rebate is only paid to people who meet the basic eligibility criteria for CCB (even if they do not receive CCB because their income is too high.)

This means that you will be reimbursed 50% of the difference between the childcare fees you have paid and the amount of CCB you have received, up to a maximum of $7,500 per child per year. The rebate will be paid quarterly.

How do I receive the Child Care Rebate?

There are a number of ways you can receive the Child Care Rebate:

  • Directly to your Child Care Benefit – approved child-care service, fortnightly (or in many circumstances weekly) or
  • Directly to your bank account, fortnightly (or in many circumstances weekly) or
  • By quarterly payment to your bank account or
  • By annual payment to your bank account (this payment option only available if you receive your Child Care Benefit for approved child care as a lump-sum payment).

Note – You are not eligible for the Child Care Tax Rebate if you are using Registered Care for your childcare arrangements.

Get more information about the Child Care Rebate.

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10. Other benefits to help parents and carers

There are a range of benefits covering special circumstances; if you are not sure what you are entitled to, make an appointment with your nearest Centrelink office to get specific information. A few of the other benefits for parents include:

Parenting Payment

This payment is both income and asset tested. You need to contact the Department of Human services and register your intent to claim the Parenting Payment. To be eligible to claim the Parenting Payment you must be:

  • Single and care for at least one child aged less than eight, or
  • Have a partner and care for at least one child aged less than six.
  • Your income and assets of both you and your partner (if you have one) are below certain amounts

There are a number of other requirements, so contact your local DHS service centre for more information.

Multiple Birth Allowance

Not available for twin parents, unfortunately; but if you have had triplets (or more) and you receive Family Tax Benefit, you will automatically receive an extra payment each fortnight.
This current payment rate stands at $143.92 a fortnight for triplets or $191.66 a fortnight for quadruplets or more for whom you get Family Tax Benefit Part A. There is no need to make a claim for this payment.

Jobs, Education and Training (Jet) Child Care fee assistance

If you currently receive an eligible Centrelink payment (such as Parenting Payment) and you receive the maximum amount of Child Care Benefit, and you are involved in activities such as work or study, you may be eligible for this payment, which covers most of the ‘gap fee’ for approved childcare. To obtain more information go here.

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11. Medicare benefits for families

If you spend over a certain threshold on out-of-hospital medical services in one year, you will be eligible for additional Medicare rebates. You must register all of your family members; you can do this online at www.medicareaustralia.gov.au so that the medical costs for each person can count towards the family’s Medicare Safety Net threshold.

2014 Medicare Safety Net Rates

When you have spent over $430.90.50 on out-of-hospital medical services in one calendar year, you will be eligible to receive 100% of the schedule fee for all medical services after the threshold is reached. An additional benefit, of 80% of all out-of-pocket costs, is paid after you reach a higher threshold (about $624.10 for families eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A and around $1248.70 for other families.)

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12. Schoolkids Bonus

This is currently under review in Parliament with legislation to end its payment being assessed. The January 2014 installment has been paid.

This is automatically paid in January and July to eligible families and students and there is no need to make a claim for it. Your eligibility for this is based on you being a parent or carer who gets Family Tax Benefit Part A, or for having a dependent child primary or secondary student turning 19 years or younger in the calendar year, who receives certain government payments.

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For more information see Parenting advice or Parenting.

Last updated June 2014

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