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We’ve all heard of the horror stories of people waiting longer than six months for their Age Pension claims to be processed by Centrelink.
When you submit an Age Pension claim you’re joining a queue a mile long and getting it right the first time can save an incredible amount of time and frustration.
This article is a step-by-step guide to claiming the Age Pension and getting it right the first time.
First – a little background
Not everyone will be entitled to a full Age Pension; some will only be entitled to a part pension. Our social security system is designed to act like a safety net (the more you have the less you’ll get).
Getting this evidence together is time consuming but avoids lengthy delays with requests for more information.
The Age Pension age is currently 66 years and 6 months, increasing to 67 from 1 July 2023.
Note: You also need to pass the Age Pension residency rules.
When can you claim for the Age Pension?
You are able to claim for the Age Pension 13 weeks prior to turning Age Pension age, however this may not always be the best option. The best timing of your claim submission will depend on if you’re still working, have any upcoming overseas travel and if you have structured your assets to maximise entitlements already.
If you submit your claim on the day you turn Age Pension age, in most cases you’ll be waiting between two weeks and two months to be paid. The caveat to this is that you have provided all of the necessary documentation to support your claim in the format that Centrelink demands (they are pedantic about the supporting evidence – we’ll go into this later).
In most cases, Centrelink will back pay you for the time taken to process your claim (from the date of submission to the date of grant).
If you lodge a claim after you reach your Age Pension age (because you were still working or forgot to apply), Centrelink will not back pay when you reached Age Pension age (only to your claim submission date).
The back pay is great because you don’t miss out on payments for the time taken to process your claim, however, it’s a good idea to set aside three months of living costs in your bank accounts. The point I’m making is – do not expect to be paid immediately… it’s a slow process when it comes to your payments being granted.
The Age Pension can be claimed online through a MyGov account. For those of you who are unaware what MyGov is, it is an online portal that is the home for the majority of your Government services (ATO, Medicare, Centrelink, Department of Veteran Affairs, Aged Care). For those of you who do not have a computer or are not tech savvy, there is an option to still use the paper-based Age Pension claim. The writing is on the wall… these will eventually be phased out.
Utilising MyGov provides a guided Age Pension process and is quite user friendly. I certainly recommend claiming this way as opposed to paper based.
The 3 steps to claim your Age Pension
- Open a MyGov account
- Complete your Confirmation of Identity with Centrelink
- Submit your Age Pension claim online via your MyGov account.
We’ll now go through the nuts and bolts of each step to make life easier for you.
1. Open a MyGov account
- Go to my.gov.au
- Click ‘create an account’ and follow the steps to establish a new account.
- Remember your username and password (keep these safe for future reference).
2. Complete your confirmation of identity with Centrelink
- Head into your local Centrelink office, let the customer service officer know you’re going to be claiming the Age Pension and need to complete the ID check.
- Ask the staff member to provide you with your Centrelink CRN (Customer Reference Number). Write this down and keep it safe.
- Ask the staff member to CONFIRM YOUR IDENTITY. To complete this process you will need to provide your driver’s licence, passport and a bank or ATM card (must provide originals, not copies). If you do not have the listed documentation please click on this link for other forms of acceptable documentation.
- Please ask the staff member to provide you with a MYGOV LINKING CODE. Write this down and follow the next step to complete activation of your MyGov account.
- When you get home, log in to your MyGov account and click on the ‘link a service tab’. Follow the procedure to link Centrelink by utilising the MyGov linking code you obtained on your visit to Centrelink. If you get stuck you can call MyGov on 132 307.
This will complete the establishment of an online account with Centrelink and will satisfy the identification requirements (you will never have to go into Centrelink ever again).
3. Submit your Age Pension claim online via your MyGov account
You will need to log in to your MyGov account and click on the Centrelink icon now that it has been linked to your account.
Click on the ‘make a claim’ icon and follow the link to claim the Age Pension.
There are two types of information that you’re going to be providing with your claim – your personal information and your financial information.
Here is an overview of what to have ready. This is not an exhaustive list but covers what is required for 95% of Age Pension claims. Some claims can be quite complex depending on your situation.
- Your Customer Reference Number
- Your Tax File Number
- Passport if you have ever travelled overseas
- Citizenship details or visa details if you weren’t born in Australia
- Bank details for the account into which you would like your pension payments to be paid
- Accommodation details (your living arrangements).
- Current bank balances (showing account holders names and account numbers). These are best obtained from your bank (ATM slips are not accepted by Centrelink). The balance shown must be within 14 days of application.
- Current superannuation statement (showing account holder, account number, superannuation provider, investment options and units owned in each investment option). The balance shown must be within 14 days of application.
- Current Income Stream Schedule for any income stream you have (allocated pension, annuity, superannuation income stream). These are obtained from your super fund. If you have an SMSF you will need to complete the SA330 form (this is a doozy; you may require professional assistance).
- If you have a self-managed super fund (SMSF), provide your most recent SMSF tax return. This is only required if your super fund is in the accumulation phase. If you are in retirement phase, please complete the SA330 form listed above.
- Share statements. Your latest share dividend statement is acceptable, but it must show company and number of shares owned and who owns them (for example, you, your partner or jointly owned).
- Current managed fund statements showing account holders name, account number, investment options and units owned in each investment option. The balance shown must be within 14 days of application.
- Two most recent payslips (if you are currently working as an employee).
- Latest full personal income tax returns (if you own an investment property, run a sole trader business or a partnership). Financial statements for the business will also be required (balance sheet, profit and loss statement, depreciation schedule and notes supporting the financials).
- Details about any investment property or holiday home that you own (council rates notice, tax return). Centrelink will require the rental property schedule in your tax return along with the completion of a MOD R form. If you have a loan on the investment property please provide a current mortgage statement showing the balance owed along with the original loan documentation showing the properties used as security for the loan.
- Latest company or trust and personal income tax returns (if you are involved in a private company or trust). Financial statements will also be required (balance sheet, profit and loss statement, depreciation schedule and notes supporting the financials).
- Current overseas (foreign) pension details. This should be documentation from the overseas pension department showing your regular payments in their currency.
- Compensation documentation for any lump sums or ongoing payments you have received or are still receiving. The completion of a MOD C form will also be required.
At the end of your Age Pension claim you will be required to upload scanned images of your financial information to support your claim. Once this has been uploaded you can click ‘submit’ and your claim joins the queue.
Now it will be a matter of just waiting for Centrelink to process your claim. The processing times vary wildly depending on the demand and their resources at any point in time.
The silence can be deafening while you’re in the queue and Centrelink will not advise you where you are in relation to expected processing times.
There are only three different types of communication you’ll receive from Centrelink after submitting your claim.
- Your Age Pension has been granted (perfect)
- You are required to provide more information
- Your Age Pension has been declined (due to exceeding the income or assets test)
If you are required to provide more information, try to get this back to Centrelink immediately. It will help save any further back and forth.
If your Age Pension application has been declined it is a good idea to call Centrelink on 132300.
The rejection letters provide minimal information. The only way to find out why you’ve been rejected is to call. It may be a simple mistake by Centrelink that has caused the rejection that can easily be rectified over the phone.
Alternatively, you can wait until your financial situation changes and falls within the acceptable limits to submit a new application.
Claiming the Age Pension is quite an epic process and a time consuming one at that. After everything is in place you can enjoy your retirement! Be sure to advise your utility providers that you have your concession card to obtain any discounts.
You will need to notify Centrelink of any changes to your circumstances when you are in receipt of the Age Pension. Now that you have a MyGov account this can easily be achieved by updating your situation via the ‘My Profile’ or ‘Income and Assets’ section.
The information contained in this article is general in nature.
Regan Welburn is the director of My Pension Manager, an administration service specialising in Age Pension applications and dealing with Centrelink. Regan previously worked for Centrelink as a financial information service officer and has an intricate knowledge of the social security system.