Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 8 December 2016

A financial lifeline

Martin O'Sullivan

Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30

Farmers are being forced to seek out any financial remedies
Farmers are being forced to seek out any financial remedies
The ACA Farmers Handbook

Farm incomes have taken a severe battering in the past 12 months to the extent that many farm households are on or below the poverty line.

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With little light on the horizon, farmers are being forced to seek out any financial remedies that may assist them in their current plight.

Farm Assist may be one such remedy as it is a weekly means-tested payment for low-income farmers provided by the Department of Social Protection. Farmers who have income from another source (such as other self-employment, insurable employment, capital, etc) may still qualify for a payment under Farm Assist.

Following an application for Farm Assist, you will be assessed by a Social Welfare inspector who will work out your means based on your assessed farm profit and any other income you may have.

ELIGIBLE FARMERS

Farmers between 18 and 66 years who farm land within the state may be eligible. It is not necessary for you to own the land you farm to be eligible; however, if you rent or lease your land to another person, you are not eligible unless you also farm land.

MEANS TEST

To qualify for this scheme your means as determined by Social Welfare must be below a certain level.

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Your means include any income or property (excluding your home) you may have and any other assets that may provide you with an income.

On completion of form Farm 1, a Social Welfare inspector will visit your home and examine all of your farm income and expenditure documentation.

It is important that you have as much documentation as possible available in order to provide the inspector with adequate information to determine your eligibility.

Failure to provide sufficient information, or withholding information, may give the inspector no choice but to turn down your application or at least postpone a decision until such information as he or she deems necessary is available. Applicants are entitled to receive a copy of the farm income calculation.

CALCULATION OF MEANS

Means can arise from a number of sources and may be treated differently depending on the source.

Income from farming and any other form of self-employment are added together and the costs involved are deducted.

All of the resultant income is assessed as means and disregards for children no longer apply. These means are added to your means from other sources.

Means from REPS/AEOS, SACS and GLÁS is assessed separately from other farm income in that €2,540 is deducted from your annual payment and half of the balance remaining after deduction of expenses incurred is taken as means.

Means from insurable employment, including your spouse or partner, is assessed net of PRSI, superannuation and union dues and net of a disregard of €20 per day up to a maximum of three days.

If you have seasonal work, you are assessed with your earnings only during the period while you were actually working. Means from investments and savings is not assessed on the actual return earned but rather a notional income which is arrived at as follows:

First €20,000 not counted

€20,000 to €30,000 is assessed at €1 per €1,000

€30,000 to €40,000 is assessed at €2 per €1,000

Over €40,000 is assessed at €4 per €1,000.

Means are calculated on assessable income less the relevant disregards, and the balance is then assessed at 60pc of what remains.

RATE OF FARM ASSIST

The rates of Farm Assist are set out on Table A. The amount actually paid is the difference between your assessed means and the maximum rate of payment that you could be entitled to. For example, if your assessed means are €70 per week and you are married with three dependent children, you should receive €332.20, i.e. €188 + €124.80 + €89.40 (€29.80x3) - €70.

It should be noted that if you qualify for a full allowance for your spouse or partner, you will get the full rate child-dependent allowance, otherwise you will get half the child-dependent allowance (€14.90).

Payment can be made directly into a bank or building society account or by collection at the Post Office.

ANNUAL REVIEW

A declaration form, Farm12, will issue to the claimant on an annual basis, requiring them to declare that they have an ongoing entitlement to farm assist. They will be required to declare any change in their family circumstances, inclusive of means, which may affect their entitlement to Farm Assist.

EXTRA BENEFITS

If you are getting Farm Assist, you may also be entitled to fuel allowance (subject to certain conditions).

TAXATION & PRSI

Farm Assist being an assistance based payment is not subject to income tax or the Universal Social Charge. However, by being in receipt of Farm Assist, you are not exempt from paying PRSI on your farm profits.

HOW TO APPLY

You can get a form Farm 1 from your local Social Welfare Office and complete and return the same to that office.

* Read more: IFA call for overhaul of Farm Assist scheme

Martin O'Sullivan is the author of the ACA Farmers Handbook. He is a partner in O'Sullivan Malone and Company, accountants and registered auditors. www.som.ie. Ph: 051 640397

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