An official statement recently published on Centrelink’s web site has further clarified the situation in regard to income earned from solar feed in tariffs.
While much of the media focus of late has been on feed in tariffs affecting retirees on a government pension, the announcement from Centrelink also incorporates information relating to recipients of other benefits.
Centrelink says feed-in tariff credits on electricity accounts will not be subject to income tests, but feed in tariff cash payments to pensioners (for example by cheque or by direct deposit) will continue to be counted as income for pension purposes.
The adjusted policy applies from 14 May 2010 and is relevant to not just pensions, but all Social Security income support payments.
Centrelink says feed-in tariffs paid as cash will be included under the income test over 12 months. For example, if a beneficiary of Centrelink income support payments receives a cheque from their electricity company for $260 it will be counted as $10 income per fortnight for 26 fortnights. (Source).
According to Energy Matters co-founder Max Sylvester, “This is mixed news. We were under the impression earlier this week that pensioners receiving income from feed in tariffs would not be affected in any way so we are very disappointed with this announcement in that respect. We were also still in the dark in relation to the situation for people receiving other Centrelink benefits, such as NewStart. While Centrelink’s announcement does better define this aspect, it’s still not 100% clear whether “income support payments” includes Family Allowance, a benefit that hundreds of thousands of families receive. We’ll be seeking clarification on this.”
In the case of pensions, while for a person’s pension to be affected by cash income from feed in tariffs their total assessable income would need to exceed $142 a fortnight for singles and $248 a fortnight for couples combined; Mr. Sylvester says Centrelink should take an entirely “hands off” approach in regard to benefit recipients when it comes to feed in tariff income gained through residential solar power systems.
“The continued stability of Australia’s solar industry aside, recipients of Centrelink benefits who have solar power systems are making a solid contribution to shifting Australia away from fossil fuel based power generation and helping to slash domestic power related greenhouse gas emissions – they should be rewarded, not penalised. Centrelink should not be standing in the way of this critical contribution and their policy as it stands will still discourage some people from installing solar power systems.” says Mr. Sylvester.
“The ATO are saying feed in tariff revenue is not considered income in most domestic scenarios, yet Centrelink is saying that it is income. The Government really needs to get its house in order, especially considering there is an election coming up and the recent failure to deliver on their Emissions Trading Scheme. This news just further impacts on the Government’s green credibility among Australians seeking to decrease their environmental impact.”