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Rates rebate an option for older residents

Media release
Friday 6 March 2015
Rates rebate an option for older residents

The Auckland Council Seniors Advisory Panel says that many older residents in Auckland may not know that there are options available to assist with rates payments in cases of financial hardship.

Both Auckland Council and central government offer a range of responses and assistance schemes. Over the last 12 months the council has worked hard to assist ratepayers who have genuine hardship issues, offering rates postponement or rates rebates for those who meet the eligibility criteria.

In the 2013/2014 rating year to 30 June 2014, a total of 20,051 Auckland ratepayers qualified for a rates rebate of up to $595.

Margaret Devlin, Chair of the Auckland Council Seniors Advisory Panel says, “When cost of living starts to outweigh your income it can be extremely hard to pay the bills, particularly if you are on a pension. We get a lot of feedback from older Aucklanders that rates are an issue for them. So many of the people we talk to don’t know there are options available to help them out.”

Under the rates postponement option, a residential ratepayer could be eligible to postpone the payment of rates by using the equity in their property. This option is generally available to ratepayers who are experiencing financial difficulties or unusual circumstances, as long as they have the required equity in their property.

The rates rebate option helps those whose rates are high in relation to their income. The scheme is funded by the government and administered by local authorities. Auckland Council tops-up the central government scheme to cover water and wastewater charges, so the rebate includes the ratepayer’s total rates and water-related payments.

Under the current 2014/2015 rates rebate scheme the maximum rebate has been increased from $595 to $605. The income threshold has been increased from $23,870 to $24,250 per year, however those who earn more than that may still be eligible.

Councillor Cathy Casey acknowledges that rates will always be a hot topic and encourages older residents to have their say by making a submission to the council’s 10 year budget currently out for consultation on the Shape Auckland website.

“The setting of rates is a complex process and councils are required by law to calculate a household’s rates based on the property value, or CV. But that can be a tough pill to swallow if you’re on a pension and struggling to make ends meet. It’s really important that our older residents know there are options out there to help them. A rates rebate or postponement could make a difference.”

Auckland Council has a rates customer service and credit control team set up to deal with hardship enquires and applications for rates rebates and postponements.

Any ratepayer experiencing hardship is encouraged to visit the council websitewww.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz or contact Auckland Council 09 301 0101 to discuss their situation and the various payment options available to them.

Submissions on the council’s 10 year budget 2015-2025 can be made at www.shapeauckland.co.nz. Submissions close at 4pm on Monday 16 March 2015.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Rates Postponements
To qualify for a postponement:
• The ratepayer must be the current owner of the rating unit and owned the property for at least two years
• The rating unit must be used solely by the ratepayer as their residence
• The postponed rates does not exceed 80 per cent of the available equity in the property
• The ratepayer their authorised agent must apply to the council on the prescribed form.

Rates Rebates
The amount of rebate people qualify for will vary according to:
• The amount of Auckland Council rates for the current 2014/2015 rating year
• The number of children or other dependents you support
• Your gross income and any overseas income for the tax year ended 31 March 2014
• Your water and wastewater charges.

The key details/criteria for the current 2014/2015 rates rebate scheme are:
• The maximum rebate has been increased to $605
• The income threshold is now $24,250 per year, however those who earn more than that you may still be eligible. These thresholds applied from 1 July 2014 and are not backdated for previous rating years
• Additional income allowance for dependents remains at $500 per dependent
• Water and wastewater charges will be included in the calculation.


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