Elderly missing out on rates rebate

By Sophie Bond

Although thousands of people on low incomes are eligible for a rates rebate many don't apply. Last year, 23,047 ratepayers received rebates and 2525 received partial rebates but it's believed many more are eligible.

The Rates Rebate Scheme was established in 1973 to help low-income homeowners with their rates. It is funded by the Government and administered by local councils. Auckland Council tops up the government scheme to cover water and wastewater charges, so the rebate includes your total rates and water-related payments.

To be eligible for a rebate you must be the legal ratepayer for the property that was your home on July 1, 2012. It is not applicable to family trusts, organisations or commercial buildings.

Howick/Pakuranga Grey Power member John Feringa is concerned that elderly homeowners on low incomes may not be taking advantage of the rates rebate. The elderly are often particularly hard hit by rates increases, with the values of old family homes in which they have lived for years soaring, while their income has reduced.

Mr Feringa is working on a couple of ways to increase awareness and uptake.

"The figures we hear bandied about are that only about 60 per cent of those who are eligible are applying. It's too difficult to complete the form and we want to help people who are not confident with doing financial statements."

The organisation's next newsletter, going to 1600 households in the area, will include information on who's entitled, and how much rebate those on low, fixed incomes could expect.

Mr Feringa is also calling on Grey Power members to help run stalls at supermarkets and malls, where members of the public can find out about the rebate and receive help filling out the forms. The maximum rebate rose this year from $570 to $590 and the income threshold to $23,650. Anyone on a household income of $23,650 or less, whose rates are more than $1200 would receive the full rebate. There is a rates rebate calculator on the Auckland Council website.

The council has also introduced a scheme offering income-tested rates remission for residents of retirement villages with license to occupy agreements.

If you have received a rebate before you should have received an application form by now. Otherwise they are available online or at any council service centre.

To help John Feringa email feringa@xtra.co.nz

Did you know about the rates rebate? Comment below.

- The Aucklander

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