Centrelink – Tips and tricks when applying for a payment

There’s more than one way to lodge an application

In case you’ve not been to Centrelink for a number of years, you may find that attending a Centrelink branch doesn’t seem the same as it used to.

With many (but not all) benefit payments, you have the option to complete a paper application. If you have questions at the branch, often you will be directed to call the national call centre number for your query. It is important to know which department you need to speak to (i.e. carers, older Australians, families) to ensure you are speaking with the correct staff who are trained in the payment type you wish to apply for.

To avoid delays, be aware of complexities that require additional Centrelink forms and supporting documents that need to be lodged at the time of application

Do you have a business you are thinking about winding up? Do you have a farm but are unsure about how this will be assessed for the benefit you are applying for? Centrelink has a team of ‘Financial Information Service’ officers (FIS officers) that have specialist training in complex areas.

You can contact Centrelink to book a meeting with the FIS officer at your local Centrelink office to discuss your situation before you submit your claim. This ensures you understand how your claim will be assessed and are aware of any additional information Centrelink may require before they process your claim.

You can nominate another person or organisation to speak with Centrelink on your behalf

Only consider appointing someone you trust implicitly. If you’ve dealt with Centrelink before and sitting on hold for extended periods of time isn’t for you, this may be another option! You should still receive a duplicate copy of all correspondence and can check this.

Keep records of all Centrelink correspondence

  • Keep a notebook of all your contact with Centrelink

  • Request reference numbers each time you call or speak to someone in an office, as well as the staff members name and the date and time you spoke with them.

  • Keep copies of all documents you submit to Centrelink in a file.

  • Send the information via fax (if you have one) and print a transaction receipt

This way if there is an error made with your application, you have proof you have submitted all required documentation, as well as the date, time and staff member you spoke with.

Gifting limits and deprivation

  • Centrelink allows you to gift assets (cash or items) up to a value up to $10,000 per financial year, up to a maximum of $30,000 over a five-year period.

  • Any amounts in excess of the allowable limits will be assessed as your asset for the next five years.

Always be honest and provide as much detail as possible

  • Supporting and additional documents aid in reducing delays in the processing of your claim.

  • Complete a cover letter outlining what benefit you are applying for, forms, supporting documents attached and any other relevant information that the processing team can use to understand your situation.

Regularly follow up Centrelink to ensure the application has been received and allocated to a processing team member

  • Check weekly, record (as above point)

  • Confirm if there is any outstanding information required to finish processing the application.

  • Provide any additional requested information in a prompt manner and quote any codes provided to ensure it is assigned to your file

Update Centrelink within 14 days of a significant change to your situation

  • This is your responsibility

  • A significant change can be as little as $2,000 if it would impact your entitlements

  • Advise Centrelink of changes to your situation, including but not limited to income and assets, living arrangements or relationship status

Understand the entitlements and restrictions that apply to the benefit you are claiming

  • Waiting periods

  • Income thresholds

  • Asset threshold

  • Residency requirements  

  • Substantiation requirements ie. Blind pension and the additional supporting documents

  • Relationship status

  • Home-owner status

It is possible to determine your eligibility for a payment before you begin the application process so you know the effort gathering supporting documents and completing the forms is worthwhile. Seek advice from a suitable financial adviser to help you determine if you are eligible, and if not, discuss if your assets or income can be restructured to ensure your eligibility.

Centrelink will not accept copies of certified identification with your application. You will often be required to take original identification documents into your local Centrelink office for a staff member to sight and save to your file so your application can continue to be processed. It is not recommended you post original documents to Centrelink as they could get lost.

Our team of specialists are here to help

To ensure you are equipped with everything you need to make an informed decision, get in touch with the Rethink Financial Planning team. We’re a team of highly-trusted financial advisers in Newcastle and can offer you personalised financial advice to work through the pros and cons of whether or not this is the right strategy for you.

Contact us on 4962 4440 or you can fill out our Pre-appointment Questionnaire here and one of the team will be in touch.