Farm Assist is a means-tested payment for low income farmers. To qualify for
Farm Assist, you must be a farmer, farming land in the State, aged between 18
and 66 and satisfy a means test.
You are considered a farmer if you farm land that you own or lease and that
you use for the purpose of husbandry. Husbandry means working the land
with the aim of taking produce from the land.
There is a similar social welfare payment for fishermen and women called Fish Assist.
From 8 March 2017, farm income and other income from off-farm
self-employment will be assessed at 70% (down from 100%), with additional
annual disregards of €254 for each of the first two children and €381 for
the third and other children. (The disregards for dependent children are
applied first and 70% of the balance is assessed.)
The means test takes account of virtually every form of income but assesses
it in different ways and disregards various amounts. Different rules apply to
income from farming and other forms of self-employment, income from certain
schemes such as the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS), income from
employment and income from property and capital.
Your income from farming is assessed as gross income that you, your spouse,
civil partner or cohabitant may be expected to receive minus any expenses you
incur to earn that income. Your income from the previous 12 months is used to
assess your likely future earnings. However it is not simply assumed that your
previous year’s earnings will be repeated the following year as farmers can
have significant variations in income from year to year.
When you apply for Farm Assist, a social welfare inspector will call to see
you and ask to see various documents. For example, accounts prepared for tax
purposes, creamery returns, cattle registration cards, details of headage
payments and area aid. They will also want information on the sale of crops,
cattle, milk and other produce. The inspector will then assess the costs
actually and necessarily incurred in connection with the running of the farm.
These costs may include rent, annuities, the cost of inputs like feed and
fertiliser and the depreciation of farm machinery. Labour costs are taken into
account, with the exception of the labour of the farmer and their spouse, civil
partner or cohabitant. You are entitled to receive a copy of this farm income
Other income from self-employment
If you or your spouse, cohabitant or civil partner has other income from
self-employment, this is also assessed, taking into account the costs incurred
in the business. The income from farming and other forms of self-employment is
added together and the costs involved are deducted. From 3 April 2013 100% of
your means from self-employment (with no disregards for dependent children) are
You may be liable to pay Class
S contributions on your income from self-employment.
REPS, AEOS, SACS and GLAS
Some but not all of the payments received under the Rural Environmental
Protection Scheme (REPS), the Agri-Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS) or the
Special Area of Conservation (SAC) scheme are assessed.
- The first €2,540 per year of payments is disregarded
- 50% of the balance is also disregarded
- Expenses incurred in complying with REPS, AEOS or SAC measures are
- The balance is assessed as means.
Payments under the new Green
Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) are treated in the same way and
the same disregards apply.
Income from leasing of milk quota or land
If you have leased your milk quota, the income from the leasing is assessed
in full. It is not included in the assessment of income from farming as
described above. The same applies to income earned from the leasing of land. If
you have leased all of your land, you are not eligible for Farm Assist.
Income from employment
Your income from a job is assessed. Your assessable weekly earnings (gross
income less PRSI, union dues and superannuation fees) are usually assessed on
the basis of the 13 weeks before you claim. Not all of your income is taken
into account. €20 per day (up to a maximum of €60) is deducted from your
assessable weekly earnings and then 60% of the balance is assessed as weekly
Any income from an occupational pension is assessed in full. If you have
seasonal work you are assessed on your earnings only during the period you are
Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant's income from employment is
assessed in the same way (€20 per day with a maximum of €60 is deducted and
60% of the balance is assessed as weekly means).
People who were getting Farm Assist before 26 September 2007 and who were
still in payment on 26 September 2007 may be assessed differently.
Income from capital includes property, savings and investments. If you own
property that you are not personally using or you have investments or any other
form of capital, the value is assessed, using a special formula. You may or may
not be getting an income from the property or investment.
The value of capital is assessed as follows:
- The first €20,000 of the capital is disregarded
- €20,000 to €30,000 is assessed at €1 for every €1,000
- Next €10,000 is assessed at €2 per €1,000
- Excess of €40,000 is assessed at €4 per €1,000
The assessment only applies to units of €1,000. Therefore all amounts
should be rounded down to the nearest €1,000. For example if you have
€38,400 in the bank, the first €20,000 is disregarded, €10,000 is
assessed at €1 per €1,000, which is €10 and the remaining €8,000 is
assessed at €2 per €1,000, which is €16 per week. So your income from
capital is €26 per week.
Property you do not use
If you don't use your farm and as a result have no income from it, an
assessment of its value to you is still made. The farm is effectively treated
Your home is not taken into account in the means test unless you get an
income from it.
Your means from all sources are added together to get a total weekly means.
You will be paid the difference between your total assessed weekly means and
the maximum rate of Farm Assist that you could get if you had no means
(including increases for adult and child dependants).