Farm Assist is a means-tested income support scheme for farmers. It is similar to
Jobseeker's Allowance, but has a different means test. In addition, you do not need to be available for work to qualify for Farm Assist. 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.
There is a similar social welfare payment for fishermen and women called
The assessment of means from self-employment, including farming, will be raised from 85% to 100%. The deductions from income for children are being discontinued (currently €127 per year for each of the first two dependent children and €190.50 per year for each subsequent child). (April 2013)
This measure is
not yet in effect and legislation is required to bring it into effect.
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) and Agri-Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS, income from employment and income from property and capital.
When you apply for Farm Assist, a social welfare officer 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, area aid, etc. They will also want information on the sale of crops, cattle, milk and other produce. The officer 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 spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. You are entitled to receive a copy of the farm income calculation.
Other income from self-employment
If you or your spouse 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. If you have dependent children, €127 per year for each of the first two dependent children and €190.50 per year for each subsequent child are deducted. Your means from self-employment, including farming, are 85% of the balance.
REPS, AEOS and SACS
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/SAC measures are deducted
- The balance is assessed as means.
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 no longer 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) from casual work is deducted from your assessable weekly earnings and then 60% of the balance is assessed as weekly means.
Any income from an occupational pension is assessed in full.
Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant's income from employment
Your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant's income from employment is taken into account as follows:
€20 per day (up to a maximum of €60) from work is deducted from your spouse's, civil partner or cohabitant's average assessable weekly earnings and then 60% of the balance is assessed as weekly means. The weekly means is then deducted from the combined total of your personal rate of Farm Assist, the maximum Increase for a Qualified Adult and any increase for child dependents.
People who were getting Farm Assist before 26 September 2007 and are 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 or €1,352 per year.
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 as capital.
Your home is not taken into account in the means test unless you get an income from it.
Your total means from all sources are added together to get a total weekly means. The difference between your assessed weekly means and the appropriate weekly amount of social welfare payment for your family's circumstances is the amount of Farm Assist payable.
Liability to pay Pay-Related Social Insurance (PRSI)
You may be liable to pay
Class S contributions on your income from self-employment.