Farm Assist is a means-tested income support scheme for farmers in Ireland. It is similar to Jobseeker’s Allowance, but has a more generous means test. In addition, you do not need to be available for work in order to qualify for Farm Assist.
How to Qualify?
In order 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. The means test takes account of virtually every form of income but assesses it in different ways and disregards various amounts. There are different rules applying to income from farming and other forms of self-employment, income from certain schemes, 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. The farmer is 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, €254 per year for each of the first two dependent children and €381 per year for each subsequent child are deducted. Your means from self-employment, including farming, are 70% of the balance.
REPS and SACS
Some but not all of the payments received under the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) 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/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 assessed usually 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 will be deducted from your assessable weekly earnings and then 60% of the balance will be assessed as weekly means. Income from an occupational pension is assessed in full.
Your spouse’s income from employment
Your spouse’s income from employment is taken into account as follows:
From 26 September 2007, €20 per day (up to a maximum of €60) from work will be deducted from your spouse’s/partner’s average assessable weekly earnings and then 60% of the balance will be 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.
If you were getting Farm Assist before 26 September 2007 and are still in payment on the 26 September 2007, then you will be assessed under the new means assessment to see if you are better off. If you would get a greater amount of Farm Assist under the old assessment then you will stay on the old assessment.
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 new 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 and is assessed in the manner described above.
Your home is not taken into account in the means test unless you derive an income from it.
Your total means from all sources are added together. A Department of Social Protection deciding officer will then decide how much, if any, Farm Assist you will get. You can appeal a decision if you are unhappy with it. You should appeal with 21 days of the decision and you can ask for an oral hearing. An Appeals Officer, whose decision is final, will then hear your case. If new information comes to light or your circumstances change, you can apply for Farm Assist again.
Liability to pay Pay-Related Social Insurance (PRSI)
Since 1 January 2007 you are no longer excused from paying PRSI. You may be liable to pay Class S contributions on your income from self-employment.
Download your form from here: Farm Assist Application Form.
This form is to be completed, then handed in to your Local Social Welfare Office.