January 9, 2019
The rising cost of living means that many Australians are considering living overseas in their retirement. The Government is concerned that some of the overseas payments are being made to people who are no longer alive, which wastes taxpayers’ money.
At present, Australia has a voluntary system of reporting deaths. The Government believes that the current system is no longer a sufficient control mechanism for pension payments, as they estimate that about 6,000 payments to Australians living overseas are being paid to families of deceased people. This estimate is based on the difference in the annual death rate data between Australian pensioners over 80 living overseas and in Australia – in that age group, the reported number of deaths overseas is about half that of pensioners living in Australia.
The reporting system is to change from 1 July 2019 and it is designed to end welfare payments for people who have died abroad. From that date, Australian age pensioners over 80, who are living overseas, will be required to produce a “proof of life certificate” every two years to continue receiving the Age Pension. In practice, this means that the affected pensioners will need to go to an Australian embassy or consulate to register that they are still alive. This could be an issue for those in fragile health and living far from their nearest Australian foreign office as if proof is not provided within 13 weeks, their payment will be cancelled.
Affected pensioners living overseas will receive an initial letter with further information from the federal government in the second half of 2019.