June 13 priority closing date for making renewal applications for Susi grants

There’s just a fortnight to the June 13 priority closing date for making renewal applications for Susi grants.

Up to 99,000 applications are expected to be submitted, seeking approval for grant aided support for persons attending third level colleges in Ireland and overseas.

A further four weeks extension to the priority deadline is available for first time applicants.

The final deadline for submitting grant applications outside of these priority deadlines has not been announced yet, but presumably will be October.

Only in exceptional cases will grants applications be considered beyond this deadline date.

As a starting point, you should determine whether the student or prospective student intends on taking a recognised post leaving cert course, undergraduate or postgraduate course, or a European undergraduate course.

Certain postgraduate courses in Northern Ireland can also qualify.

Grant aid is generally not available in the case of a student repeating a year at college, albeit there are exceptions, where a student returns to college after a five-year break.

Apart from determining whether the course is recognised or not, a student must establish whether they and their parents, or guardians in the case of “dependent” applicants, meet the relevant income assessments.

For “independent” applicants (mainly those aged 23 or older), you will be assessed under your own and your spouse, civil partner, or co-habitant’s income, in determining your eligibility for funding.

To aid applicants in assessing whether they (together with their parents, guardians, spouses or co-habitants) fall below the relevant thresholds, SUSI have developed a ‘grant eligibility reckoner’ which is available on their website, and is a useful tool which an applicant can use as a guide.

The relevant income limits and maintenance grant rates that apply to the majority of undergraduate third level students remain unchanged from 2014 levels.

Apart from maintenance grants, Susi will cover the annual student contribution of €3,000, where income is below €49,840, and a 50% student contribution rate of €1,500 is available where income is below €54,240.

These income thresholds are increased incrementally in the case of families with more than four dependent children, and in the case of multiple children in college.

Where a student is under 23, the student and their parent’s income is usually aggregated, to determine whether their total income exceeds the relevant thresholds.

In calculating whether the applicant and their family has exceeded the relevant thresholds, Susi will allow a disregard for reasonable holiday earnings (summer jobs etc).

In the case of farm families, the same income limits apply.

However, in assessing farm profits, no deduction is allowed in respect of depreciation, or capital allowances (being the write-off of expenditure for investment in farm assets), neither is there any allowance given for interest on borrowings used to buy assets, or for leasing of equipment under a finance lease arrangement.

Rental income and income from the sale of assets are counted in assessing whether the applicant (or their family) is below the relevant thresholds.

Some income types are disregarded, such as child allowance and carer’s allowance.

If income is only slightly above the relevant threshold, it might be worthwhile considering making a qualifying pension payment, which reduces the assessable income.

If your financial circumstances have changed negatively in 2019, on a permanent basis, such that your future income will be lower for 2019 and future years, you can put this case forward to Susi.

For many applicants, farm accounts will not yet be prepared, and the application will not be processed in full until both the farm accounts and the tax return for 2018 are submitted.

With that in mind, applicants and their relevant family members should now be focusing on making their Susi applications online and, importantly, getting their accounts and tax returns prepared and filed.

Full details of student grants are available at the www.susi.ie website.

Each person should obtain specific advice relevant to their own circumstances.

Kieran Coughlan Chartered Tax Advisor FCCA, AITI Coughlan Accounting & Taxation Services Ltd 086-8678296 kieran.coughlan@coughlanaccounting.com

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