Farm money advice: Priority SUSI grant renewal deadline

Today is the deadline for priority grant renewal applications in the SUSI third-level student grants support scheme, with a further four weeks available for first time applicants.

Farm money advice: Priority SUSI grant renewal deadline

By Kieran Coughlan

Today is the deadline for priority grant renewal applications in the SUSI third-level student grants support scheme, with a further four weeks available for first time applicants.

As a starting point, students or prospective students should determine if they are eligible for a third level grant.

SUSI have developed a ‘grant elegibility reckoner’, available on their website, a useful guide for applicants.

If you intend to make an application, and you don’t have all the relevant information, it is still best to file an application and follow up later with additional information.

When processing applications, SUSI may look for additional information.

Make sure you send any requested information within the allocated timeframe, in order to avoid the application being rejected.

Many would-be third-level students mistakenly delay applying for a grant until after their Leaving Cert points are issued, or after the student has accepted a course offering from the CAO, usually around mid-August, at which point the application is late, and risks processing delay at best, or outright rejection where the application is outside of the acceptable time frame.

SUSI usually award grants to students based on the courses that they have identified in their applications, and subsequent detail on the CAO course granted can be used to augment the application, if the applicant doesn’t obtain that course as their first choice.

For a student to benefit from a grant, the typical process involves a means test examination of the incomes of both the student and their parents. The relevant income limits and grant rates that apply to the majority of undergraduate third-level students remain unchanged from 2014 levels (see below). The 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 parents’ income are usually aggregated to determine whether their total income exceeds the relevant thresholds.

The student contribution grant, worth up to €3,000 for the coming academic years, is payable in the case of a qualifying candidate where family income is below €49,840, with a 50% rate available where income is higher than €49,840, but lower than €54,240. 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 the 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, stock relief, or wages paid to dependent children or to casual labour.

Other incomes such as employment income, jobseekers benefit, or 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 changed negatively in 2018 on a permanent basis, such that your income will be lower for 2018 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 the farm accounts and tax return for 2017 are submitted.

Even if an applicant will not qualify for a grant, all is not lost. It may be possible for the person paying for college fees (including the student contribution) to claim tax relief in some circumstances, in particular where parents are paying the student contribution or college fees for more than one child in the same academic year.

Where just one student is attending college, the student contributions fees in respect of that one child are not deductible. If student contributions are paid for two or more children, the second and subsequent contributions can qualify for tax relief. See susi.ie for full details.

- Chartered tax adviser, Kieran Coughlan, Belgooly, Co Cork. (086) 8678296 www.coughlanaccounting.com

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