Average farm income €24,861 — but don’t expect college grants for your children

Last week, some media reports read “farmers income up 32%”.

Headlines like this do nothing for farmers, and if anything, they divide PAYE workers and us rural folk.

A more appropriate headline would have been “average farm income €24,861”.

Even looking at the full- time commercial farms, the income of €56,000 would be better explained if broken down per labour unit, because you are likely to see three generations working on most full-time commercial farms.

I’m not one for dragging down the prospects of farming. However, I’m not a fan either of farmers being teed up for a bashing from the general public.

Interestingly, in the very same week when the increase in farm incomes was announced, a change to include the value of land in the means testing of college grants was announced.

This comes after the Government mused over the Hunt Report for more than 12 months.

It means that if you have children going to college from 2013 onwards, it’s likely that they won’t qualify for a grant.

Current grant rates and income assessments used are set out in the accompanying tables.

The income assessment table shows that a child of the average farm family with an income of €24,861 could qualify for a student grant of up to €3,120 if living more than 45km from the college, and just €1,250 if living closer to the college.

Another table shows the social welfare payments formula for assessing means from capital.

For social welfare purposes, if you have €500,000 worth of property, you would be treated as having a means income of over €97,000.

Clearly if that type of rule is brought in for college grants, no children of farm families will qualify for student grants going forward.

The Government will get a report on the means test for students grants during the summer, and will propose amendments from next year, said the Minister for Education. In the interest of fairness, the proposed changes should be disclosed at this point, so that farm families can plan for their own circumstances.

As always, each individual’s circumstances should be looked at, for the best advice.

Your questions on this and other farming tax issues are welcome.


Kim Sheehan is an opera singer from Crosshaven, Co Cork, and is this year’s recipient of the Jane Anne Rothwell Award from Cork Midsummer Festival.A Question of Taste: Cork opera singer, Kim Sheehan

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