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Government benefits for low income seniors: OAS Allowance and GIS

By ATB Wealth 8 April 2020 3 min read

There are additional programs that provide financial assistance for low-income seniors, above and beyond Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS). Here’s a brief overview of the OAS Allowance, which may be available to individuals aged 60-64, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) program, which is payable to seniors age 65 and older.

 

The OAS Allowance

The OAS Allowance is available if you are age 60 to 64 and are the spouse/partner of a GIS recipient. You must meet all of the following conditions:

  • Your spouse or common-law partner receives OAS and is eligible for the GIS
  • You are a Canadian citizen or a legal resident, currently reside in Canada and have resided in Canada for at least 10 years since the age of 18
  • Your annual combined household income is less than the maximum annual threshold amount, $34,416 (combined income) for 2020

The maximum allowance is $1,165.16/month (2020).

For other situations that might qualify you for the allowance refer to the government of Canada webpage: Allowance for people aged 60 to 64 - Eligibility.

 

The OAS Allowance for the Survivor

The OAS Allowance for the Survivor is available if you are aged 60-64, have a low income, and your spouse/partner has died. You must meet all of the following conditions:

  • Be a Canadian citizen or legal resident
  • Currently reside in Canada and have resided in Canada for at least 10 years since the age of 18
  • Have not remarried or entered into a common-law relationship
  • Have annual income less than the maximum threshold amount, $25,056 (for 2020)

The maximum allowance for survivors is $1,388.92/month for 2020.

The allowance stops the month after the surviving spouse's 65th birthday.

 

What is the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)?

The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) is a non-taxable pension provided to OAS recipients with low income and are living in Canada. Importantly, to qualify for these benefits, seniors must file an annual tax return.

 

Eligibility criteria for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)?

To qualify for GIS, you must currently be receiving OAS and your annual income (or combined annual income in the case of couples) must be lower than the maximum annual thresholds as follows (2020 Amounts):

  • Single/divorced/widowed $18,600
  • Couple, spouse receives full OAS, $24,576, combined income
  • Couple, spouse does not receive OAS or allowance, $44,592, combined income
  • Couple, spouse receives the allowance, $44,592, combined income

Once your income/combined income exceeds these thresholds you will not qualify for GIS. If you have elected to defer your OAS payment, you will not be eligible for GIS and your spouse/partner will not be eligible for the allowance.

Effective July 2020, enhancements to the GIS earnings exemption will come into effect. To learn more about this and how to determine what sources of income and expenses the program considers when calculating income, refer to the government of Canada webpage: Guaranteed Income Supplement - How much could you receive.

 

What are the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits?

Your GIS amount will depend upon your marital status and your previous year’s income (or combined annual income in the case of couples). Maximum monthly GIS amounts for individuals receiving the maximum OAS are below (2020 amounts):

  • Single/divorced/widowed $916.38
  • Couple, spouse receives full OAS, $551.63
  • Couple, spouse does not receive OAS or allowance, $916.38
  • Couple, spouse receives the allowance, $551.63

For information regarding the GIS amount for your specific income level, refer to the GIS tables provided by Employment and Social Development Canada.

 

How to apply for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)

If you were automatically enrolled in OAS, you will be automatically enrolled in GIS.

If you did not receive an automatic enrollment letter, you will need to apply either online by accessing your My Service Canada account, or by mailing the paper application to Service Canada.

If you are already receiving OAS but not GIS you will need to apply in writing.

 

Other financial assistance for low-income seniors

In addition to federal programs, low-income seniors in Alberta may be eligible for a variety of programs, including the Alberta Seniors Benefit. We recommend you visit Alberta financial assistance for seniors to learn more.

 

Ensuring you understand OAS and GIS benefits are an important part of planning for your future. An ATB Wealth advisor can work with you to create a personal retirement plan that illustrates the impact of these benefits on your retirement finances. Contact us today to speak with one of our experts.

 

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