My latest MoneySense Retired Money column was published today and looks at the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to Old Age Security. You can find the full column by clicking on the highlighted headline adjacent: What to expect when applying for GIS.
Service Canada says as of June 2017, 1.94 million seniors were receiving the GIS, roughly a third of the country’s 5.93 million OAS pensioners.
You can get an overview of the GIS program at the Service Canada web site. It says the first requirement to receive GIS is that you also qualify for and are receiving OAS. So that means you have to be age 65: unlike CPP (which can pay reduced benefits as early as age 60), there’s no such thing as early OAS or early GIS, except in certain special circumstances. If you were automatically enrolled in OAS, you should apply for GIS three months before your 65th birthday.
Maximum monthly GIS payments for a single is $871.86: tax-free!
How much can you receive if you qualify? Service Canada’s media relations department says that as of the July to September 2017 quarter, maximum GIS amounts for those receiving the full OAS pension of $583.74 a month are $871.86 a month for a single, widowed or divorced OAS pensioner (so adding the two, $1,455.60 a month); $524.85 if your spouse/partner receives full OAS, $871.86 if your spouse does not receive an OAS pension or the Allowance, and $524.85 if the spouse receives the Allowance.
Thresholds to qualify are very low
Of course, the fact that two thirds of OAS recipients do NOT qualify for GIS suggests that most people are unlikely to qualify: after all, GIS has been referred to in some circles as “Senior’s Welfare.”
In the case of a couple with a combined income of no more than $23,376 and where the spouse gets full OAS, the maximum monthly GIS for the other spouse is $524.85. If the partner is not receiving OAS and the combined income is no more than $42,384, the individual will get some GIS; they will get the full $871.86 monthly GIS benefit if they have no other income. In the case of a couple making no more than $42,384 and where the spouse is receiving the Allowance, the maximum monthly GIS for the other partner is $524.85. For updated numbers, click here.
Still, if you’re close to these thresholds there’s little to lose by seeing if you may qualify. It used to be that Service Canada didn’t always go out of its way to notify low-income seniors that they may qualify for GIS. This has since been rectified: free money that’s also tax free is certainly something worth investigating!