Mayor says many ratepayers miss out on saving up to $580 because it's too hard
Low-income ratepayers in Auckland received more than $11 million of state aid to help pay last year's rates bills.
But the 20,000 Super City ratepayers who took advantage of the Government rates rebate scheme are half the number officials expected.
Mayor Len Brown says many ratepayers are missing out because of an unduly complicated process that requires a person to apply for the rebate each year after getting the rates bill.
He is asking council staff to work with the Department of Internal Affairs to simplify the scheme.
Rebates for the new rating year can be worth up to $580, depending on ability to pay rates.
Grey Power and ratepayer organisations expect more interest in the scheme as the Auckland Council's first rates bill arrives in the mail.
The 2011-12 bill differs from those of previous years, because it combines the rates of the former regional council and local council and states a 3.94 per cent increase.
Four instalments must be paid - on the second to last business days of this month, November, February and May - and late payments will incur a 10 per cent penalty.
The rebate is claimed mostly by people on NZ Superannuation and Work and Income benefits, but is also granted to those in paid employment and who are self-employed.
Councils receive the applications and hand them on to the department for approval.
Grey Power Federation board member Bill Rayner said it was of concern that only 17 to 20 per cent of eligible older people claimed the rebate.
"The nine associations are working with the council to try to make the scheme more available and we are starting a process soon," he said.
The process could be information booths at senior citizens' meeting places or even shopping malls and helping people with the forms.
John Feringa, of Howick-Pakuranga Grey Power said many people did not apply because it was too hard.
"It's not a difficult form if you are used to doing an income tax return.
"But many people whose only income is superannuation do not fill in a tax return."
One proposal is that the rebate be applied automatically to rates bills, instead of people having to apply each year.
A department spokeswoman said a last-minute rush of applications was being processed for rates applying to the 2010-11 rates year, which ended on June 30.
* This year: $54.7 million to 103,591 households
* Average rebate: $528
* How much: A couple on NZ Super of $29,447 paying $2200 in rates can claim $580
* Income threshold: $23,240