The highs and lows of asking for drought help

TOUGH TIMES: Jason Maloney on his farm at Croom. On Monday night, his GoFundMe campaign had raised $266,128 of its $300,000 goal - in just 17 days. Picture: Sylvia Liber
TOUGH TIMES: Jason Maloney on his farm at Croom. On Monday night, his GoFundMe campaign had raised $266,128 of its $300,000 goal - in just 17 days. Picture: Sylvia Liber

All Jason Maloney wanted to do was raise money to feed his cattle – and support other drought-stricken farmers.

The Croom dairy farmer always knew asking for help would be difficult, but says the process has been more overwhelming than he could ever have imagined when he posted a tearful plea for assistance on social media.

As Mr Maloney’s fundraiser climbed closer to its $300,000 goal on Monday, the 36-year-old told the Mercury that while the tally was positive, it hadn’t been reached without tribulation.

Since his appeal for help – and the launch of the GoFundMe campaign, Food for Cows – two weeks ago, the farmer has copped abuse on social media about his, and his family’s, financial status.

His wife, Serena, owns a homewares business in Albion Park, the pair have a home at Berry and he recently bought a new motorbike. 

However, Mr Maloney hit back at his critics; saying while a picture painted a thousand words, the reality was very different. 

“People think because my wife has a business and we have a car, and I needed a motorbike for the farm ... we’re making a shitload of money,” he said.

“We don’t own a thing, we’re in debt to our eyeballs.”

The house at Berry was their “actual residence” they “haven’t been able to afford to build”, the farmer said.

“Serena inherited that property and for two years we’ve been trying to build it, but haven’t been able to raise the funds,” he said.

The homewares shop was a “completely separate business”, which had “no surplus cash in it”.

“If there was surplus cash, I wouldn’t be asking for help; we’d be able to live in our own house down at Berry instead of living in a falling-down shack that I’m living in off the farm,” he said.

Mr Maloney said people could “speculate” all they liked. “At the end of the day, would I have done what I did [ask for money] if I felt that I didn’t need to?,” he said.

Mr Maloney has spent about $120,000 on feed since his campaign started on July 19. The price of milk was down and feed costs had risen so much he couldn’t afford to feed his cows.

In another blow, Mr Maloney recently discovered a large chunk of his GoFundMe proceeds could go to the government as income tax.

“I haven’t got a problem with paying tax, but people do that [donate] and then all of a sudden the taxation department is wanting to ... get their hands on the pie,” he said.

Mr Maloney believed one-third, or up to $100,000 of the funds raised, could be lost to the tax office.

 “There’s 13 loads of hay there that that money could buy to help 13 other farmers here in the local area,” he said.

“I’m wanting to get around it [the tax] without it impacting on helping my local farmers.”

An ATO spokesman said crowdfunding amounts could be assessable income “depending upon how the funds are intended to be used”.

“Ordinarily, where the amounts received are spent on deductible expenses, such as purchasing feed for livestock, there will be no net taxable outcome, as the income amounts will be offset by the deductions obtained,” he said.

“This means, for most farmers, there will be no tax payable in relation to money donated to them for their farm expenses.

“Income tax will only be paid should the farmer make a net business profit.”