FMD Rainfall Analyser frequently asked questions

​​​​Further information about terms used in this document can be found in the Glossary.

Rainfall Deficiency Criteria (Eligibility for Early Withdrawal)

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When am I eligible to withdraw my FMD before 12 months?

From 1 July 2016, you can withdraw your FMD within 12 months without affecting any tax deduction you have claimed for an amount deposited in the previous income year if you meet the required rainfall deficiency criteria for the six consecutive months prior to your withdrawal of the FMD. Normally, FMDs must be held for at least 12 months in order to realise the taxation benefits.

From 1 July 2016, a primary producer affected by drought can withdraw their FMDs before 12 months without losing their taxation benefits, if they:

  • made their FMD in the previous financial year, and
  • claimed a deduction for the FMD in the previous financial year’s tax return, and
  • have held their FMD for at least six months, and
  • can demonstrate that an area of their farming property has been affected by a rainfall deficiency for the six consecutive months immediately prior to the withdrawal of the
    FMD (see below).

If a primary producer withdraws their FMD early because of drought (based on rainfall deficiency), they cannot claim a tax deduction for any further deposits made later in that financial year.

What rainfall deficiency criterion do I have to meet?

Early access to FMDs after 1 July 2016 will not be based on the area in which a primary producer is located being drought-declared, which was the case under the previous Exceptional Circumstances (EC) arrangements that ceased on 30 June 2014.
Instead, the land you use for your primary production business must have experienced rainfall for the previous six consecutive months immediately before your withdrawal that is at or below the fifth percentile (a 1 in 20 year event) of the rainfall records held by the Bureau of Meteorology in respect of that location for that six-month period.

Why was this level of rainfall deficiency chosen?

A fifth percentile or lower rainfall deficiency criterion was chosen as this is comparable to the early access provision that was used under the previous Exceptional Circumstances (EC) arrangements, which ceased on 30 June 2014.

However, the way the EC arrangements operated meant that an area generally had to have experienced this level of rainfall deficiency over more than 12 months.

Why was a six month rainfall deficiency chosen?

FMDs only have to be held for 12 months to satisfy legislative requirements and realise the available tax concession. Six months of rainfall deficiency was considered a reasonable length of time to avoid deposits being made solely for tax minimisation/planning purposes rather than to address genuine periods of hardship requiring withdrawals of FMDs.

How do I see if I have met this rainfall deficiency criterion?

You can self-assess your eligibility for early withdrawal based on drought by using an online tool (the FMD Rainfall Analyser). This tool allows you to locate your property on a map and generate and print a report that shows whether your property has met the required rainfall deficiency. To be eligible, your property must be located in a red shaded area on the map.

Please remember: You must accurately locate your property before downloading/printing the report. If the report you use to show your eligibility is found, such as through an Australian Taxation Office (ATO) audit, to be incorrect or a misrepresentation (that is, the highlighted point shows a fifth percentile rainfall deficiency but is not located on any part of your property) you could lose your claimed taxation benefit and penalties could be applied. It is your responsibility to enter the correct location of your property when using the online tool.

When should I check if I have met the rainfall deficiency criterion?

You should check prior to making your withdrawal. This way you can make sure you meet all the FMD Scheme’s requirements and don’t incur any unexpected tax liabilities. You should print out the report from the online tool (the FMD Rainfall Analyser) for your records. You can also electronically save the report as a pdf for your records (see below for further information on keeping records).

Am I eligible for early withdrawal of my FMD without having to demonstrate this using the FMD Rainfall Analyser if I am in a ‘state’ drought declared area?

As the FMD Scheme is an Australian Government programme, the rainfall deficiency criterion may differ from the criteria used by a state government to determine eligibility for state government assistance. Therefore a state government drought declaration does not in itself make you eligible to withdraw your FMD early without losing your claimed taxation concessions.

If your farm business is located in a state government drought-declared area, you are encouraged to consider the other forms of assistance available from your state government.

Can I use my own personal rainfall records to show I meet the rainfall deficiency criterion?

No. The FMD Scheme is a national programme and to make sure the early access provision is applied equitably to all FMD holders, they must use the online tool (the FMD Rainfall Analyser) to demonstrate their eligibility to withdraw their FMDs early without losing their claimed taxation concessions. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will also only accept a valid FMD Rainfall Analyser Report as evidence that a farm business has met the necessary rainfall deficiency.

Using Bureau of Meteorology rainfall data ensures a consistent, objective and equitable assessment of each primary producer’s need to withdraw their FMD early, regardless of where their farm business is located.

Can I choose my own period to meet the required rainfall deficiency criterion?

No. FMD holders must demonstrate that their farm business has experienced a rainfall deficiency, which is equivalent to, or worse than, a fifth percentile rainfall deficiency (1 in 20 year rainfall event) which extends for six consecutive months, as demonstrated by using Bureau of Meteorology data.

But my own rainfall records show I do meet the rainfall deficiency criterion. Why does the online tool show me as not meeting it?

The Bureau of Meteorology uses certain rainfall observation stations and interpolates these (uses estimation techniques) to generate the FMD Rainfall Analyser, map and reports. The estimates are subject to the uncertainties of scientific and technical research and so these may not exactly reflect what has happened on a particular part of your property on a particular date.
More information on what the map and FMD Rainfall Analyser Reports represent and how to interpret them is available in the Guidance Pack.

I checked the online tool one day and it showed I met the rainfall deficiency criterion, but when I checked another day, it showed I didn’t. What happened?

It is important to note that the Bureau of Meteorology updates the rainfall data used for the FMD Rainfall Analyser on a monthly basis – usually on or about the 22nd day of each month.

This involves uploading data for the previous calendar month and correcting any inaccuracies in any previous data. This means the months and/or years you will be able to select from the drop-down boxes on the online tool will also change on or about that date, and that the eligibility of a particular area may appear to change over time even if you select the same month and year.
While it is extremely unlikely that the new data will change your eligibility, it is recommended that you download/print your FMD Rainfall Analyser Report immediately to confirm your property met the rainfall deficiency criteria at a particular point in time.

If this happens, or I otherwise disagree with my rainfall analyser report, can I appeal this result?

No. It will not be possible for an FMD holder to achieve any alterations to data presented in an Bureau of Meteorology FMD Rainfall Analyser Report.

Why are the maps showing different rainfall deficiencies to those I used to apply for an Australian Government concessional loan?

The maps generated for the FMD Scheme use the same underlying rainfall data as the maps for the Australian Government’s concessional loans programmes.

However, as these programmes have different eligibility requirements, the rainfall criteria are different. This means different regions on the maps are shown as being in ‘red’ rainfall deficient areas when compared to those shown in the FMD Rainfall Analyser.

Using the FMD Rainfall Analyser

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What do I do in the online tool?

The online tool allows you to:

  • select a month and year (the months and years available for selection will be based on the most up-to-date data produced by the Bureau of Meteorology)
  • identify and select the location of your property, either through entering individual latitude and longitude coordinates, or by clicking on and enlarging a national map which displays major town names, roads and rivers
  • identify whether that property has experienced the required rainfall deficiency for the continuous six month period prior to your selected month and year, and
  • generate and print an individual report for that specified latitude and longitude coordinate and the selected month and year.

How do I locate my property on the map?

The map displays major town names, roads and rivers, and you can enlarge the map to show details to locate your property and then click on the map. Alternatively, if you know coordinates of a location on your property (latitude/longitude) you can type these into the boxes at the top of the map. The coordinates will automatically appear when you click on a location in the map itself.

You should note that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) may check that your FMD Rainfall Analyser Report is for your farm business if you are ever audited.

How do I know the longitudes and latitudes of my farm?

You do not necessarily need to know the longitude and latitude coordinates of your property. You can zoom and click on the location of your property on the map and generate a report from there as described above.

If you would prefer to use longitude and latitude coordinates, you can use a hard copy map, smartphone application or internet search to find the longitudes and latitudes of your property.

You should be aware that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) may check that your FMD Rainfall Analyser Report is for your farm business if you are ever audited.

Accessing the FMD Rainfall Analyser

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Why can’t I view the FMD rainfall analyser report I downloaded?

The FMD Rainfall Deficiency report is in pdf format which can be viewed using a pdf viewer, such as Adobe Reader. This is available as a free download from the Adobe website.

Why doesn’t anything happen when I go to the FMD rainfall analyser tool?

To see and interact with the tool, you need to have Javascript enabled in your browser. This can generally be done through the ‘tools’ menu for your browser.

Why do I keep getting a ‘try again later’ message when I click on the map on the rainfall analyser tool?

The ‘try again later’ message appears when the tool is experiencing high demand or undergoing technical difficulties and is not currently available. The tool may, at times, require maintenance during business hours (Monday–Friday) and any problems will be attended to as soon as possible.

What should I do when an error message appears when I try to generate a report on the rainfall analyser tool?

You will need to contact the Bureau of Meteorology to identify the issue [see below under ‘more information on the FMD Scheme including early withdrawals’]. You may need to provide details about the location of your farm so the Bureau of Meteorology can process your request manually.

You may provide up to four separate latitude and longitude coordinates. Latitude and longitude coordinates should be entered into the FMD Rainfall Analyser in decimal format, with southerly latitudes entered as negative numbers. Up to four decimal places can be entered.

FMD Rainfall Analyser Reports

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What is in my rainfall analyser report?

The map on your FMD Rainfall Analyser report will show an area (if any) that has experienced a rainfall deficiency equivalent to, or worse than, a 1 in 20 year rainfall event (a rainfall deficiency at or below the fifth percentile) over the six consecutive months prior to the month of withdrawing your FMD (as selected by you from the month and year drop-down boxes).

If your report shows that your farm business, whether wholly or partially, is located in such an area the report will be considered sufficient evidence to demonstrate you have experienced a drought that warrants early withdrawal of your FMD without the loss of any taxation concessions you have claimed from making the deposit in the previous financial year. If your farm business is not located wholly or partially in such an area, you will not have met the eligibility criteria for early withdrawal.

How long will it take for me to receive my rainfall analyser report?

An FMD Rainfall Analyser Report can be generated and immediately downloaded from the Bureau of Meteorology website.

If you are unable to access the website or are having difficulty downloading a rainfall report, the Bureau of Meteorology or the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources can assist you [see below under ‘more information on the FMD Scheme including early withdrawals’].

What if the rainfall analyser report indicates that my farm business is not located in any rainfall deficiency area mentioned above and I’ve withdrawn my FMD?

You are not eligible for early withdrawal of your FMD under the drought early access provision. If you choose to withdraw an FMD you have held for less than 12 months, and have already claimed the tax deduction for the deposit, you will need to request an amendment to that tax return to exclude the deduction.

Retaining records/reports

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How do I request a rainfall analyser report for my farm?

An FMD Rainfall Deficiency Report can be generated and immediately downloaded from the Bureau of Meteorology website.

To locate your property on the map, you can enter latitude and longitude coordinates of your farm or you can zoom and click on the location of your property on the map. Once you have located your farm, an option to download an FMD Rainfall Analyser Report becomes available.

If you are unable to access the website or are having difficulty downloading a report, the Bureau of Meteorology or the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources can assist you [see below under ‘more information on the FMD Scheme including early withdrawals’].

I’ve lost my printed report. What do I do?

The online tool allows you to select the month and year before you withdrew your FMD so you can reprint your FMD Rainfall Analyser Report. You may also wish to save it electronically as a pdf document.

It is highly recommended that you download the report immediately, save it electronically and print it out, so it can be kept in a safe place for your records. This should be done as soon as possible to show you are eligible for early withdrawal.

As data is updated monthly in the FMD Rainfall Analyser, there is an unlikely risk, but a risk none the less, that you may no longer be eligible once the rainfall data is updated.

How long should I retain the reports from the FMD rainfall analyser?

You are responsible for generating and retaining a report from the FMD Rainfall Analyser in accordance with the applicable taxation record keeping requirements. You should retain the records for five (5) years as per Australian Taxation Office (ATO) requirements.

You must not use, copy, reproduce or distribute any part of the report for any other purpose.

Will my details be verified from the rainfall analyser report?

Yes. If you are ever audited for tax purposes, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will verify your property details against the longitudes and latitudes you have provided for your FMD Rainfall Analyser Report. If your property is found not to be at the location you have provided and you were not in a rainfall deficient area, there may be tax implications and penalties.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s rainfall deficiency data

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How large are the grid cells used in the rainfall analysis?

The Bureau of Meteorology’s rainfall deficiency dataset is generated at an approximately 5km horizontal resolution.

How can I be confident the Bureau’s data reflects rainfall on my farm, since the closest rainfall gauge is [e.g. 50 km] from my property?

The Bureau of Meteorology’s rainfall dataset is the best available dataset to ensure a nationally consistent, independent, repeatable and timely approach to determination of rainfall deficiency for the purposes of the FMD Scheme.

The Bureau’s data is based on rainfall records dating back to 1900 from an extensive network of standardised rainfall gauges and consistent observation practices. The collection, analysis and interpolation of the rainfall data conforms to international best practice standards set by the World Meteorological Organization, and enables the Bureau to provide the best estimate of rainfall recorded across the country.

Rainfall data that is not part of the Bureau’s national dataset was not considered reliable for the purpose of the FMD scheme, as it has not been collected using standardised instruments and observation practices or undergone sufficient quality control or review.

How often does the Bureau of Meteorology update its rainfall deficiency data?

The Bureau of Meteorology updates the rainfall deficiency data used for the map and reports on a monthly basis. Updates occur about the 22nd day of each month, allowing for the majority of rainfall records across the country to be included in the Bureau’s analysis of rainfall deficiencies.

My personal records differ from the information provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Why is it different?

The rainfall deficiency datasets generated by the Bureau of Meteorology are derived from the Bureau of Meteorology’s national Australian Water Availability Project (AWAP) gridded rainfall dataset.

This dataset provides a nationally consistent, long-term record of rainfall, which includes observed rainfall data from 1900 to present. Currently, around 6000 individual rainfall stations input into the AWAP dataset, all of which conform to World Meteorological Organization guidelines for climate observational standards and practices.

The Bureau has very long rainfall records, with the national gridded dataset extending back to 1900. On-farm records may not extend as far back in time as the Bureau’s records, and may not be subject to the same level of review and standardisation as the Bureau’s records.

Only the Bureau’s rainfall deficiency data can be used to demonstrate that a farm business has experienced rainfall deficiencies for the purposes of primary producers withdrawing their FMD early without the loss of any claimed taxation concessions.
This approach ensures a nationally consistent, objective and equitable approach is applied to this aspect of the FMD Scheme.

Why is the rainfall criterion based on the Bureau of Meteorology’s data instead of individual rainfall and or state / territory based data and records?

The Australian Government has set the eligibility criteria, including the rainfall criterion, for primary producers to withdraw their FMDs within 12 months without losing their claimed taxation benefits.

Using the rainfall dataset from the Bureau of Meteorology allows for a nationally consistent, independent, repeatable and timely approach to assessing rainfall deficiency.

The Bureau’s data is based on long-term records from an extensive network of standardised rainfall gauges and consistent observation practices. The data has undergone world-leading quality control and thorough review to ensure it conforms to international best practice standards set by the World Meteorological Organization.

Rainfall data that is not part of the Bureau’s national dataset was not considered reliable for the purposes of the FMD Scheme, as it has not been collected using standardised instruments and observation practices or undergone sufficient quality control or review.

More information on the FMD Scheme including early withdrawals

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Where can I get more information on the FMD Scheme and how it works?

More information is available from the following sources:

Australian Taxation Office
Phone: 13 28 66

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Email: FMD Returns

Where can I get more information on the Bureau of Meteorology’s rainfall data?

Who do I contact if I am having technical issues with the FMD Rainfall Analyser?

Please send an email to Climate Data if you have any technical questions or issues to raise.

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