Information sharing between the IRD and Ministry of Social Development has identified and stopped 3139 illegitimate benefits in just six months, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows says.
“While it is always disappointing to see some people are willing to break the law and take money they’re not entitled to, it happens, and we have a responsibility to the taxpayer to stop it,” says Mr Borrows.
“The benefits stopped thus far were costing the taxpayer more than $33.7 million per year, money which should be going to those who really need it.”
The enhanced information sharing started earlier this year, highlighting beneficiaries whose taxable income did not match what they had declared to MSD. MSD staff reviewed each case, and where the beneficiary was earning enough income that they were no longer eligible to receive a benefit, that benefit was stopped.
It’s not all about stopping benefits. Some people were not getting as much on a benefit as they could with other help.
A further 645 clients have been assessed as being better off with other financial assistance, such as Working for Families, and helped by Work and Income to move from benefit to that assistance.
Of the 3139 cancellations, the majority were receiving the unemployment benefit (1948) or sickness benefit (559).
MSD will now look to recover all overpaid money, including seeking attachment orders to wages which should see these debts repaid faster than most benefit fraud debt.
“MSD staff are still working through the information, including a large group of clients identified as being eligible for a benefit, but having incorrectly declared their income,” says Mr Borrows.
“Fraud investigators are also looking hard at the benefits which have been stopped, and where there is evidence they deliberately defrauded from the taxpayer they can expect to be prosecuted for their crimes.”
With all this saved, and some people helped to move off benefits which is better for them and the taxpayer, it’s just a pity information sharing wasn’t introduced years ago.
Jacinda Ardern was on TV last night complaining about the policy and saying tax fraud should be targeted instead.
It shouldn’t be one or the other, it should be both.
Fraud is fraud and should be targeted wherever it happens and whoever does it.