What WINZ wants to know

Overseas pension higher than NZ Super?
Don't make gifts to MSD!

If their overseas pension is higher than NZ Super, many people don't even bother to apply for NZ Super because they know that they will not receive a cent of NZ Super after the deductions.

Big mistake!

Most overseas pensions are now paid out later than at age 65. But NZ Super payment starts when you turn 65. This means: if you start receiving your overseas pension at age 66 or even only at age 67, you will receive full NZ Super for one or two years until the overseas pension kicks in. At this point you are obliged to inform WINZ/MSD about this "change of circumstances".

With the prospect of being impoverished by MSD for the rest of your life, if the law doesn't change, you can surely imagine good uses for an annual NZ Super injection of about NZ$ 20,000. That's the amount you would leave as a gift to MSD and all the people who call you a double-dipper.

The application form is tricky because it asks without distinction if you receive OR are entitled to an overseas pension. If you are honest, you have to tick YES. But after this YES it doesn't ask which of the two options applies. Instead it goes straight to questions about how much you receive, who is the provider etc. And they want copies of the overseas pension provider - which you can't provide because you don't receive the overseas pension yet.

Therefore just write your own document in which you explain that you are entitled to an overseas pensions but do not receive it yet, and that you will inform MSD as soon as you receive the overseas pension.

If you write 0 (zero) into the box of the amount, you are told that 0 is not possible, so just type or write in 1 (one).

No need to divorce to receive the single sharing rate

If you are separated from your spouse but keep on living together for financial reasons, you can apply for the higher single sharing rate instead of the married rate. There is no need to divorce. We have received this information from MSD under the Official Information Act (OIA) several years ago.

You just have to declare that you are separated (tick under family status in the application form). This also absolves you from filling out pages and pages about your (separated) (ex-)partner.

You go straight to the questions about the living arrangements, so MSD can determine if you can receive the single rate (if you live alone) or the single sharing rate (if you live with one or more flatmates). When asked how you would describe the relationship to your flatmate/s, you can just type or write "separated spouse".

If MSD wants evidence that you are really only flatmates and not a couple anymore, just provide a document MSD might request, be it an affidavit or a letter from your lawyer. It is worth the money.

Bureaucratese and omissions

Before being able to pay a pension, WINZ first needs to collect a lot of personal information to set up a file for their clients.

Once an application is received, WINZ compares information with Inland Revenue (IRD), the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Corrections, the New Zealand Customs Service, the Department of Internal Affairs, the Accident Compensation Corporation, Housing New Zealand Corporation, and Immigration New Zealand. WINZ may also pass this information on to the respective equivalent social service agencies in other countries.

People are assigned a client number, their applications are processed by client service staff, and an International Services department is there to establish a client’s individual entitlement if he/she has spent time overseas and might be entitled to an overseas pension. This sounds like a high degree of client and service orientation.

WINZ’s main tool for setting up a client file is the 20-page New Zealand Superannuation Application form (including instructions) - which, in the meantime, is also available as an online application form. Seemingly straightforward and written in plain English, the form eliminates one common problem, bureaucratese, but poses another one, omission. This, however, only becomes clear to the applicant in hindsight.

Significant importance of the significant other

In addition to the usual personal data WINZ are also interested in an applicant’s periods of overseas residence, any overseas pensions they may receive, and information pertaining to their household and partner. The partner is of such interest that three pages are dedicated exclusively to him or her even if he/she is not included in the application and if the partner is not getting NZ Super and not getting a benefit. (You might be surprised that in June 2019 about 6,300 pensioners had included a non-qualified partner in their NZ Super payments. Non-qualified means that the partner is either younger than 65 or that he/she has not lived in New Zealand for a minimum of ten years.)

The form remains rather vague why this is so: “We need this [partner] information, so we can pay you the right rate." On one of the introduction pages they write: "We also need to know about whether your partner has or is likely to have any entitlement to an overseas pension. Their overseas pension may affect any Extra Help you get." At this, the real information stops. Extra help! You are referred to "our website". How the partner's overseas pension or residence status might affect the applicant’s payment is omitted. (And all this after the end of the Spousal Provision on 9 November 2020!)

With regard to questions about the applicant’s and his/her partner’s periods of overseas residence, the same pattern occurs: “Periods of overseas residence may affect entitlement to some benefits" and "mean you're eligible for an overseas benefit or pension". At this, the information stops. The fact that overseas pensions will be deducted is omitted. Admittedly, there is a fig-leaf in the form of a telephone number for further information, but it could just as well have been printed in the form. Omitting it is equivalent to hiding the truth.

A question of definition, but no question of deduction

When asking about overseas pensions, the question reads: “Do you get or qualify for a social security benefit, pension or allowance from overseas?" Further questions are where the payments come from, how much they are, if they are before or after tax, how often you get it and what the name of the benefit, pension or allowance is. They even want to know the payment reference number. Whichever way the applicant answers this question, it will have a detrimental effect.

Ticking “yes” means that the pension gets (indirectly) confiscated right away by means of the Direct Deduction Policy. Ticking “no”, because many applicants’ overseas pensions are neither of a similar nature nor paid by the government of another country, is considered by WINZ as an attempt to double-dip, commit benefit fraud, or, at best, an honest mistake.

In any case it means the applicant will have to deal even more with International Services, waste a lot of time, get stressed and often ruin their health, only to be told that in the opinion of WINZ the overseas pension is either considered similar or a government pension, and hence gets deducted.

Many pensioners tell stories of feeling alienated at hearing why these questions are being asked and what this means for their entitlement to NZ Super. Many break down at the news. Others tell of being treated in an intimidating or even rude way by WINZ staff, all of which is in stark contrast to WINZ’s self-proclaimed client and service orientation. They really say: "We are here to help"!

A hugely time-consuming process

WINZ tells you that filling out the application form is straight forward. It is not! It might take you weeks to put all the accompanying paperwork together WINZ is asking for. For example, you need to provide evidence about how much time you have spent outside New Zealand because every single day you have spent overseas - despite being "ordinarily resident", having your only residence, working and paying taxes in New Zealand during the qualifying period, be it 10 years before 2024 or 20 years by 2042 - will be deducted from the required residency period.

(If you have lived in New Zealand for exactly 10 years in 2021 but have holidayed overseas for three weeks every year, you will receive NZ Super after 10 years and 210 days only.)

If you have moved to New Zealand after the mid 1990s, you can request your travel movement details from Customs NZ. This is straight forward, just send an email with a signed letter (attachment) to: movementchecks@customs.govt.nz and attach a copy of your ID. (If it is your driver's license, they want to see both sides.) More detailed information on the website: https://www.customs.govt.nz/about-us/travel-movements-request/

WINZ even wants to know about your future travel plans! They ask which countries you visit, how often, how long and why you visit. Yes, really: the reason why you visit!

Make no mistake here! NEVER EVER write that you intend to live some day in one of the overseas countries you might list!!! If you do so, you breach one of the requirements for being "ordinarily resident" - which is to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. But if you are not "ordinarily resident", you will not be granted NZ Super. If you write anything into these boxes, best you just say the only purpose of travel is a holiday.

You can always change your mind later. But only AFTER receiving NZ Super.

Start early with collecting the paperwork (original papers or verified by a lawyer etc). You can apply for NZ Super three months before your 65th birthday. You can apply online but might still need to make an appointment with a case worker.

Guide to NZ Super: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/seniors/superannuation/index.html#null

Then you need an client number, as explained here: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/online-services/superannuation/index.html, and once you have contacted WINZ, you have 20 working days to complete the application process.

It is next to impossible to find the paper form but it is there! LOL



Pages from an application form from after 2010. The new ones (2021) look nearly identical. You can download a copy from the WINZ website to check it out.

(Last update: 01.04.2022)

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