$15.3m of unclaimed money on the table - could any of it be yours?

A published list of Inland Revenue's unclaimed monies (excluding individual tax returns), ranges from $100-$1.3m
A published list of Inland Revenue's unclaimed monies ranges from $100-$1.3m. Photo credit: Getty.

People who unwittingly put their hard-earned cash with a financial institution, only to forget about it could now find it sitting with Inland Revenue. 

The tax department's list of unclaimed monies totals $15.3m, with amounts ranging from $100 through to $1.033m, and an average amount owed of $860.

Kiwis who believe they're owed money, including former managers of discontinued clubs, beneficiaries of trusts and those who may have forgotten about invested money (either as an individual or under their registered company), should check whether their name is on the list.

Contributing to the long list of those eligible to claim money are 164 trusts, 156 clubs and 10 teams.  The most common names on the list include 'Smith' (174) and 'Williams' (82) as well as businesses from both ends of the country, including 'Cape Seafood International Limited', 'Bluff Homebuilders' and 'Bluff Ladies Swimming Club.

Any company carrying out business in New Zealand is covered by the Unclaimed Money Act 1971 (section five).

Under the Act, any money (including online investments), where the account hasn't been operated on for six years following the date of expiry of the term (or 25 years depending on the type of investment), is considered 'unclaimed money'.

The standard process for interest or dividends from shares or other investments is that proceeds are deposited into the owner's bank account.  

Money put into an account that is closed is generally reversed back to the bank or investment company, who is responsible for contacting the owner of the account.  

A spokesperson for the Inland Revenue said that for unclaimed monies over $50 (excluding tax returns), the Inland Revenue tries to contact the owner.

"If the executor for the deceased has opened an Inland Revenue number [for the] Estate, we will try to make contact with them," the spokesperson said.  

If the unclaimed money is over $100, the Inland Revenue publishes the names of the owners on its website.

"Holders of unclaimed monies include banks, insurance companies, telecommunication and energy providers, accountants and lawyers, credit card companies, finance companies, rental agencies, employers, and money transfer companies," the spokesperson confirmed.

*While unclaimed monies sitting with Inland Revenue includes money from trusts, Michael Robinson, partner at Turner Hopkins, said that regardless of whether or not anyone dies, a trust will normally continue until a specified date (the 'vesting date'). 

"The assets of the trust will continue to be held by the trustees for the benefit of the beneficiaries regardless of any individual passing away," Robinson said. 

If one of the trustees dies, the trust would normally specify how they will be replaced. 

"The process of passing on the assets of the trust to the beneficiary will still be governed by the wording of the Trust Deed - it may be that the beneficiaries will receive distributions when the trustees exercise their discretion through the lifetime of the trust or ultimately, upon the trust being wound up," Robinson explained.  

People wanting to claim money from a trust listed under Inland Revenue's unclaimed monies are required to provide additional documentation.

"Inland Revenue [requires] trust documents and proof of ownership of the account which they came from.  

"If the money is to go into an account that is not the trust’s account, the person making the claim also has to have the agreement in writing of any other existing trustees before it can go into that personal account," the spokesperson confirmed. 

While the Treasury's published list of unclaimed money doesn't include unclaimed tax returns, tax-payers who believe they're owed a refund are advised to log into their 'myIR' account (or to register online).  

"[The portal provides] the current state of the [individual's] account. 

"Once logged in, if they click on the 'Periods' tab, [the information] goes back several years," the spokesperson explained.

A comprehensive list of all of the areas where money can be left unclaimed (including under trusts, solicitors' trust accounts, banks and financial institutions, unpaid wages and employee benefits), is available on the Treasury website, including what happens to the money if the rightful owner/s don't come forward.

*Additional, supporting information about claiming money from trusts was added on 11 December 2019.  A new Trusts Act, to take effect from 30 January 2021 will require trustees to disclose basic trust information to beneficiaries.