Spike in student loan repayments after arrest

  • 04/04/2016
Spike in student loan repayments after arrest

The arrest of a student loan defaulter is being credited for a spike in overseas repayments and people offshore making contact with Inland Revenue about their student debt.

In January and February this year the IRD pocketed $29.7 million from overseas-based borrowers, a 31 percent jump on the same period last year, the Government says.

Emails about loans were also up 62 percent and phone calls increased 55 percent.

The IRD believes the jump is in response to the publicity around 40-year-old Ngatokotoru Puna, the nephew of the Cook Islands prime minister who was the first to be arrested at Auckland Airport over an outstanding $22,000 debt racked up more than a decade ago.

"It's just a pity that it takes these sort of steps to encourage some people to meet their obligations to taxpayers so we can continue to support future generations of students," said Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce.

February was also a record month for lump sum payments that cleared loans in full. More than $2.2M was paid, clearing 103 loans outright.

The IRD is considering arresting about 20 overseas-based loan defaulters if they return to New Zealand.

About 112,390 student borrowers now live overseas -- with an estimated $3.25 billion of debt -- and 70 percent are behind in their loan repayments.

Since 2010 the Government has been increasing its efforts to make them repay.

Later this year, an information-sharing agreement with the Australian tax department will allow IRD to spot more loan defaulters there.

Total student loan debt at the beginning of March was estimated to be $15b.