Cost of living payment: 164,000 people risk missing out on $350 from Government, 56 people have opted out

About 164,000 New Zealanders could miss out on receiving $350 from the Government as the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) doesn't have their bank account details.

The Government's cost of living payment will start being handed out next week, with $116.67 expected to pop up in the bank accounts of about 2.1 million Kiwis from Monday, August 1. Further payments will be made on the first business days of both September and October, with $350 being given to eligible New Zealanders all up.

Since the payment was announced at the May Budget, IRD has been busy gathering bank account details of people it didn't already have details for. 

While it's been able to track down the bank account details of about 40,000 customers it didn't previously have, IRD said that, as of July 25, it still doesn't have details for about 164,000 people. 

"As we get information which indicates a customer's eligibility the number of bank accounts we're looking for will continue to fluctuate," a spokesperson said.

Revenue Minister David Parker said IRD has worked with more than 600 community groups, sport bodies and other organisations - including Māori and Pacific people groups - to spread awareness.

IRD is using radio marketing, social media posts and external website messaging to encourage Kiwis to make sure the department has their bank account details. A targeted email and letter campaign has been launched for customers not registered with IRD's myIR service, while myIR alerts have been sent out for those already with accounts. 

"Despite using these methods to encourage customers to update their bank accounts, there will always be a number of customers who will not respond because they do not want Inland Revenue to have their bank account details."

Those who do can update their details through myIR, or by ringing 0800 257 777. IRD advises that the 0800 number can be rung 24/7 and there is no wait time. 

"If you're eligible for the Cost of Living Payment but we cannot pay it to you because we do not have your bank account number - you have until 31 March 2024 to update your details," the IRD website said.

IRD won't be ringing people to get details, so anyone who gets a call purporting to be from the department should treat it as a scam and not provide information. 

The department has also provided information for people who may wish to opt out of receiving the payment. They can use myIR to choose not to receive it, but after that decision has been made it can't be reversed. So far, 56 people have decided to opt out.

There are a number of criteria people need to meet to receive the payment, including that they earned $70,000 or less, are not entitled to receive the Winter Energy Payment, are aged 18 or older and are not in prison. 

IRD said the estimate of 2.1 million Kiwis being eligible comes from 2020 finalised tax assessment data. 

"What we're finding now is that while the 2.1 million number remains the same, who makes up that group is changing," the spokesperson said. 

"It is changing as we get finalised tax assessment information from people whose income has changed and who move either in or out of the $70,000 income criteria band."

After the policy was announced, advice to ministers emerged showing that Inland Revenue had recommended against it being the delivery agency for the payment as it would have "critical operational impacts" and "compromise" its "already stretched workforce".

The spokesperson said "temporary contingent workers" had been hired to work on the payments, while the "work of a number of full-time staff has been re-prioritised".

While the overall cost of the payments was said in May to be $814m, the cost of administering them is $14m. IRD said that reflects hiring temporary workers, developing systems and processes to get the payments to customers on time, developing online content and communicating to those who IRD didn't already have bank accounts for.

"The cost also recognises that IR has to maintain services to other customers while delivering the Cost of Living Payments and that it will have to reprioritise existing resources to do so.

"Consequently, there will be a need to catch up on other work in the period following completion of the Cost of Living Payment process."