Cost of living payment: Foreign property investors received first portion of money

The Government is refusing to apologise for potentially losing millions of dollars sending its cost of living payment to people overseas.

It comes amid revelations foreign property investors are among those who've received the free cash.

Foreign buyers of Kiwi homes were Labour's first target when it got into Government. But five years later, some foreign landlords have been pocketing their cost of living payments.

"We don't know who is paid unless the clients come forward to us," a tax agent told Newshub. 

They said two clients in China who have Queenstown rental properties but have never lived in New Zealand got the first $116 payment.

"I told them to repay. It's not their fault they've received the money."

The Government has no idea how many overseas investors got the cash. 

"Well we'll never know with certainty," Revenue Minister David Parker said.

The IRD said on Tuesday it hadn't identified any overseas property investors who had received the payment but told Newshub: "If you are aware of any, you can let us know".

What the Government does know for certain is that so far $162 million has been paid to 1.4 million people, but 5000 have opted out ahead of the second payment on Thursday. There's also 428 who have refunded the first payment, meaning less than $50,000 has been clawed back.

Ahead of the second payment, two screening tests have been added - checking non-resident tax returns and IP addresses. So far that's uncovered 31,000 people overseas who got the payment, but potentially shouldn't have.

That's almost $6 million possibly lost which the Government is refusing to chase down.

Asked if she would apologise, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "Just to be clear, we can't even be 100 percent certain that those individuals were ineligible".

The Opposition says that's not good enough.

"Does she believe that taxpayers are a bottomless ATM for her Government to abuse?" said National leader Christopher Luxon. 

Ardern said Luxon "previously hasn't had an issue with overseas tax breaks, for instance, for the copious number of landlords who he wants to provide tax breaks to who do not live in New Zealand".

Overseas landlords, like the ones the Government has just given free cash to.