Confiscations driven by pure malice or stupidity?
One thing is clear: private pensions are usually not "administered by or on behalf of a government" and can therefore not be deducted from NZ Super. The Ministry of Social Development is using this definition of the type of administration as one of its tools to grab nearly all contributory pensions of the world to make immigrants and returning Kiwis pay for their own and their partners' NZ Super.
On many occasions the Ministry has also made suffiently clear that even the KiwiSaver scheme is, despite government subsidies, a private pension that cannot be deducted from NZ Super. In several High Court cases it has been stressed as well that private pensions are untouchable for the Ministry.
Therefore we were led to believe that private pensions, funded by an individual or the individual and his/her employer, and in most cases paid for on top of compulsory superannuation schemes overseas, would not be deducted from NZ Super.
Deducting retirement savings from Singapore and Ireland
But we have come across some cases where this rule is obviously blatantly breached and pensioners are robbed of their private savings. This applies to an Irish savings scheme named Personal Retirement Savings Insurance Fund (PRSA) and to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) of Singapore.
Already the term "private pension" says that a government is not involved in the scheme whatsoever. Usually individuals invest funds into savings schemes, life insurances or mutual funds, run by insurance companies, sometimes by the employer. The insured person carries the risk alone and can even lose all the invested money if the insurance company invests it into bad funds or goes broke.
Often the investor can choose between a lump-sum payout at retirement age or monthly payments. The monthly payment option obviously leads New Zealand's Ministry of Social Development to believe that they can even confiscate such private savings.
John Key has received his money, Colin Tan's is taken by MSD
A man named Colin Tan has been fighting the confiscation of his CPF from Singapore for quite a while now. The core message he is trying to get across is that the CPF is not a pension fund but a compulsory savings account started by the British government in 1955 when Singapore was a British colony.
The citizens were allowed to withdraw their savings when reaching the pension age of 55, and later they were entitled to buy apartments using their CPF. (Exactly what you do with KiwiSaver.) Unfortunately the government watered down this rule, and now Singaporeans can only withdraw small monthly amounts from the age of 65.
However, all foreigners who leave Singapore after working there for some time can collect their CPF savings tax-free. New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key who worked for Merrill Lynch in Singapore is one of them, so he should know better than anyone.
Despite this knowledge, he allows his Ministry to treat this savings scheme as a pension which can be deducted from NZ Super.
The CPF is not a "periodic allowance"
Superficially examined, Singapore's government is involved and the severe restrictions placed upon its own citizens have led to monthly withdrawals. This obviously is enough for MSD to regard it as a state or occupational pension and not take a closer look at the nature of the scheme. Or are they too stupid at MSD to understand what the CPF really is when they claim it is "a periodic allowance"? We think it is plain malice.
The Chief Executive of MSD states: "The Singapore CPF monthly refunds are considered to fall within the definition of a periodic allowance as they are paid monthly as part of the Singapore CPF's administration of the CPF Savings Scheme. The fact that they are defind by the Singapore CPF as 'refunds' does not, in the Ministry's view, mean that they cannot be seen to be a periodic allowance, generally accepted to be sums issued to a person regularly or for a specific purpose."
First the people of Singapore have been cheated out by their own government to do with their savings whatever they want to, then - according to Colin Tan - MSD insists that the CPF Board is the correct authority to contact and not the Pensions Branch in Singapore. Colin feels discriminated against because of his nationality and citizenship and has therefore lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman.
Find more details about this fight on https://cpfisnotapensionfund.wordpress.com/
MSD cannot distinguish between PRSA and PRSI
Another pensioner, originally from Ireland, and her lawyer have run against a brickwall in explaining to the Ministry of Social Development that her monthly payments from the Irish Personal Retirement Savings Insurance Fund (PRSA) are a strictly private pension. And she is right.
The PRSA is a kind of life insurance and there is no connection with the government at any level. The provider is Irish Life. Does this name sound like a government agency? On their "About us" page they state who they are:
"Irish Life is one of Ireland’s leading financial services companies with over 1 million customers. For over 75 years, we’ve been helping people in Ireland look after their life insurance, pension and investment needs.
Since July 2013 Irish Life has been part of the Great-West Lifeco group of companies, one of the world’s leading life assurance organisations."
Irish Life even tell their customers that their INVESTMENT can lose money. Just look at all the warnings in bold letters at the bottom of their page (https://www.irishlife.ie/pensions/products/prsa-from-irish-life)! They are:
The funds are clearly not administered by or on behalf of the Irish government.
Don't accept monthly payments if you move to New Zealand!
If MSD only bothered to look at the PRSA website, they should easily understand the difference between this private scheme and a compulsory superannuation scheme forced upon an individual by a government. This pensioner and her employer paid into the insurance scheme every month, and while she paid into the scheme she could decide if she wanted a lump-sum payment when she retired or monthly payments.
She decided to receive monthly payments, and this was a huge mistake, given that she would move to New Zealand where people are robbed of their retirement savings. She could have taken the money and invested it into property or shares, she could have put it into a simple savings account, and no-one - but IRD - would have bothered about it. But in comes MSD and the money is gone.
Perhaps the MSD officials do not understand the difference between PRSA and PRSI? While PRSA stands for Personal Retirement Savings Insurance Fund, PRSI is the abbreviation for Pay-Related Social Insurance. This is Ireland's compulsory pension scheme and, of course, has government involvement, as it is run by the Department of Social Protection and the account is managed by the Ministry of Finance.
PRSI is Ireland's compulsory social insurance - not the PRSA
On their website the PRSI - Pay-Related Social Insurance - is described as follows:
"Most employers and employees (over 16 years of age and under 66) pay social insurance (PRSI) contributions into the national Social Insurance Fund. In general, the payment of social insurance is compulsory. The term ‘insurable employment' is used to describe employment that is liable for social insurance contributions. [...]
The Social Insurance Fund is made up of a current account and an investment account managed by the Minister for Social Protection and the Minister for Finance, respectively. The current account consists of monies collected from people in employment. This money is then used to fund social insurance payments. The investment account is a savings account that is managed by the Minister for Finance."
While the PRSI surely is a state-administered pension, PRSA payments are not. As long as MSD deducts PRSA payments from NZ Super, they could also confiscate the life insurance payouts of honest New Zealanders. Only because the payments occur monthly, they are neither funded or guaranteed by a government nor are they an allowance or benefit. High time for MSD to stop this blunder.
(Last update: 26 May 2016)