The word you will read on any printed and online forms and information brochures from Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) is "help". They really seem to be a helpful bunch of people.
They are like Inland Revenue (IRD) who also want to help. They want to help themselves and therefore the Government to your money and leave you as little as possible.
Behind the friendly face - and this does not mean the individuals in all the branches but the institution as such - a monster is hiding. And hiding means they hide their true intentions behind innocently asked questions.
If you only use the application forms and do not study the topic on the internet, your first conclusion will be that they lie to you, by telling you the following:
Ah, right. An overseas pension is not part of your financial situation. And as we all know, NZ Super is not means-tested. That is why millionaires get it, and parliamentarians on top of their salaries. Obviously only weekly compensation payments from ACC affect your payments.
In the bottom corner of one form they have now hidden a tiny question about your partner's situation: "What if I have a partner?" The only thing they do not want to know about him is his shoe size and if he loves hiking, but they need to know everything else about him/her, so WINZ can better assess if they pay you the correct rate of NZ Super - and to check if your partner is eligible for any overseas pension.
There is no word about the dramatic consequences this can have for you. Although there is so much space on the application form they have not had the honesty to finish the sentence by adding: "... as this might affect the amount of NZ Super you will receive." And no word about you, the applicant, if you have an overseas pension, and no word that this might affect your payments.
When the payment of NZ Super is income-tested
People who have been living in New Zealand and applied for NZ Super a decade ago told us that the tiny hint about a partner's overseas pension has only been added in the last few years, and after a lot of fighting. The Government's 2007 Review of overseas pensions requested clearer information in plain English on WINZ's website. This has been solved in an acceptable way. See here.
On the same application form you can also see that the payment of NZ Super is income-tested if you include a non-qualified partner in your application. (Non-qualified partners are individuals who do not yet qualify for NZ Super in their own right because they have not yet fulfilled the age or residency requirement. If you include such a non-qualified partner both of you can receive superannuation.)
This seems to be the only exception beside ACC payments that could affect your NZ Super rate. Obviously overseas pensions are not regarded as income. But they are taxed as income - sometimes even those, like German pensions, in breach of a Double Taxation Agreement that states that this is not allowed.
A flood of brochures and fact sheets in the WINZ offices
Once you set foot in a WINZ office you scold yourself why you have not done it earlier, as there are so many information brochures and fact sheets about the direct deduction of overseas pensions that it becomes nearly overwhelming. You have to be blind to not to spot all this printed material and grab half a kilo of copy on the issue. Such a visit really is an eye-opener.
But on the other hand: Why should you have ever set foot into a WINZ office if you weren't in the situation of being unemployed, or at least have a suspicion that something sinister was going on with the payment of NZ Super? And why should you have looked for brochures on NZ Super when you were lucky for job opportunities?
People who include a non-qualified partner have only NZ$ 4,160 a year of other income tax-free, including private provision, and every dollar above this limit is abated at the unbelievably exorbitant tax rate of 70%. If you have private provisions over this limit you must be crazy to include a partner. However, this and the extortionate tax rate is a separate story that has to be discussed in a tax review.
But be sure: WINZ and IRD will help them all.
When we list WINZ as a serious offender in the cause of the deduction of overseas pensions from NZ Super, we talk of WINZ as the institution that executes the MSD Chief Executive's and thus the Government's instructions. We do not talk of every single office worker who has to deal with NZ Super applications. They are just recipients of orders from their superiors who again receive their instructions from higher superiors...