After another fruitful meeting with WINZ, I discover I can either commit benefit fraud, or tax evasion. (Hi, GCSB).
This is an uncomfortable post, but I feel it’s necessary. I’m going to be very honest about my financial situation, because I want people to really understand the realities of being ‘in the system.’
Firstly, in my everyday account – which is where my benefit gets paid into – I have anywhere between $-0 and $366 a week, depending on what day it is, if it’s rent week, how many times I need to see the doctor, how much I can afford to eat, etc. This is the account I live out of.
In a Savings account, I have $1,100. This is money I saved while I was self-employed, to pay my upcoming tax bill. I’m just about to file my returns, which will result in me owing the IRD $4,100. (I had saved up $6,000 in this account, and then I decided I would pay off my student loan, because I figured I would be able to save it up again before the end of the financial year. Then I got sick. Punished for paying off my loan!)
I owe my accountant for doing the returns I couldn’t manage. I did the returns, in a situation where many people wouldn’t, because I want to stay on the right side of the law. I will very soon owe IRD, though my accountant has recommended that I apply for financial hardship. If I do this, they will organise a payment plan for me, so my benefit will be cut each week while I pay IRD. In some cases, IRD will write the tax off (which I hear they do quite a lot for people in a certain socio-economic group, which I don’t currently belong to). I am fervently hoping they will do this for me. It is going to take me a long time to pay $3,100.
Therefore, the money I have in my “Savings” account is bound for IRD, and I don’t consider myself allowed to use it.
However, WINZ, despite my explanation, consider this a “cash asset” that I can use if I choose. Therefore, today, my case manager recommended I spend it, in order to be poorer, so that they can help with my other bills. WHAT.
There were two main reasons I went into WINZ today. One, I need new glasses, which are going to cost $410 just for the lenses.
Two, I am also hoping to move house. The new place I am looking at is more expensive overall, but I would get a flatmate, so in the long run my rent and expenses will be less. It will be very good for both my physical and mental health, to move.
I asked WINZ if they would help with the bond to move, and my glasses.
The response was: No, because you have a cash asset.
Despite my insistence that this money already belongs to IRD in my eyes, my case manager said that I should I use half of it to pay the bond. This would bring me in under the cash asset threshold, then they’pay my for my glasses.
This would be considered a “loan” that I will have to pay back, and they will take money off my benefit each week until I do.
So: I either owe WINZ, who will never stop chasing a debt – or IRD [even more], who may or may not actually write the debt off for me.
Both of these options will require me spending that small amount of savings I had, which made me feel just that tiny bit less desperate, even though I told myself I can’t use it.
But surely it’s benefit fraud if I use money I told WINZ I don’t want to access, to move house?
And surely it’s tax evasion if I use money I have saved to move house, instead of paying an IRD debt?
Oh hey, rock, hard place. Hat tip – nice to see you guys again.