- Letting the IRD know (if you don't have MyIR we recommend setting it up at the same time).
- Future ordinary interest should come to an end. For some people this will make enough difference so that they can get the debt under control.
- If you have overdue debt it still needs to be dealt with ASAP . The IRD has greater powers to force you to pay if you are living in NZ.
- If an NZ bankruptcy was an option you were considering, the implications are more serious if you live in NZ and there will be fewer people for whom this might be a realistic option.
If you have recently returned to New Zealand, and you have a student loan debt, have you worked through the implications for the debt? These include:
Fraudulent student loans can destroy lives. Fortunately, the IRD now has greater powers to deal with fraudulent student loans.
In situations where the IRD is satisfied that the person, who was allocated the loan debt, did not actually take it out, and the actual person cannot be identified, the IRD may be able to write off the loan. Generally speaking, the IRD will deal with such cases where the loan balance was transferred before 1 April 2000, and Study Link will usually deal with loans transferred after that date.
The push for relief for student loan debtors is growing in many countries, including the US, but not in New Zealand. Many of our overseas based student loan debtors are under a burden so heavy that it impacts their mental health and quality of life.
With Covid, many borrowers have suffered a reduction in income, making it even more difficult to pay a debt that has grown out of control. A complete reworking of the scheme would be best in order to provide better resolution options, however, at the very least why aren't we granting an interest/repayment holiday while Covid is affecting so many of our borrowers? If we can do this for mortgages and all kinds of other debt, why are student loan debts (some of which are the size of mortgages) treated differently?
As the Al Jazeera article notes, governments should be investing in people, including those who have student loan debt: "Everyone deserves to live a life of dignity and the opportunity to reach their full potential."
We were delighted to receive this lovely email from a recent client:
Kristina, thank you so much for all of your work. It was definitely worth requesting your services. This is a good outcome. You have explored avenues that I could never have known existed. I thank you for your professionalism, clarity and promptness throughout what could have been a much more stressful process. I have avoided this for so long and it is good to have an outcome. I very much appreciate that you exist(!) and you have provided information throughout the process that I would not be able to locate anywhere else. I am very grateful for your work. I will let you know when I have put the payment through, so that you know it has all been finalised. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Kristina and team. This is a positive outcome and it is good to have it resolved. Warmest regards - and - Once again, I thank you so much for your amazing work. You have put actions in place to get the best possible outcome and I am so very appreciative. Thank you so much, I wish you all the best. You have helped so many people and I will recommend your service to anyone who asks. Your work makes such a positive difference, thank you to you and your amazing team
If you need help, please drop us an email.
Thousands of student loan debtors have lost their jobs, or a large part of their income, or had their health affected, because of Covid-19. Our thoughts are with you at this time.
In terms of your overdue student loan debt, if you don't want to go bankrupt in NZ, and you have suffered because of Covid-19, now could be a really good time to apply for hardship.
Hardship is principally assessed on your current financial situation, and if you are one of the millions for whom this is bad, then your chances of success have increased. It may be difficult to deal with the student loan debt when so many other urgent matters need to be dealt with, but right now may be the best chance you have had for a long time, and dealing with it will take some of the stress off.
Other resolution options like a lump sum offer/penalty write off or bankruptcy, may also be easier to deal with at the moment. Please email us if you need help.
If you want to study computer science or programming there are hundreds of free options available online from universities like Harvard. Although this list relates to computer courses, many of these universities offer courses in a wide range of science and arts subjects, for free. No student loan required!
Another student loan debtor has been arrested while attempting to return to the country that she now lives in. The woman had been visiting her sick mother. She spent a night in jail and had to attend Court.
In most of the Western world, debtors prisons were abolished in the 1800s. Yet New Zealand has a form of this Medieval practice for student loan debtors. In order to avoid being arrested, going to jail, and missing your flights, if you have a student loan debt and want to travel out of New Zealand you need to know how much your overdue arrears are and to be dealing with them on an official basis. There are several options for dealing with your arrears. Please contact us if you need help and to discuss your options.
The government is losing millions of dollars each year because of the large numbers of student loan debtors feeling that they have no choice but to choose bankruptcy. In many cases, student loan bankrupts have been hit with enormous interest, decades of repaying far more than the original borrowing amount with no end in sight, and an inflexible response from the IRD.
In the financial year 2016/17 the government lost $19.9 million of student loan debt because of bankruptcy. In the financial year 2017/18 the amount was $32.2 million.
Being able to get rid of a student loan debt through bankruptcy is relatively unusual compared to other countries. Australian and UK student loan debtors continue to be stuck with their debts even if they become bankrupt (i.e. it is not discharged in bankruptcy). US borrowers have the theoretical option of bankruptcy, but the reality is that it is so hard to get that for most people it's a waste of time trying. In Canada, student loans can be covered by bankruptcy, but only if the debtor files more than 7 years after the end of their education (in some limited cases this may be reduced to 5 years). In New Zealand becoming bankrupt usually takes 1-3 weeks and is straight forward and stress free in most cases.
From 1 April 2020 it is expected that there will be slightly more scope for the IRD to help some types borrowers than is currently the case. It's not hard to see that the government could make the argument that because a small amount of additional help is being provided, that the bankruptcy option is no longer needed. The Minister of Education is on record as opposing student loan bankruptcies and there is public and official concern at the large number of people who have been able to get rid of their student loan debt burden through a New Zealand bankruptcy. Our view is that student loan bankruptcy provides an important safety valve for when people have become overwhelmed with impossible debt, usually through no fault of their own, or because they were never told what would happen to their debt if they moved overseas, however, because New Zealand is out of step with comparable countries, and given the large amounts at stake, our view is that a change could be expected. If the government did change the law and abolish, or restrict, student loan bankruptcies it would probably do so without much notice in order to avoid a surge of applicants.
The government is proposing several changes to student loan legislation. One of the proposed changes is to provide a new circumstance for when a borrower can be treated as being physically in New Zealand.
Borrowers with a serious illness who are unable to meet their overseas-based repayment obligations may be able to be treated as physically in New Zealand.
The amendment will require the borrower to provide evidence of their medical and financial position as the Commissioner of Inland Revenue requires.
If someone with a student loan debt, living overseas, has a serious illness and, is approved by the IRD, this will mean that instead of having to make compulsory payments each six months that person's payment obligation will be assessed on the basis of their income. If their income is low then no repayment may be required. Assuming payment obligations (if any) are kept to, the person should not be charged ordinary or penalty interest which should help keep their debt at a more manageable level, however, in some cases the borrower may still be better off considering bankruptcy so that the debt burden is eliminated. This amendment is expected to come in to force on 1 April 2020.
This is a message for Australian residents. We feel deeply for you at this time, and especially if you or your family has been affected by the catastrophic bush fires. We want to help.
If you have been directly affected by the bush fires (as a victim or a helper) then we will assist you with the IRD for free, or for the amount you can afford to pay us. It may be that the IRD is hammering you, and your present situation is such that you have lost your home, or loved ones, or you are fighting the fires, and you are in no position to deal with your debt, or the IRD, right now. We will represent you with the IRD to try to gain you breathing space. We can also offer advice on your options, IRD negotiation assistance, and help with NZ bankruptcy. If you are directly affected and do not have the financial means, our help is free (or for what you can afford to pay).
When contacting us please provide a detailed outline of your situation. Please note that we can accept limited numbers so please contact us as soon as possible. If you need help with your NZ student loan debt and can afford to pay, your payment is appreciated and helps us to help those who are going through hell. Please spread our offer so we can help as many people as possible. 🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺
There is light at the end of the student loan debt tunnel.
Make 2020 the year that you finally sort out your debt. We know that January can be a hard time of the year financially, so for a very limited time we are offering a 25% discount on NZ bankruptcy assistance where your main debt is a NZ student loan debt. Offer does not include prior advice (this is available separately if required), but it does include drafting your bankruptcy application, advising you of any apparent issues with your application, obtaining your approval of the draft, and then filing the bankruptcy application. We can also assist with communicating with the Official Assignee and any other questions that arise at the time of filing and during your bankruptcy. Conditions: Mention this deal when you email us. Must be booked and paid for no later than 11 January 2020 (NZ time). After that we will email you a short list of questions and you will need to email us your responses within two days (the sooner the better). In most cases, we will provide the draft to you within two business days of receiving your responses. Please note that we reserve the right not to act.
There is light at the end of the student loan debt tunnel.
Make 2020 the year that you finally sort out your debt. We know that January can be a hard time of the year financially, so for a very limited time we are offering a 50% discount on initial advice on your student loan debt options (usual price AUD$150 for Australian residents and NZD$200 for others). Conditions: Mention this deal when you email us. Advice must be booked and paid for no later than 11 January 2020 (NZ time). After that we will email you a short list of questions and you will need to email us your responses within two days (the sooner the better). In most cases, we will provide the advice to you within one business day of receiving your responses. The deal includes further related questions from you for up to one month after the advice has been provided. Please note that we reserve the right not to act.
We have availability over the Christmas and New Year period so please contact us if you need help or advice.
The student loans team of the IRD will be closed for Christmas from 2 pm on Monday 23 December 2019 until 6 January 2020. This means that if you receive an IRD letter during this period, have issues upon arrival to New Zealand, or want to speak to someone in the IRD about your debt, that there will nobody available in the IRD during this two week period.
If you start now it is not too late to get your IRD debt resolved, or to make good progress towards resolution, before the Christmas close down. If you want to gain access to MyIR (recommended) this should be organised ASAP and before the Christmas close down.
If you are a New Zealand bankrupt, and you want to leave New Zealand (for example: after a Christmas holiday visit home), it is essential that you obtain permission from the Insolvency Service before you leave New Zealand.
If you leave New Zealand without first obtaining permission, you can be punished with a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to $5,000, or both. It's not worth the risk. It doesn't matter which passport you travel on.
The Insolvency Service will be closing from 3pm on Tuesday 24th December and will re-open at 8.30 am Friday 3rd January 2020. If you need travel permission for the Christmas period, we recommend starting to plan ahead now. Once you have applied for permission it can take up to 10 working days to be granted. Being granted permission is not automatic, but in most cases it is granted. There are various factors that will increase your chance of receiving permission to travel.
We recommend that you try to apply for permission once you know your travel dates, but before booking tickets, just in case permission is refused. If permission is refused you may lose your travel payments. If you are already in New Zealand, you will legally be unable to leave.
If you are not yet bankrupt, and this is what you intend to become, you need to go through that process first, and obtain the bankruptcy order, before the travel permission process can begin. It usually takes about two weeks after filing the bankruptcy application, before the bankruptcy order is made, but we would expect this time to become longer the closer it gets to the busy Christmas season. If you need to apply for bankruptcy and have it done and dusted well before the Christmas period we recommend starting this now, or in the next 1-2 weeks.
It is 9 weeks from now until the middle of December, when everything slows down in New Zealand, as people shift their focus to Christmas preparations. Government offices, like the IRD and the NZ Insolvency and Trustee Service also completely shut down for a period of time over Christmas and New Year.
If you have decided that a New Zealand bankruptcy is the most realistic way to resolve your debt problem, and you start now, you are likely to be bankrupt in plenty of time before Christmas.
If you start now with an IRD negotiation, there is also a good chance that things could be sorted well before Christmas.
Either way, if the debt is sorted, you will be able to relax at Christmas time knowing that the IRD will not be chasing you, and that there is no risk of arrest if you travel home (you will need permission to leave if you are bankrupt but this is usually easy to obtain).
By starting now, or soon, you will avoid the delays that arise when people apply at the last minute just before things shut for Christmas.
People who have student loan debt arrears get different kinds of letters from the IRD. Common types are described in this blog post.
At one end there is the letter that comes out of the blue, after not hearing from them for 20 years, where they ask you to contact them. This letter means that you are on the IRD's radar, they know where you are, and the debt is not going to go away or be forgotten by the IRD. While it may be some time before the IRD takes serious steps against you (or it may be tomorrow), this type of letter means that it is time to get the debt sorted before things gets worse and before you run out of time.
A common stronger letter will be one that insists that you make contact within a stated amount of time (usually 30 days). This type of letter should not be ignored as doing so will mean that you will probably receive a demand notice in the near future. If the IRD knows that you are working hard and trying to find a solution this lessens the risk of their action against you being escalated.
Then there is the type of letter that is a "final notice" and which often states that the debtor has broken the law, is at risk of arrest, and that legal proceedings will be taken if payment is not made within a short time frame. Based on our many years of experience, these letters are not bluff and the IRD may even have the legal proceedings drafted and ready to go at the time when the letter is sent to you. Sometimes the letter will arrive personally via a process server, or by post, or by email. This type of letter is very serious and doing nothing may mean legal action and bankruptcy not just in New Zealand, but in the country in which you live. If you do get this kind of letter, urgent action is needed. Even if bankruptcy is your only real choice at this late stage, if you have the choice of bankruptcy in New Zealand or overseas, you are usually better off to try to keep this to New Zealand only, as the impact on your overseas credit rating, or your life overseas, may be minimal if you don't have much in the way of assets or income. If the IRD bankrupts you in the country in which you live the impact on your credit rating will be serious.
Did you receive a letter from the IRD or its debt collectors in September?
This is the most aggressive we have ever seen the IRD. Many people have contacted us to get advice, to get assistance with negotiating with the IRD, or help with bankruptcy, however, please don't ignore the letters. Not only will the debt get worse, but the next step may be a bailiff on your door step or arrest if you return to New Zealand. It's not easy dealing with the debt, but it is better than doing nothing.
Jessica Buck is typical of many of the people we work with. A large student loan debt ruining her life and relationships. Student loan debt is constantly on her mind:
They’re always running around in the back of my mind, reminding me that this month’s payment is swiftly approaching, regardless of what my bank account looks like. It's stressful, to say the least, and can easily develop into a state of constant anxiety. And right now, I can't afford my student loans, so that anxiety has escalated to the next level.
Ms Buck's problem is US student loan debt, but the effect on many NZ student loan debtors is the same. Having a student loan debt can easily cause anxiety, depression, and loss of quality of life. The sooner you deal with it the better.
The IRD states that it could take more serious actions against overseas debtors than it currently is, including applying for garnishee orders on overseas income, initiating bankruptcy procedures in an overseas court or continuing with their arrest warrant processes if the borrower crosses the New Zealand border. If you have an overseas debt that is out of control, these IRD indications should cause you to immediately deal with your debt as the possibility of being bankrupt overseas or having a garnishee order against overseas income is scary news for many people.
Currently when overseas debtors become bankrupt in NZ, to get rid of the student loan debt, the IRD does not take proceedings to also make them bankrupt overseas, meaning that their overseas credit rating remains largely unaffected (in most cases). The indication that the IRD is considering overseas bankruptcies is a game changer and would have a huge impact on an overseas resident debtor. The message is that if your debt is not under control, that the sooner you deal with it the safer you are likely to be from an escalation of IRD enforcement action.
"Student loan lending does not lead to good employment or income outcomes for some individuals, or for taxpayers who make a significant contribution to tertiary costs." (Ministry of Education report)
25% Discount Offer (more details below):
If you are ready to get your student loan debt sorted, we have some extra special assistance offers for you during March. We are offering discounts of around 25% for new advice and bankruptcy clients. If you are an existing client, and recommend someone as a new client for us, we will give them an extra discount to thank you for your business.
We offer a fast turn around and guaranteed results (some conditions apply).
This offer is available only for new business accepted before 31 March 2019.
Please contact us now if you want to get your debt sorted and receive expert assistance at a great price. To get started please email: email@example.com
New Zealand bankruptcy gets rid of New Zealand student loan debt. In most cases bankruptcy lasts for three years.
When you apply for bankruptcy you declare your income, debts and assets etc.
In most cases there will be a flurry of communications with the Official Assignee's representatives at the time of applying for bankruptcy, and in the few weeks thereafter. Some people never hear anything further but it is important to remember that the bankruptcy rules still apply. This includes things like advising the OA if your circumstances change and being aware that the OA may claim assets that you acquire during the bankruptcy. So, if for example, you saved up some money during the bankruptcy that money could be seized by the OA. If they found out about it after your discharge there would still be risk.
Recently we have noticed a flurry of communications from the OA to people who have been bankrupt for some time. The OA is seeking detailed information about the bankrupt's current circumstances. If you receive such a letter it is very important that you reply accurately, and on time. Our consistent experience with the OA is one of professionalism and reasonable flexibility, however, they do not tolerate misleading information or the failure to adhere to deadlines. If you cannot keep to a deadline it is important that you seek a formal extension before the deadline date (which will probably be granted if the request is reasonable). If you have any concerns about your information we can help you with the issues and by negotiating with the OA if there are issues.
There's no better feeling than being able to get a great resolution for a client. In this case we negotiated a successful resolution with the IRD, including a hardship application. We commenced acting in late 2018. The client needed additional time to get some of his documents together and the IRD were helpful in allowing an extension of time until early January. Within one day of the additional documents being provided to the IRD, the application was approved. In some cases negotiations can take much longer, but this is an example of what is possible. Our client asked to provide a reference and this is what he had to say: