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It's a 'D' for IRD Over Student Loan Arrest

While IRD and Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce crow over claims that the increase in being contacted by graduates about their overseas student loan repayments as a result of enforcing their arrest-at-the-border policy, details have emerged that call into question the legitimacy of the treatment ofNgatokotoruPuna in January.

Linsey Higgins, President of the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA), says that these details call into question the capacity of IRD to enforce the law accurately and responsibly.

Mr Puna lives and works in the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands along with Niue and Tokelau are dependent territories. This means that those who are citizens of these countries are also citizens of New Zealand, and that MrPuna was never an overseas based borrower to start with.

IRD have belatedly acknowledged this – his alleged $120,000 loan was reduced to $30,000, now further less the $5000 he was forced to borrow from his family in order to be released from his imprisonment at the airport.

Higgins is appalled at the complete lack of due diligence in this case “If MrPuna was living within New Zealand territory why was he being charged interest? This is a massive failing from IRD. They have failed to do their job properly.”

"It's clear that MrPuna was not an Overseas-Based Borrower, it's not clear that he had not actually met his full obligation under the student loan scheme since New Zealand-based borrowers pay through the PAYE scheme. He may in fact have been arrested despite not being in default at all – even ignoring that IRD were sending reminder letters to an incorrect address."

"MrPuna is not the only person to have had trouble ensuring that IRD, who are spending $1 billion to upgrade their computer system, has correct information about them."

"We question how many more are experiencing the same treatment as MrPuna? How many more people have returned home only to be charged interest and had loan-based payments forced upon them. How many people have found a job in a dependent territory and are now being treated like they are not living within New Zealand territory. IRD needs to come clean on how deep their incompetence goes and make amends to all those who have been affected."

"Of course people are rushing to contact IRD over their student loans, they are worried that IRD may similarly have incorrect information about them and be threatening an arrest-at-the-border on false pretenses."

"NZUSA believes that those who are overseas should meet their legal obligations with respect to their loans, just as those in New Zealand have to. The arrest-at-the-border policy has however revealed the danger of giving such draconian powers to an organisation that cannot be relied upon to get things right."

ENDS

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