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Overseas pensions deductions
Eligibility and deduction of overseas pensions
Definition of an overseas pension
An overseas pension means a pension, benefit or periodical allowance that:
- forms part of an overseas programme that provides pensions, benefits and periodical allowances for any of the circumstances for which New Zealand benefits and pensions would be paid (including old age, invalidity, death of a spouse); and
- is administered by or on behalf of the Government of the country from which the pension, benefit or periodical allowance originates; and
- excludes an overseas pension or any part of it that has been gained from voluntary contributions made by the person.
It doesn't matter whether the overseas pension is funded by general taxation or by compulsory contributions. For example, the Canada Pension Plan pension is funded by compulsory employer and employee contributions, but it is still subject to direct deduction.
What is Direct Deduction?
For every one dollar you get from an overseas pension, your New Zealand payment is reduced by one dollar.
The Social Security Act 2018 (sections 187-191) sets the criteria that the Ministry must use when deciding whether an overseas pension should affect your NZ Super or other benefits (referred to as New Zealand payments).
This process is known as 'direct deduction' and if your overseas pension meets the criteria, your New Zealand payment will be reduced by any overseas pension you get or are entitled to get. The only exception to this is if your overseas pension (or a portion of it) is made up of voluntary contributions as voluntary contributions aren’t deducted from your New Zealand payments.
When we deduct overseas pensions
An overseas pension is deducted from your New Zealand payment when it meets the criteria in the definition of overseas pension.
A voluntary pension or any voluntary portion of your overseas pension is exempt from deduction. However, you should provide the Ministry with verification of any overseas payment you get so that we can assess whether it might affect your New Zealand payment. Failure to do so may lead to you being overpaid.
If your overseas pension amount is greater than your New Zealand benefit or pension amounts, then you will only get the overseas pension.
Why we deduct overseas pensions
The aim of the policy is to ensure that all qualifying New Zealand residents get an equitable level of state pension, whether the amount of that pension is fully funded by New Zealand, partially funded by New Zealand and another country, or fully funded by another country. 'Equitable' here means having due regard for the interests of both pensioners and taxpayers.
The policy means that New Zealanders who have lived in New Zealand all their lives are not disadvantaged compared with others who have worked overseas, or immigrants to New Zealand who have entitlement to overseas state pensions.
To qualify for NZ Super, an applicant needs only to be 65 years old, a permanent resident of New Zealand, and to have lived here for a minimum of ten years since the age of 20, with five of those years since age 50.
When a person migrates to New Zealand, or returns home after a period overseas, they may bring with them a pension entitlement from another country. In some instances, the overseas pension amount can be quite substantial, especially where a person migrates or returns to New Zealand later in life. If a person were to get their overseas pension entitlement as well as the full rate of NZ Super, they would be financially advantaged compared to people who have lived in New Zealand all their lives.
One pension principle
The direct deduction policy is also underpinned by the 'one pension principle', which means that a person should not be able to get two forms of state financial assistance for the same or similar circumstances. As an example, a veteran over the age of 65 cannot get both a Veteran's Pension and NZ Super, despite the fact that they may meet the qualifying criteria for both. This same principle extends to the treatment of overseas state pensions.
Many other countries operate proportional pension schemes where pension amounts are generally built up gradually, either by contributions or residence, with a full pension becoming available only after 30 to 50 years of contributions or residence. Under proportional pension schemes, the maximum amount of pension is reduced to take into account the period that a person has not made contributions to the scheme or has not been present in the country.
Generally, when workers move between countries with proportional payment pension schemes, they cease to be subject to the first country's scheme and begin to be covered by the second country's scheme. Their pension entitlements in the first country will be less than those of workers who have spent their whole working lives in the first country. However, when their pension entitlements from the first and second country's schemes are added together, the applicant will get what is equivalent to one full pension (hence the "one pension principle").
The one pension principle operates easily where people move between countries with proportional payment pension schemes. However, the New Zealand Superannuation scheme is not structured this way. The direct deduction policy is a mechanism to ensure those who have lived both overseas and in New Zealand get an amount equivalent to one pension, and no more.
How we deduct overseas pensions
We take the following steps when deducting an overseas pension from your NZ payment:
- Check whether the overseas pension meets the two criteria above. This includes if any part of the overseas pension is from voluntary contributions, which are excluded from the amount to be deducted.
- Convert the amount of your overseas pension to New Zealand dollars (NZD).
- Work out the weekly amount.
- Reduce your New Zealand payment by the amount of your overseas pension.
Tax is deducted from the New Zealand payment after it is reduced by any overseas pension.
See examples "one" and "two" further down the page.
You don't get an overseas pension but your spouse/partner does
Your New Zealand benefit may also be affected if your partner gets an overseas pension but you don't. If your partner gets a New Zealand benefit and an overseas pension, it will only affect your payments if their overseas pension is more than their New Zealand benefit (see example three below).
If your partner is not entitled to New Zealand benefit, and gets an overseas pension, it will be deducted from your payments in full (see example four below). There are separate rules for NZ Super and Veteran's Pension couples – See below.
NZ Super and Veteran’s Pension
From 9 November 2020, if someone gets an overseas pension, this will no longer affect their partner's NZ Super or Veteran's Pension payments.
If you applied for NZ Super before and were declined because the amount of your partner’s overseas pension was too high, you can now re-apply for NZ Super.
The following examples are based on common circumstances where we deduct overseas pensions. The rates of NZ Super shown are current as at 1 April 2022.
Actual payments can vary after a person's individual circumstances are taken into account, differing tax rates or obligations and repayments of debts.
The exchange rates used are examples, and in practice may often vary from the specific rate used on the day the overseas pension was paid.
Mr A is married and gets both NZ Super and an overseas pension from the United Kingdom (UK) of £46.82 per week.
Mr A's partner only gets NZ Super.
The gross (before-tax) rate of NZ Super for a married couple is $408.66 each per week.
Mr A's overseas pension is deductible for the following reasons:
- It is administered by the UK Government.
- It is a part of the UK's programme of benefits, pensions and periodical allowances.
- The UK's programme includes payments for old age/retirement, which the New Zealand programme does also.
- It’s not a pension from any voluntary contributions by Mr A.
Step one: converting to New Zealand dollars
We convert the UK pension to a New Zealand dollar amount (£ x exchange rate = NZD)
Weekly UK pension (£)
Weekly UK pension (NZD)
Step two: applying the deduction
We deduct the amount of the overseas pension in NZ dollars from the New Zealand payment (NZ payment - UK pension = the NZ payment you get).
Gross NZ Super (before deduction of UK pension)
Gross UK Pension in NZD
Gross NZ Super (after deduction of UK pension)
The combined gross amount of Mr A's UK pension and gross amount of NZ Super (after deduction) adds up to $408.66.
This is equal to the gross amount of NZ Super that married superannuitants who don't get an overseas pension get.
Mr B is a single person who lives alone and gets NZ Super and an overseas pension from Australia of AUD$5,642.12 per year. The current gross (before-tax) rate of NZ Super for a person who is single and living alone is $538.24 per week.
This pension is deductible for the following reasons:
- It is administered by the Government of Australia.
- It is a part of Australia's programme of benefits, pensions and periodical allowances.
- The Australian programme includes payments for old age/retirement, which the New Zealand programme does also.
- It’s not a pension from any voluntary contributions by Mr B.
Step one: converting to New Zealand dollars
We convert the Australian pension to a New Zealand dollar amount (AUD x exchange rate = NZD)
Yearly Australian Pension (AUD)
Yearly Australian Pension (NZD)
Step two: changing to a weekly amount
Divide the NZD amount of the overseas pension by 52 to calculate the weekly amount.
Yearly Australian Pension (NZD)
Weekly Australian pension (NZD)
Step three: applying the deduction gets the overseas pension.
Gross NZ Super (before deduction)
Gross Australian Pension in NZD
Gross NZ Super (after deduction)
The combined gross amount of Mr B's Australian pension and gross NZ Super (after deduction of the Australian pension) adds up to $538.24. This is equal to the gross amount of NZ Super that single superannuitants who live alone who don't get an overseas pension get.
Mr C is married and gets NZ Super at the gross (before-tax) rate for married couples of $408.66 per week.
Mrs C does not get NZ Super, but does get an overseas pension from Canada of CAD$1,488.62 per month.
From 9 November 2020, Mrs C’s pension is not deducted from Mr C’s NZ Super payments.