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What counts as income for benefits

When you apply to Work and Income for a benefit or allowance, and while you’re receiving it, you need to tell them if you get other income — either regular payments or a one-off.

If you do not tell them about your income, they may not pay you enough or pay you too much. If they pay you too much, you have to pay it back. Work and Income also matches information with other government departments including Inland Revenue.

If you have a partner, you must tell Work and Income about their income too.

Regular income

You need to tell Work and Income about what you earn from working, and other regular income, such as child support, ACC weekly compensation, pensions, rent, interest or help from your family.

Income from work

Wages or salary

Tell Work and Income about any regular wages or salary you get — the gross (before tax) amount. You also need to tell them every time your pay changes, for example if you:

  • do some overtime or change the number of hours you work
  • take leave without pay or unpaid sick leave
  • get a pay rise
  • change jobs
  • get holiday pay or a bonus.

Wages stay the same

Casual or contract work

Any time you do some one-off work, including a cash or ‘under-the-table’ job, you need to tell Work and Income.

If your hours change a lot, you’ll need to tell Work and Income each week how much you have worked.

Wages from casual work

Self-employed income

If you run your own business and you do not know how much you’ll earn, you must tell Work and Income what you expect to earn. They’ll want to see your business accounts.

Self-employed or business income

Other sources of regular income

If you get other regular payments — more than once a year — you need to tell Work and Income.

Payments from ACC and IR

Tell them if you get:

  • weekly compensation, for example because of an injury that means you cannot work or because your partner was killed in an accident
  • payments that help you manage day-to-day life after an injury, such as money for attendant care, home help and rehabilitation services
  • childcare payments to help with the care of your children if you’re injured
  • parental leave payments
  • ACC payments from private insurers, or
  • a survivor’s grant — this is usually a one-off payment.

ACC payments

Child support

You also need to tell Work and Income if you get:

  • regular Child Support payments through IR, or
  • regular or one-off payments through an arrangement with your former partner or someone else.

Child Support or private arrangements

Pensions (including overseas pensions)

If you get pension or superannuation payments, other than NZ Superannuation or a Veteran’s Pension, you need to tell Work and Income. Examples include an overseas pension or a private superannuation scheme through your employer.

Pension or superannuation scheme payments

Insurance and trust payments

You need to contact Work and Income about some payments so they can decide if they’ll affect your benefit, including:

  • regular insurance payments, for example from a life insurance or income replacement insurance policy
  • payments from a trust, such as a family trust.

If you’re under 65, freephone: 0800 559 009 (NZ only).

If you’re over 65, freephone: 0800 552 002 (NZ only).

Email: seniors@msd.govt.nz

Insurance payments

Trust payments

Regular gifts of money, goods or services

If you get regular income that’s a gift, you need to tell Work and Income. Examples include:

  • a family member giving you a set amount each fortnight towards your bills
  • getting rent from a property that’s been given to you.

Gifts that provide a regular income

Income from savings, investments or property

Income from savings and investments

Tell Work and Income when you get income from investments, including interest on savings or dividends from shares.

Interest from bank savings or investments

Income from rent

You need to tell Work and Income about income you get:

  • from renting out a property you own
  • renting out something else you own like a car or caravan, or
  • taking in a boarder.

You need to tell Work and Income about all the income you get from a rental property and any expenses you've paid, such as rates and insurance. They assess how much income you get from your rental property.

Rental income

You can have up to 2 boarders without their board money affecting your benefit.

Income from boarders

Payments from a reverse mortgage or home equity scheme

You need to tell Work and Income if you draw down a reverse mortgage in regular amounts. You do not need to tell them if you take it as a lump sum.

Home equity conversion scheme lump sum

One-off payments

You do not always need to tell Work and Income about one-off payments of cash or gifts of personal property. It depends on the benefit you’re getting.

No matter what benefit you’re on, you must tell Work and Income if you get:

  • a survivor’s grant from ACC
  • a lump sum for child support through an arrangement with your former partner or someone else.

Even if you do not have to tell Work and Income about a lump sum or one-off payment, you need to tell them about any money you earn, like interest, from that payment.

If you get Accommodation Supplement, Temporary Additional Support or Special Benefit

You need to tell Work and Income about all one-off or lump sum payments you get:

  • for compassionate reasons, for example from an employer because:
    • your partner has died while at work
    • you get sick or injured
  • from a Lotto win, Bonus Bonds or other gambling, including the TAB
  • from a reverse mortgage or home equity scheme
  • as a gift — unless it’s something small like cash or vouchers for your birthday
  • from selling assets such as a house, car or boat
  • from compensation or an ex gratia payment
  • from someone who leaves you money in their will
  • from the sale of someone’s estate after they die
  • because you were the victim of a crime — a payment through Victim Support.

One-off or lump sum payments

If you get compensation or ex gratia payments

Compensation is money paid to you in settlement of a claim and is usually ordered by a court. Ex gratia payments are paid to you because someone believes you’ve been harmed, even though legally they do not have to pay you.

Tell Work and income about money you get as compensation for:

  • losing money, land or goods
  • services you’ve provided
  • a personal grievance at work.

You do not need to tell Work and Income about compensation or ex gratia payments for harm that’s been done to you. You do not usually need to tell them for 12 months about any money you earn from investing the payment.

Ex gratia and compensation payments

War compensation and Vietnam veterans

If you or your family were victims of war or harmed because of your service for NZ in the Vietnam war, then you do not have to tell Work and Income about ex gratia payments and, in some cases, about any money you earned from investing it.

Ex gratia payments from Veteran’s Affairs New Zealand

How to tell Work and Income about your income

If you’re not sure if you should tell them about some income, you can phone or make an appointment.

If you’re under 65, freephone: 0800 559 009 (NZ only).

If you’re over 65, freephone: 0800 552 002 (NZ only).

Email: seniors@msd.govt.nz

Changes to wages

Use MyMSD to report changes to your wages.

MyMSD

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