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Trouble with Work and Income: Penalties, investigations and overpayments

Overpayments: When you’re paid too much by mistake

What will happen if Work and Income have overpaid me?

Social Security Act 2018, ss 353–358, 362, 363, 444

If Work and Income believes it has overpaid your income support, you will have to come to some repayment arrangement, unless you disagree that there’s been an overpayment and you dispute this with Work and Income, see below, “Challenging an overpayment decision”.

An overpayment may have occurred because, for example:

  • Work and Income did not properly abate (reduce) your benefit after you earned other income, or
  • you were not in fact entitled to the assistance you received.

    Note: If Work and Income writes to you telling you that you’ve been overpaid, you should contact a benefit-rights organisation. See “Where to go for more support” in this chapter.

Challenging an overpayment decision

If you disagree with a Work and Income decision that you’ve been overpaid, you can apply for a review by a Benefit Review Committee, see “Challenging Work and Income decisions: Reviews and appeals” in this chapter.

An overpayment decision might be incorrect because, for example:

  • Work and Income made a mistake in calculating the amount of the overpayment
  • you were in fact entitled to the payments, or
  • Work and Income ignored information you gave them about your income or a change in your situation.

Asking for an overpayment to be written off

Social Security Act 2018, ss 353, 354, 362

Work and Income cannot recover an overpayment from you if:

  • it was caused by a mistake on its part, and
  • you didn’t contribute to the mistake, and
  • you received the payment in good faith and changed your position (for example, you bought something) believing that you were entitled to the money and wouldn’t have to pay it back, and
  • it would be unfair (“inequitable”) to expect you to pay it back.

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Dealing with Work and Income

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may be able to provide ongoing support.

Work and Income


Phone: 0800 559 009

This website contains information about who qualifies for the different benefits and payments and how to apply for them.

Benefit rates

For information about the benefit rates that apply from 1 April 2021, visit:


Beneficiary advocacy groups

There’s likely to be an advocacy group for beneficiaries in your area. Look for them online. If you’re not able to find one, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (see below).

Auckland Action Against Poverty


Phone: (09) 634 0591

AAAP provides a free advocacy service for people dealing with Work and Income. They have also published a 30-page “Beneficiary Rights Booklet”, which you can download from their ‘Resources’ page.

Address: 120 Church St, Onehunga, Auckland 1061
Email: advocates@aaap.org.nz

Citizens Advice Bureau


Phone: 0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222)

Every Citizens Advice Bureau has volunteers who can provide information, particularly on where to access beneficiary advocacy services.

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