1 Nov 2016

Data-matching finds 10,000 NZ student loan borrowers in Australia

6:50 pm on 1 November 2016

More than 10,000 student loan borrowers have been found living in Australia using data-matching, and Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says most are likely to be in default.

Steven Joyce at Waitangi

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Joyce said Inland Revenue last week sent a list of 104,000 people with New Zealand student loans to the Australian Tax Office for their first ever data match.

He said Inland Revenue would now check to see how many of the 10,400 identified by the match were in default to the loan scheme, but he expected most of them would be.

"Most will be in default because they made it on the original IRD list in the first place," he said.

Mr Joyce said the department would make contact with those in default to encourage them to start making repayments. It could also use debt collectors, court orders and arrest warrants to catch people as they entered or left New Zealand.

Six arrest warrants had been issued for student loan defaulters and three people had so far been arrested, he said.

Inland Revenue would keep working with the Australian Tax Office on the remaining names from the list, and make further data matches in future, Mr Joyce said.

The data-matching was part of government efforts to claw back nearly $1 billion owed by student loan defaulters living overseas.

Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse said the campaign had netted more than $100 million in the past year, and repayments by problematic borrowers had passed the $300m mark since its inception.

Only 15 percent cent of student loan borrowers lived overseas, but they accounted for more than 90 percent of the nearly $1bn in default.

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