Join the queue - $78m pot of gold waits for its owners

By Amelia Wade

Inland Revenue Department. Photo / APN
Inland Revenue Department. Photo / APN

More than $78.5 million of unclaimed money is sitting in Government coffers.

And all anyone who thinks some of it belongs to them has to do to get it is prove they are among the 211,000 people with a claim.

The Inland Revenue Department has records detailing hundreds of thousands of cases of unclaimed money owed to people or organisations, totalling $78,525,760 million, some dating back to 1973.

The government department has a list of 18,500 names on its website with the amount owed to them, so people can search for themselves if they think they're owed money.

Some of those on the list are owed upwards of $35,000.

Since the online list was updated in October 2010, almost $2 million has been paid, including $470,000 since the start of this year, according to figures released to the Herald.

Most of the unclaimed money comes from deposits left in banks or other financial institutions. It includes insurance proceeds, cheques and wages.

NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants tax director Craig McAllister said any business that owed money to somebody it could not find had to transfer it to the Crown after six years.

"The life insurance companies are a good example, where they've got money in the credit of somebody and they can't track them down.

"But it could also be trustee and estate-type companies where they might have had money left in someone's will and they can't find the person it should belong to."

People with unclaimed money include:

* Those who have not used a cheque or savings account for more than six years

* Those who have stopped making payments on a life insurance policy

* Those who have moved without leaving a forwarding address

* Executors of deceased estates

Under the Unclaimed Monies Act 1971, money left untouched for more than six years must be paid to the Inland Revenue Department which retains it until it is claimed.

Inland Revenue administers the names and amounts as part of Crown Revenue.

The money is held indefinitely, and claimants can apply for their cash at any time.

The owed amounts can increase slightly during the six years before they are transferred to Inland Revenue, as the financial institutions are required to include interest for the time it was in their possession.

But once it is transferred, no interest is added while the money is held by the Crown Account, an Inland Revenue spokesman said.

Mr McAllister said that in the case of money owed to a deceased person, the direct family could apply to claim it.

They would have to identify themselves, prove they were related to the person and supply a copy of the will.

"But the longer it sits there, the harder it gets to claim, so try to claim it as quickly as possible."

What do I do if I think I'm owed money?
Inland Revenue encourages anyone who thinks they may have a claim to contact it. Email Inland Revenue at unclaimed.monies @ird.govt.nz or write to Unclaimed Monies, Inland Revenue, P O Box 38222, Wellington Mail Centre.

What proof do I need?
People who want to claim money need to send their name, address, IRD number, and proof of identity (such as a copy of a birth certificate, driver's licence or passport) to the Inland Revenue Department's postal address.

What happens then?
When a claim is received, the claimant will be asked to give Inland Revenue detailed information for verification. Once this information is provided and checked, and the application approved, a letter of confirmation will be sent, saying that amount will be refunded in 15 working days. Crown Revenue will then issue a cheque, or direct-credit payment into the claimant's account.

Are you owed money? Find out online

The numbers
211,000
People owed unclaimed money.

$78.5m
Amount owed.

$35,000
Some people are owed.

$470,000
Paid this year.

- NZ Herald

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