A prestigious Auckland school has paid back 90 per cent of the Government's wage subsidy after it fared better than it expected during the Covid-19 lockdown.
But there are questions about whether it should have paid back all of the money.
St Cuthbert's College in Epsom says the Ministry of Social Development gave it approval to keep some some of the wage subsidy payment.
MSD, on the other hand, says any business which did not make a loss had to repay everything it received.
The school applied for Government assistance in March after forecasting revenue losses of more than 30 per cent for the month of May - the threshold required to qualify. It received $1.92m to cover the wages of 302 staff.
In May, the Epsom school said it would pay back "the bulk" of the subsidy because its losses were "far less than anticipated".
A Ministry of Social Development database shows it kept $225,837 of the money.
A St Cuthbert's spokeswoman said this was because the school was still projecting a 30 per cent loss for its boarding facility and a 100 per cent loss for its swim school.
"The Ministry confirmed that we were still eligible for the subsidy for these parts of the business and advised us of the amount of the original subsidy that we could keep, and the amount to be paid back."
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MSD Group General Manager Employment Jayne Russell said the ministry could not comment on a specific business.
"Generally, a business that applied and was granted a sum based on a predicted revenue loss is allowed to wait to see if a predicted loss actually occurs over the period January to June 2020 before deciding whether it should repay," she said.
"If the loss is never realised, the business would need to repay the whole amount because they were never eligible."
The Herald is seeking further clarification on how the school was led to believe it could keep $225,837 of the subsidy.
Legal experts said this appeared to go against the Government's advice on the wage subsidy. Companies could not get support based on losses in just one division or area of the business.
"The Government made it quite clear that companies or entities couldn't do internal accounting," said employment lawyer Michael O'Brien.
"It is no different to a computer company that sells equipment saying it made a loss because its store sales were down while its online sales were up 150 per cent. It has to be applied as an entity."
O'Brien added: "There's an issue from the taxpayer's perspective because the wage subsidy was given out within boundaries."
St Cuthbert's confirmed that it applied for the subsidy as a single legal entity, rather than making separate applications for the school, the boarding facility and the swim school.
In all, 19 private schools around New Zealand claimed $9.5m through the wage subsidy scheme, which was paid out to Covid-affected businesses on the grounds that they kept staff on and paid them 80 per cent of their wages.
St Cuthbert's appears to be the only private school which has paid back the subsidy, though several schools refused to answer questions about it.
Scots College in Wellington claimed $1.2 million from the wage subsidy despite continuing to charge full fees of up to $22,000 a year during the lockdown period. The school did not respond to requests for comment.
Rangi Ruru Girls' School in Christchurch, which received $1.01m, refused to comment, and Christ's College, which received $1m, also did not respond.
St Peter's School in Cambridge claimed the largest amount through the scheme - $2.15m.
Principal Dale Burden said the school expected to lose "30 per cent and more". It had been particularly hard-hit by the loss of international students who had returned home or been stranded overseas when New Zealand's borders closed.
Other top schools including King's College do not appear to have claimed the subsidy. It was also available to state-integrated schools, such as religious or "special character" schools.
State schools are not eligible for the subsidy because the Government has guaranteed the wages of their staff.