An 11-year-old girl is owed 4 cents by Inland Revenue - but cannot claim the amount until she earns a refund of more than $1.

Audrey Gorringe's "ridiculous" tax refund was notified by IRD in a letter to her home this week.

Her mother Katrina McKeown was surprised at the letter and said the effort to notify the refund including postage would have been worth more than the refund itself.

"I just thought it was a bit ridiculous really. It seems like a lot of processing and sending it out. It does seem a bit pointless."

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McKeown believed the refund was the result of an incorrect tax amount applied to savings in Audrey's bank account.

"But they don't refund it until your income tax account balance reaches a dollar."

A stay-at-home mum, McKeown, 40, said it would "take a very long time at 4 cents" per refund for it to build up to $1.

She said Audrey, who is home-schooled through Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu correspondence school and is good at maths, was also "a bit surprised", having never received a refund before - let alone one so miniscule.

The savings account was started by Audrey's maternal grandfather, Maurice McKeown, when the girl was born.

Audrey Gorringe, 11, with the letter she received from Inland Revenue saying she was owed 4 cents but could not actually collect it until the refund totals $1. Photo / Alan Gibson
Audrey Gorringe, 11, with the letter she received from Inland Revenue saying she was owed 4 cents but could not actually collect it until the refund totals $1. Photo / Alan Gibson

"Her modest bank account's interest must have been miscalculated by someone," Maurice wrote to the Weekend Herald.

"I wonder will she receive it as a lump sum or will it be credited for future tax due," Maurice joked.

Weekend Herald columnist Mary Holm said perhaps Inland Revenue should be applauded for treating children the same as adults and respecting every refund, no matter how small.

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An Inland Revenue spokeswoman said newborns were issued an IRD number when their birth was registered.

It meant many children from an early age were income earners for tax purposes.

For example, this would be the case for children whose parents have opened KiwiSaver accounts or a savings fund for them.

Once Audrey's refund reaches more than $1, Inland Revenue will pay it into a nominated bank account.

Automatic tax refunds came into effect in April this year.

Under the new system, about 750,000 wage and salary earners were expected to get automatically generated tax refunds.

The change is one of the biggest to individual tax in almost 20 years and also means 110,000 more people, who were not filing returns, will have to pay an amount.