Fair Go: Kaikōura woman caught up in tax refund chaos after account mix-up

Kaikōura local Thanapackiam Rajamanickam, also known as Radha, has had her fair share of jobs; working at a petrol station, for Singapore Airlines in customer service, making coffees at a local cafe, and then as a road side traffic controller.

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Last June, Thanapackiam Rajamanickam was told by the IRD she was due a tax refund, but getting it has been a long battle between her, the IRD and her bank. Source: Fair Go

She's worked hard to live a comfortable life, but it's the money she's not getting that's brought Radha to Fair Go.

Last June, Inland Revenue (IRD) told Radha she was due a tax refund.

"It was about $685," she said. "For me it's actually big money.”

The IRD asked Radha to update her bank account details using its online form, and that's where the trouble began.

"It kept on saying something like invalid. I tried many ways, omitting the zeros and everything but it still did not work."

Suffixes and prefixes can be confusing. If you have two zeros on the end of your account do you omit one to make it fit? Do you add a zero if you come up short? Who hasn't felt that anxiety when trying to make an account number fit all the boxes?

In Radha's case, she had zeros in multiple places, and that created a bit of chaos, because when she went to check her IRD details, her bank account number was wrong. She only had two zeros in the middle of her account number, but her IRD details were showing three zeros.

“That was ridiculous,” she said.

“That's totally not my account number so I immediately called them."

Radha was sure she had put her account number in correctly - she even got her husband to double check - and she says the IRD seemed relaxed about the extra zero, so she was too.

"The next few days later, I received an email saying my tax refund is being credited to this number," she said.

"I got panicked because this is totally not my number."

Time was ticking, and Radha was stressed someone else would get her refund.

"I called (IRD) and said my account number is a different number, it’s got an additional zero there. It's not my account".

"They said, well it's not our problem now, you have to call BNZ."

Radha's been a Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) customer since 2019, and had no issues - until now.

The issues with her account number sparked a game between the IRD and BNZ of passing the buck.

Radha went to BNZ to check whether that wrong account number that the IRD sent to her was a valid account, but it said it didn't exist.

She went back to the IRD, and it said that the account number does exist.

So Radha went back to BNZ, and again it said the account doesn't exist, and then it told her to go to the IRD.

"I told myself, 'This is not going to work', I called IRD and said, ‘Look I've been up and down with you guys, no one is helping me and I don't know what’s going on.’"

This time, the IRD gave Radha written confirmation of that account number existing, which she then took to BNZ. Radha says BNZ only admitted that the account existed when it saw the confirmation from IRD.

This was in October, which was five months after Radha first applied for her tax refund.

She said BNZ told her it could check with the account holder to see if it could retrieve her money, but that it would cost $65.

Radha said it turns out that wasn't an option anyway.

"The next day (BNZ) sent back an email saying, no he can’t do that.”

Radha was getting really worried now, and said she was frustrated that she may not see her money after all.

It was time for Fair Go to step in.

We spoke to the IRD and it said it's limited in what it can tell us, but it is working with Radha to sort out any ongoing concerns.

BNZ has now apologised to Radha.

"After a thorough investigation we found Ms Rajamanickam's tax refund had gone to another customer’s account. We have gotten in touch with that customer, but in the meantime, we have credited Ms Rajamanickam's account all the missing funds,” a spokesperson said.

Radha said she's thrilled with her result, especially since it’s taken her a year to get her refund.