A middle-aged couple are looking at their laptop, researching information about their UK and NZ state pensions. (c) Adobe Stock

Although GBPensions only deals with personal and company pension schemes, people often ask us about UK and NZ state pensions. Unfortunately, we also hear less-than-positive stories from those trying to claim them.

As GBPensions director Tony Chamberlain observes, “Claiming a UK or New Zealand state pension involves dealing with large government departments – which aren’t renowned for their efficiency or customer-facing qualities.”

If I retire in New Zealand, will I receive my UK State Pension or NZ Superannuation?

The basic rule is that if you’re a New Zealand resident who is entitled to a state pension from both the UK and Aotearoa, you can only receive the higher of the two.

It might not be quite as simple as that, though.

If the New Zealand figure is higher, you still have to claim your UK entitlement; otherwise, WINZ may not pay you your NZ entitlement.

What does this mean in practice? (The following figures are nice round numbers used purely for illustrative purposes.)

Let’s suppose your UK State Pension forecast says you’re entitled to the equivalent of $100 per week. You then check your entitlement for NZ State Super and see you’re entitled to the equivalent of $200 per week.

Clearly, the NZ figure is higher, so that’s the total amount you’re allowed to receive.

However, you need to go through the process of claiming that UK pension. If you don’t, WINZ may refuse to pay your NZ Super entitlement.

WINZ confirms this on the United Kingdom pensions paid in New Zealand FAQs:

You are required to apply for any overseas state pensions that you may be eligible for under sections 173-176 of the Social Security Act 2018. If you or your partner do not apply to receive any State Pension you may be eligible for, you risk losing your entitlement to a New Zealand benefit or pension.

And we know that WINZ enforces this policy. Clients have contacted us to say this message is conveyed, sometimes in pretty blunt terms.

You can choose to have the UK funds paid to you directly or go to WINZ to have the payment “topped up” as appropriate. In either case, there are pros and cons, particularly around currency fluctuations and tax obligations, which must be carefully considered. “Neither option is entirely straightforward nor, in my opinion, without the potential for error,” Tony comments.

Is there anything I should do prior to being eligible for my UK State Pension or New Zealand Super?

Once again, we should reaffirm that GBPensions does not offer advice about state pensions.

That said, based on all of the above, and with a nod towards the overall complexities of retirement planning, Tony makes this observation. “Everyone’s circumstances are different. You need to weigh up factors very carefully when considering, for example, whether to contribute more to your UK National Insurance record before you reach retirement age.

“It would seem sensible to start communicating with the relevant government departments well ahead of time. That way, you should be able to collate all the information and have a clearer idea of the way forward.”