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Working and travelling through NZ? You could be owed your tax back

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Travelling through New Zealand isn’t exactly cheap, so it makes sense that so many overseas visitors opt to balance their trip with some work along the way. Luckily in a country as diverse as New Zealand, there are plenty of opportunities to earn some cash as a temporary worker, especially in seasonal jobs at orchards and vineyards, or on ski fields and in hotels.

But once you’re done working and travelling through NZ, it’s worth noting that you could be owed your tax back. Yep, it’s not exactly free money considering you did earn it, but a tax refund could just make those memories of living in New Zealand that little bit sweeter.

How Working Through NZ Works 

If you’re planning on working your way through New Zealand, you’ll need to make sure all your paperwork is in order before you look for a job. If you’re not a New Zealand citizen or resident you’ll need a work visa or permit to be able to work.

You’ll be eligible for a working holiday visa if you tick the following boxes:

  • You’re from one of the countries on the working holiday agreement list
  • You’re between 18 and 30-years-old (or 35-years-old for select countries)
  • You have enough funds to support yourself while you’re in New Zealand and are able to purchase a return ticket.
  • You’re not bringing dependent children with you
  • You haven’t previously applied for a work permit

Depending on your age, citizenship and area of expertise, there may be other options for work visas besides the working holiday visa. The New Zealand immigration website has a handy tool that’ll give you all the possible options.

Once you’ve secured your work permit, you’ll also need a bank account, an IRD number and a Tax Code Declaration form (IR330) from your potential employer before you can officially start working.


What Type of Work Can I do While Travelling NZ? 

Once you’ve got all the paperwork taken care of, naturally you’ll want to explore your options for work. The good news is that with New Zealand’s booming tourism and agriculture industries, you’re bound to find something that’ll work in with your travel plans.

Summertime in New Zealand means plenty of chances for seasonal workers in orchards and vineyards in areas all over the North and South Island. Seasonal fruit pickers are in hot demand, with options in places like Nelson, Hawke’s Bay or Central Otago. These jobs often last for a few weeks or months, giving you lots of flexibility for travel and work.

Tourism hot spots such as Queenstown and Wanaka not only have lots of work in the summer months, but also during winter when visitors are drawn in by the Southern Hemisphere ski season. Ski fields need plenty of seasonal workers to operate, as do associated businesses such as hotels and hostels, restaurants, cafes and other tourism operators. 

New Zealand job websites such as Seek and Trade Me Jobs can be a great place to start when looking for all types of work. Meanwhile Pick NZ, Seasonal Work, Backpacker Board and Backpacker Guide NZ are great tools for finding jobs suited to those working and travelling through the country. And there’s always the old-fashioned route of handing out your CV in person – you never know your luck!

What Work Restrictions Are There for Travellers?

Once you’ve gained your working visa and are searching for a job, it pays to keep in mind that there could be some work restrictions.

Depending on what country you’re from, you may have to limit your time with one employer to three months. However, for citizens of some countries, you’ll be allowed to work for up to 12 months for the same employer, though you can’t accept a permanent position. The restrictions vary significantly depending on where you’re from, so it definitely pays to check what applies to your country on the Immigration New Zealand website.

If you’re planning to be self-employed while you’re in New Zealand, you’ll need to make sure this is allowed under the conditions of your visa. If you have a work visa with open work conditions then being self-employed won’t be a problem, but do check if this is an option for you.

And if you’re really interested in making cash to fund your travels, and want to get a second job, you’ll need to apply for a variation of conditions with New Zealand immigration.

How Do I Claim my Tax Back Once I’ve Left the country? 

After you’ve finished your time in New Zealand and returned home, there’s a possibility you’ll be eligible for a delicious tax refund.

There are a few reasons why you might be owed a refund, such as working under the incorrect tax code and overpaying your taxes. Or perhaps you started working part way through the year, but the IRD assumed you’d been working for a full year, so was overtaxing you.

The good news is, if you were overtaxed then you’re totally entitled to get your hard earned cash back. To do this you can file an IR3 tax return when you leave the country permanently, and if you’ve overpaid you’ll get your money back.

However, if you’d rather not muck around with trying to fill out an IR3 form and trying to figuring out if you’re entitled to a refund, don’t worry! We can do the hard work for you. Get in touch and we’ll sort it out, and if it turns out you’re not owed a refund, you won’t be charged a cent.