19 Nov 2012

Jail 'more likely' for welfare cheats than tax cheats

3:20 pm on 19 November 2012

A Wellington researcher hopes to learn more about why beneficiaries committing welfare fraud are three times more likely to go to jail than white collar criminals avoiding tax.

Lisa Marriott, a senior lecturer at Victoria University, examined tax evasion and welfare fraud prosecutions in New Zealand between mid-2008 and mid-2011.

The pilot study found that welfare fraudsters stole from the Government by an average of $70,000 and had a 60% chance of being jailed.

But while tax evaders dodged an average of $270,000, only 22% of them were locked up.

Dr Marriott says it was a surprise to learn that blue collar criminals are three times more likely to be sentenced to jail when they only account for a quarter of offending.

She says society generally takes a dim view of blue collar criminals, while white collar criminals are sometimes admired and indulged.

Dr Marriott has received a $350,000 grant from the Marsden Fund to continue research into why there is inequality between the rich and the poor.