A New Zealander living in Australia was asked to pay $34,000 in student loan fees by March, years after Inland Revenue said she was not in its system.
Jaymie Coleman, a banking specialist living in Victoria, said she borrowed $8,000 for a tourism course 18 years ago.
She said she tried to contact IRD several times, and was told her details were not in the system, and she could not pay anything back.
But last October, while visiting family in New Zealand, Ms Coleman was called by an IRD staff member who told her she now had to pay.
"I said how much is it, and he said it was about $64,000 and said if you can pay $34,000 by 30 March .... and I said 'well there's no chance I could do that, I still don't earn over $45,000 a year in Australia'."
Ms Coleman said she was trying to work out a more reasonable payment plan with IRD, but would now think twice about coming back to New Zealand.