The Government has tougher treatment for beneficiaries who are in debt than it does for taxpayers who have not paid their tax, a new study reveals.
It has found the Ministry of Social Development puts much more effort into chasing its debt than the Inland Revenue.
Lisa Marriott, an associate professor at Victoria University's School of Accounting and Commercial Law, says her research shows that tax debtors are treated much more leniently than beneficiaries.
Dr Marriott says it indicates there is a level of beneficiary bashing which ensures their debt is more closely scrutinised.
In the 2011-12 year, she says the Ministry of Social Development wrote off nearly $ 9 million of debt and Inland Revenue $435 million.
Yet Dr Marriott says unpaid tax totals nearly $6 billion - much higher than the $1 billion of welfare debt.
She says beneficiaries are seen as less deserving, while taxpayers - even those who do not pay their taxes - are seen as worthy of preferential treatment.