When does the NZ “brightline test” start and finish?

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If you sell a residential property in New Zealand within a certain timeframe, you must pay income tax on any gains, unless it’s your main home or other exemption applies.

What is the brightline rule?

Close up detail of town house rooftops with chimneys against blue shy.

The timeframe applicable depends on when you bought the house:

  • if you bought a residential property between 1 October 2015 to 28 March 2018, inclusive: the two- year brightline rule applies, or
  • if you bought a residential property on or after 29 March 2018: the five year brightline rule applies.

When does the brightline period start?

For standard sales of land the start of the two or five year timeframe is from the date of registration of transfer of title (usually the settlement date).

When does the brightline period end?

For standard sales of land the end date for the brightline timeframe is the date a person enters into an agreement to dispose of the property. This is usually the date of entry into agreement for sale and purchaser (usually the date of the agreement).

It only applies to residential property. A property isn’t residential if it’s mainly used for business or as farmland.

Different dates apply if you enter into an Agreement to on-sell the land before your purchase was registered, or if you bought the land as a result of a subdivision of property.

But whenever you buy a property intending to resell it, you’ll need to pay tax on any profit you make when you sell that property.

What is the main home exception?

If you buy and sell your main home, the brightline rule won’t apply. It’s an exception to the brightline rule.

But you can only use the main home exception twice over any two-year or five year period, depending on when you bought the property.

Residential properties held in trust can use the main home exception under the brightline rule if the house sold was the main home of the principal settlor of the trust (as long as the principal settlor does not have another main home), or the main home of a beneficiary of the trust.

Our advice

Check with your accountant before entering into an agreement for the sale of your property if the brightline timeframe might apply.

Our property team can also give you general advice about brightline timeframes and check the title to confirm the start date of the brightline timeframe for you.

This article was first published in June 2018 and revised in June 2019.

Our thanks to Tony Savage for writing this article.