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When you sell residential property the bright-line property rule does not apply to:

  • your main home
  • inherited property
  • deceased estate property for which you're an executor or administrator.

 If you need help to work out if your property sale is excluded from the bright-line property rule, talk to a tax advisor.

The main home exclusion

Your main home is the property where you live for most of the time or if you have more than 1 property it is the one you have the greatest connection to.

In any case, more than 50% of the property’s area must be used as your main home. If part of your main home was used for other purposes and that uses more than 50% of the property's area the main home exclusion will not apply and you will pay tax on any profit when you sell it. For example, if you use 40% of a property as your main home and rent out 60% as a granny flat, you cannot use the main home exclusion if you sell that property.

The main home exclusion may also apply if you’re a:

  • trustee of a trust and one of the trust's beneficiaries lives in the property and other conditions are met
  • property dealer, developer or builder or an associated person.

It's important to note that having the intention to use the property as your main home is not enough, you must have actually used it for this purpose.

The main home exclusion does not apply when you:

  • have a regular pattern of either buying and selling or building and selling your main home
  • have used the main home exclusion twice or more over the 2-year period immediately before you sold your main home
  • did not use it as your main home for the time required during the bright-line period. The amount of time it is required to be used depends on when you acquired it (in most cases the date you acquire it is when the sale and purchase agreement to buy it became binding).

The bright-line period starts on the date you bought the property which is generally the date the property's title is registered with Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) (generally the settlement date) and generally ends when you enter into a binding sale and purchase agreement to sell the property.

Selling a property used as your main home that was acquired on or after 27 March 2021

If your main home was used as your main home 100% of the time during the bright-line period the main home exclusion will apply. You will not pay tax on any profit when you sell it.

Change-of-use rule

If your main home was not used as your main home for any continuous period or periods of more than 12 months during the bright-line period, the main home exclusion will not apply to the period(s). You’ll pay tax on the portion of profit that relates to the period(s). This is the ‘change-of-use’ rule.

For example, an owner sells a property 6 years after the start of the bright-line period and during that 6 year bright-line period they had moved out and rented it for 15 months, while they worked and lived overseas. Any profit will be split between the 15 months and remaining 57 months during the bright-line period. Tax will be payable on the amount of profit apportioned to the 15 month period.

If the property has not been used as your main home for a continuous period or periods of 12 months or less in total during the bright-line period, you do not need to count the period(s) as a change-of-use – the days in the period are 'treated as' days the property was used as your main home.

For example, an owner takes a few months to move into a property, or owns it for a few months after moving out, the main home exclusion continues to apply for those months.

Selling a property used as your main home that was acquired before 27 March 2021

If your main home was used as your main home for more than 50% of the time during the bright-line period the main home exclusion will apply. You will not pay tax on any profit when you sell it.

If you live in more than 1 property

If you own and live in more than 1 property, you must decide which is your main home. To decide if a property is your main home, think about:

  • where your personal property is kept
  • the amount of time you spend living in each property
  • where your immediate family lives
  • where your social ties are strongest
  • your use of the home
  • what other ties such as employment, business, economic you have with the community.

A main home held in trust

Residential properties held in trust can use the main home exclusion if the house sold was the main home of a beneficiary of the trust and one of the following conditions apply:

  • the principal settlor does not have a main home
  • it is the main home of the principal settlor of the trust that is being sold. 

Inheriting a residential property

Property which is inherited does not come under the bright-line property rule when it's sold by the person who inherited the property. However if any part of the property is acquired other than by inheritance it may be subject to bright-line.

Example: Paul and Mel inherit a property

Paul and Mel are each left a half-share in a residential property.

Mel sells his half-share to Paul at market value on 12 April 2019. Paul is now the only owner of the property. 

He sells this property on 15 March 2020. Because he has sold the property within 5 years of buying Mel's half-share - he will pay tax on 50% of any gain he makes on the sale.