Finance Minister Grant Robertson not ruling out extending bright-line test - the tax on investment properties

Finance Minister Grant Robertson is not ruling out an extension to the bright-line test - the tax on investment properties. 

It comes as the Government is being asked to shoulder the load after the Finance Minister fired off a letter to the Reserve Bank asking it to rein in the out-of-control housing market.

Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr responded on Wednesday to his letter asking the Reserve Bank to consider house prices when making decisions on monetary policy. 

"We do take housing costs into consideration when both measuring consumer price inflation and setting monetary policy conditions."

Robertson told Newshub he was "pleased to hear that".

"Obviously at one level that means that including it in the Remit isn't a major issue for them," he said, referring to the things the Reserve Bank must consider when introducing monetary policy. 

"Our objectives remain the same which is to maintain low and stable inflation and contribute to maximum and sustainable employment," said Orr. 

"We look forward to working with Government on the long-term and very complex issue of supply and affordability of houses in Aotearoa."

Robertson denies he's trying to deflect responsibility for the housing crisis. 

"Absolutely not, we said yesterday that we are looking at what more we can do - particularly in demand-side measures - but also in making sure there are more houses available," he said. 

Orr said the Government has been "courageous in writing an open letter to ask for assistance". 

Robertson said: "We're living in an area with 15-20 percent house price inflation being a prospect. We have to be calling on all of the tools that are available across Government.

The Finance Minister is promising to pull out every stop - except one. He's sticking to his guns on tax - no wealth tax, no capital gains tax. 

"We've already ruled that out," he said. "We've campaigned and we said that we wouldn't be doing that and we're going to stay true to our word on that."

Green Party finance spokesperson Julie Anne Genter says times have changed. 

"Well, they didn't have a mandate to close the border until we had a pandemic," she says. "We're in the middle of a crisis and it's probably the expectation of the New Zealand public that the Government will take the action that's needed to stop runaway house prices."

There is one existing tax the minister has to tinker with. The bright-line test means if a property is sold within five years, capital gains are taxed at the owner's income tax rate. The family home is exempt. 

"One of the questions we've asked the Treasury is to tell how they think that policy is going," Robertson said, when asked if he would look at extending it beyond five years. 

"I'm not getting into ruling things or ruling things out but we do want to see whether the bright-line test is achieving its goals."

ACT leader David Seymour says it's a capital gains tax by "stealth". 

"If they were honest they'd say it's a capital gains tax."

The Finance Minister is not ruling out either extending the timeframe or tax rate - so in theory it could become just that: a capital gains tax by stealth.

But after taking the extraordinary step of writing to the Reserve Bank Governor to tackle this, the Finance Minister needs to shoulder the load too.