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Family trusts - ownership, size, and their impact on measures of wealth and home ownership

Phil Briggs

The number of family trusts has increased markedly in New Zealand over the last 15 years. This increase has implications for the measurement of household wealth and home ownership, since a significant proportion of dwellings are now held in family trusts. The Household Savings Survey (HSS), which was undertaken by Statistics New Zealand in 2001, collected data on household wealth, including the assets and liabilities of family trusts. HSS data is re-examined, with an emphasis on looking at the types of households that have family trusts, and also at the assets held in these trusts. The 2001 census, which included for the first time a question on whether a dwelling was held in a private trust, is also re-examined. It seems that many census respondents were confused by the census question, and results from the HSS suggest that the census total for trust dwellings is an undercount. HSS data, together with data on the number of tax returns from private trusts, is used to adjust the 2001 census tenure table. It was found that after adjustment for trust ownership, the home ownership rate still fell between 1991 and 2001. Furthermore, ownership rates fell for all age groups. Some of the difficulties that trusts pose when analysing surveys like the HSS at the unit record level are outlined, as are some suggestions for dealing with these difficulties.