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Capital gains tax

Capital gains tax (CGT) becomes payable when you sell an asset (eg a business, a second property, shares or an heirloom) and make money from the sale. How much tax you pay depends on whether you're a basic rate or a higher rate taxpayer and what the current tax-free allowance is for the tax year. Read more about capital gains tax and CGT rates in this guide.

CGT is a tax charged on the profit (ie the gain) you make when you ‘dispose of’ an asset that has increased in value. The amount you pay depends on your income and the value of the asset.

'Disposing' of an asset includes:

  • selling the asset
  • giving the asset away as a gift or transferring it to someone else
  • swapping the asset for something else
  • receiving compensation for the asset (eg if it's been lost or destroyed)

You pay CGT when you dispose of certain chargeable assets. These include:

  • most personal possessions worth £6,000 or more (excluding your car)
  • property that isn't your main home
  • your main home if you've let it out or using it for business
  • shares
  • business assets (eg land, buildings, plants and machinery)

Note that you are disposing of cryptoassets (eg bitcoins cryptocurrency) you may need to pay CGT. For more information, see the Government’s guidance.

You do not pay CGT on:

  • shares if they're in an ISA
  • UK Government gilts or premium bonds
  • betting or lottery winnings

You only need to pay CGT on total gains above the annual tax-free allowance (called the Annual Exempt Amount). This is currently £12,300. For trusts, this is £6,150.

Depending on the asset, you may also be able to rely upon a relief to reduce your tax bill, for example:

For more information on the types of CGT relief available, see the Government’s guidance.

Spouse/civil partner

You don't have to pay CGT on assets you give or sell to your spouse or civil partner unless you:

  • separated or didn't live together at all during that tax year
  • gave them the goods for their business to sell on

Your spouse/civil partner will have to pay CGT on the gain if they later dispose of the asset.

Charity

You don't have to pay CGT on assets you give away to charity.

You may have to pay if you sell an asset to charity for both:

Note that you should work out your gain using the amount the charity pays you, rather than the actual value of the asset.

You only pay CGT if your taxable gains are above your annual Capital Gains Tax Allowance:

1. Work out total taxable gains

Work out the gain for each asset disposed of in the tax year. Your gain is the difference between what you paid for the asset and the amount you got when you sold (or ‘disposed of’) it.

2. Add together the gains from each asset

The total amount will be your total taxable gain.

3. Deduct any allowable losses

If, when ‘disposing’ of the asset, you find that you make a loss, you can report that loss to HMRC to reduce your total taxable gains. When you report a loss, the amount is deducted from the gains you made in the same tax year.

If after having deducted allowable losses, you find your total taxable gain is still above the tax-free allowance, you can deduct unused losses from previous tax years. If they reduce your gain to the tax-free allowance, you can carry forward the remaining losses to a future tax year.

You do not have to pay any tax if your total taxable gains are under your capital gains tax allowance, however, you'll still have to tell HMRC if:

  • you disposed of chargeable assets with an overall worth of more than 4 times the Capital Gains Tax Allowance (£49,200 for the 2022/23 tax year)
  • you have losses that you want to claim

You can report this in your tax return.

For more information on allowable losses, read the Government’s guidance.

4. Apply the tax rate

Basic rate income taxpayers are liable for CGT at 10% for most chargeable assets. For gains made on the sale of residential property (ie a second home, or a buy-to-let investment), they are liable for CGT at 18%.

Higher rate income taxpayers are liable for CGT at 20% for most chargeable assets. For gains made on the sale of residential property, they are liable for CGT at 28%.

Trustees or personal representatives of someone who has died are liable for CGT at 20% for most chargeable assets. For sales of residential property, they are liable for CGT at 28%.

You can use the Government’s Capital Gains Tax calculator to help you work out how much CGT you’ll have to pay.

You can report your gain and pay CGT straight away by using the Government's real-time Capital Gains Tax service if you’re a UK resident.

Example

Kate bought a flat for £200,000 and sold it for £250,000. She has made a profit of £50,000. The direct costs of buying and selling the property can be deducted when calculating Kate's CGT:

£50,000 -

£3,000 (selling costs, eg estate agent fees, advertising fees, etc) -

£3,000 (buying costs, eg survey fees, stamp duty, etc)

= £44,000 (the net gain or 'Chargeable Gain') -

£12,300 (tax allowance) = 

£31,700 (Taxable Gain).

Let's say that the flat was an investment property - a buy-to-let. We have to calculate Kate’s CGT bill by multiplying her taxable gain by the correct tax rate; either 18% or 28% or a combination of both.

Which rate we use depends on how much income she has:

  • higher rate taxpayer: if Kate has a total income of more than £50,270 (ie between £50,271 and £150,000 in the 2022/23 tax year), she will be a higher-rate taxpayer. This means her entire taxable gain will be taxed at 28%: £31,700 x 28% = £8,876
  • basic rate taxpayer: if Kate’s income is less than £50,270 (ie between £12,571 and £50,270 in the 2022/23 tax year), she will be a basic-rate taxpayer and some or all of her gain will be taxed at 18%. For example, if she has an income of £30,000, this means £20,270 of her basic-rate band will still be available (£50,270 - £30,000). Consequently, the first £20,270 of her capital gain will be taxed at 18% and the rest at 28%:

£20,270 x 18% = £3,648.6 +

£11,430 x 28% = £3,200.4

Total tax = £6,849

If Kate has no taxable income for the year, or has an income of less than her personal allowance (£12,570 in the 2022/23 tax year), her entire taxable gain will be covered by her basic-rate tax band and will be taxed at 18%: £31,700 x 18% = £5,706.