Reader’s Question: Avoiding tax on property sale
Is there a required period of time you must own a property before selling it to buy another to avoid paying capital gains tax (CGT)? The new purchase would be my main residence.
Judging by your question I'm assuming that the property that you plan to sell is where you live now, i.e. your primary residence. If you plan on selling this property to purchase another property which will become your new primary residence, then the answer to your question is 'no – there is no minimum period'.
This is because ordinarily if you were to sell a property any profit which you make is liable to CGT (currently at a rate of 18%). However, you do not pay capital gains tax on the sale of your principal residence i.e. where you live – this is known as Private Residence Relief.
Interestingly, a rule under Private Residence Relief often called the ‘’time to sell rule’’ also allows a person to move out of their current home and into their newly purchased house without selling the previous one. As long as they sell the first house within 3 years of vacating it then the sale would be CGT free. This might be of interest to you.
Selling a second home tax-free
There are all sorts of other HMRC rules which determine the amount of tax relief you receive on a property sale given certain scenarios such as working abroad, time between purchase and moving in, periods of inoccupation etc. Therefore, with a careful bit of planning it is possible to actually use these rules to your advantage and sell a second investment property tax free.
For more information see my article Money tip #61 – Sell your second home tax free just like an MP.
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