Explaining Capital Gains Tax (CGT)
by Nila Sweeney
What is CGT?
CGT is the tax charged on any capital gains that arise from the sale or disposal
of any asset bought or acquired after September 1985. It is not a separate tax in
its own right. Rather a ‘net capital gain’ is included in your taxable income and
taxed at your marginal tax rate. The ‘net capital gain’ is reduced by your capital
losses for the income year and unapplied capital losses from previous income years.
To calculate your net capital gain subject to tax:
1. Take your total capital gains for the year
2. Deduct: total capital losses (including any net capital losses from the previous
3. Deduct: Any CGT discounts or concessions you maybe entitled to
4. The total you get is your net capital gain subject to tax.
If you carry on a small business, the small business concession may be available
to further reduce your capital gain.
What properties are subject to CGT?
Any kind of property is prima facie, a CGT asset subject to CGT. This includes:
• Houses, apartments, weekenders, shops, offices, factories;
• Options and units in unit trusts;
• Restrictive covenants;
• Rights under an ‘employment contract’; or
• Granting of an easement.
However, certain assets are exempt from CGT:
• Main residence;
• Collectables which cost less than $500 eg jewellery;
• Personal use assets which cost less than $10,000 eg a boat;
• Compensation for personal injury;
• Shares in a Pooled Development Fund;
• Plant and equipment (the gain or loss is assessed as a revenue gain or deduction);
• Trading stock (including land entered into a development).
You can apply for CGT relief if you are a small businesses-owner. You may be entitled
for concessions if you are going through marriage breakdown and restructuring situations.
Working from home can also reduce the main residence exemption.
When are you liable for CGT?
You make a capital gain if the amount you receive from a CGT event exceeds the cost
base of that CGT asset disposed, for example if you receive more for the CGT asset
than what you paid for it.
The ATO now allow costs incurred in engaging a ‘stylist’ to market a property, together
with related furniture hire costs, as part of a property’s cost base.
Initial repairs should be capitalised. Repairs that are more than a replacement
or renewal of worn out parts should be added to the cost base and claimed as a deduction
when the asset is disposed of. You need to keep records of each element for five
years after a CGT event has happened.
If you have or can deduct expenditure, it does not form part of the cost base. That
is, costs, which can be deducted, such as interest and rates for an income-producing
property, cannot be included in the cost base.
Only when a CGT event occurs can a capital gain or loss be realised. Such events
• You sell or give away an asset to someone else;
• An asset you own is lost or destroyed;
• Shares you own are cancelled, surrendered or redeemed;
• You stop being an Australian resident; or
• A company makes a payment to you that is not a dividend.
The time an acquisition occurs is important because if it is determined that an
asset was acquired before 19 September 1985, no CGT will arise. When a disposal
occurs, the capital gain is determined at the date the contract is entered into,
rather than upon completion.
The timing of other CGT events is provided in the CGT legislation.
Subject to the acquisition date of the investment and the date of any improvements
made, the cost base of the investment may be reduced by any amounts that have been
deducted in relation to the Special Building Write-off of 2.5%.
When does the 50% discount apply?
The CGT discount of 50% for individuals and trusts or 33 1/3% for superannuation
entities is only available where the CGT asset has been held for at least one year.
To work out your CGT use the calculator above.