Understanding Capital Gains Tax on a House: A Simplified Guide

When you sell a property, ‘Will I pay capital gains tax on a house?’ is often the first question on your mind. This guide provides a straightforward look at applicable taxes, qualifications for exemptions, and the fundamental steps to calculate your potential tax obligation.

Key Takeaways

  • Capital Gains Tax on the sale of a property is based on the profit made from the sale and can be impacted by reliefs and exemptions such as Private Residence Relief for primary homes.

  • Capital Gains Tax rates on residential property vary depending on the level of taxpayer’s income, with 18% applicable to basic-rate taxpayers and 28% to higher and additional-rate taxpayers for property gains.

  • Utilising the annual Capital Gains Tax allowance, which is set to decrease to £3,000 per person by the tax year 2024-2025, and claiming reliefs such as Private Residence Relief are strategies to minimise CGT liability.

Defining Capital Gains Tax and Its Impact on Your Home Sale

Illustration of a house with a sold sign

Capital Gains Tax, commonly known as CGT, is a tax levied on the gains realised from the sale of an asset that has appreciated in value, considered as a taxable gain. In the context of property sales, CGT is determined by the difference between the final selling price and the initial purchase price, resulting in the capital gain on which tax is calculated. So, let’s say you bought a buy-to-let property for £100,000 and later sold it for £200,000. The resulting capital gain would amount to £100,000.

But don’t worry; there are certain reliefs and exemptions related to CGT that can lower your taxable amount or even exempt you from paying CGT under certain conditions.

Principal Private Residence (PPR) relief is an exemption that provides tax relief for homeowners when the property has been used as the main residence.

Key Moments When You Owe Capital Gains Tax on a House

Photo of a second home or buy-to-let property

One might wonder, “When exactly am I liable for Capital Gains Tax on a house?” Well, CGT is typically applicable on the sale of a second home, buy-to-let property, or inherited/gifted property. Therefore, if the profit from selling your second home exceeds your CGT allowance, after accounting for any eligible expenses, you will be obligated to pay CGT. The same rules apply to a buy-to-let property that you own and has appreciated in value beyond your CGT allowance at the time of sale.

But, paying isn’t always necessary. There are instances where you might not need to pay CGT. For instance, CGT is not required to be paid on the sale of your primary residence. But there’s a caveat. If you put a part of your home to business use or lease out a portion of it, you might have to pay CGT. Therefore, comprehending these pivotal moments is crucial for effective planning of your capital gains tax bill.

Calculating Your Taxable Gain From a Property Sale

Illustration of financial calculations

Three main factors are instrumental when calculating your taxable gain: the sale price, the original purchase price, and allowable deductions like selling costs and property improvements. These elements shape the landscape of your capital gains tax calculation. For instance, if you sell a house for more than you paid for it, the difference (minus allowable deductions) is your taxable gain.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that not all property-related costs can be deducted from your taxable gain. You can deduct expenses related to the purchase and sale of the property, including estate agents’ fees, solicitors’ charges, and stamp duty. But costs linked to the upkeep of a property or mortgage interest cannot be deducted.

Deducting Eligible Selling Costs

As previously stated, certain selling costs can be deducted when computing your taxable gain. These include agent fees and legal expenses. Remember that old saying, “Every little helps?” Well, every deduction you make from your taxable gain brings you closer to reducing your CGT bill.

Specific selling expenses that are eligible for legal deduction from the taxable gain include:

  • Broker fees

  • Stamp duty

  • Estate agent fees

  • Legal expenses, including solicitors’ fees

These expenses can be subtracted from the taxable gain.

Understanding Improvement Deductions

Apart from selling costs, another type of deduction to consider is home improvements. Certain home improvements that enhance the property’s value and go beyond simple repairs or maintenance are eligible for capital gains tax deductions.

Deductions for home improvements decrease the taxable gain by the amount spent on qualifying improvements, potentially reducing the amount of CGT owed when the property is sold. It’s important to distinguish between minor repairs and major renovations. While minor repairs may be eligible for deduction, it’s the major renovations that enhance the property’s value that can be deducted from the Capital Gain. To claim these deductions, homeowners need to retain and furnish pertinent documentation, including receipts and records of expenses related to the improvements.

The Essential Guide to Capital Gains Tax Rates

Capital Gains Tax Rates

Capital Gains Tax rates on property are not uniform. They vary depending on factors such as your income and the size of the gain. For individuals classified as basic-rate taxpayers, the capital gains tax rate is 18% on gains from property sales, whereas higher and additional-rate taxpayers are subject to a rate of 28% on such transactions.

Nevertheless, the CGT rates vary between property sales and other asset types. For basic-rate taxpayers, the CGT is 18% on property gains, while they face a 10% CGT on other assets such as shares.

For higher and additional-rate taxpayers, the CGT on property is 28%, compared to 20% on other assets.

For Basic Rate Taxpayers

If you fall under the category of a basic rate taxpayer, be aware that your CGT on property sale gains is 18% within your income tax band. However, the way you calculate your CGT is quite interesting. It depends on whether the gain, minus any applicable allowance, will push your income into the higher-rate tax band. If the gain does push your income into the higher bracket, only the portion above the band will be subject to a tax rate of 28%, while the portion below will remain taxed at 18%.

In essence, this stipulates that basic rate taxpayers must pay a CGT rate of 28% on the part of the gain that goes beyond the basic rate income tax band. Therefore, understanding your income tax band is crucial when planning for CGT as a basic rate taxpayer.

For Higher Rate Taxpayers

Conversely, higher rate taxpayers are subject to a fixed CGT rate on property sale gains. If you fall into this category, you are subject to a CGT rate of 28% on gains from property sales.

The capital gains tax for taxpayers in the higher rate bracket is determined by subtracting the purchase price from the sale price and remitting 28% of the resulting profit. This is a significant difference compared to basic rate taxpayers, who are subject to a lower rate of 18% on gains within their income tax band and 28% on any gains above it.

Navigating Capital Gains Tax Allowances

Beyond the rates, another key element to consider in CGT planning is the annual CGT allowance. This allowance stands at £6,000 per person in 2023/24, and is set to reduce in future years. You can use this allowance to offset gains from property sales. But be aware, if you don’t utilise this allowance within the tax year, it’s forfeited. You can’t carry it over to the next tax year.

Notably, the annual capital gains tax allowance is set to reduce over the next couple of years. It already reduced to £6,000 per person in 2023-2024 and will further decrease to £3,000 per person in the tax year 2024-2025. Despite these reductions, couples who collectively own assets still have the opportunity to make use of both their allowances, potentially enabling a tax-free gain of £12,000 without incurring any tax liability.

Strategies to Minimise Your Capital Gains Tax Bill

Given all this information, you might be asking yourself, “How can I lower my CGT bill?” There are several strategies you can use. One of these is utilising your tax-free allowance to offset gains from property sales, potentially resulting in the complete avoidance of CGT if the total gains fall within this allowance. Sharing ownership with a spouse also provides the opportunity to double the CGT allowance.

Another strategy to avoid capital gains tax is transferring a property to your spouse, which can decrease your Capital Gains Tax liability, particularly if your spouse is in a lower tax rate. This strategy can lead to significant savings on your tax bill.

Furthermore, delaying the sale of your property to the subsequent tax year can reduce your Capital Gains Tax liability, particularly if you have realised other capital gains in the current tax year. This approach can enable you to take advantage of two tax-free allowances, and possibly two basic rate bands, one for each tax year, if the sales occur across two tax years.

Utilising Tax-Free Allowance

One of the most straightforward ways to lower your CGT bill is by making use of your tax-free allowance. This allowance stands at £6,000 per person and can be used to offset gains from property sales, thereby reducing your CGT bill.

However, there’s an important caveat to keep in mind. Even though you and your spouse or civil partner are considered as distinct individuals for Capital Gains Tax purposes, it’s not permissible to combine your tax-free allowances. Therefore, each individual is only liable for tax solely on their own gains.

Claiming Private Residence Relief

Claiming Private Residence Relief is another practical strategy to lower your CGT bill. This relief refers to a deduction that individuals can claim for the period they resided in a residential property before converting it into a rental property, as well as the final nine months of ownership of the home.

To claim Private Residence Relief on Capital Gains Tax in the UK, one must possess the freehold or leasehold of the property, which should have been utilised as a dwelling or primary residence. It is important to note that private residence relief and letting relief cannot be claimed for the same period. These reliefs are exclusive and cannot be used together. When a property is being let out at the time of sale, the past nine months of ownership will qualify for private residence relief instead of letting relief. This distinction impacts the taxation of the property sale.

Reporting and Paying Your Capital Gains Tax

After calculating your CGT, the subsequent step involves reporting and paying it. Any capital gains tax owed on the sale of UK residential property must be reported within 60 days of the property being sold. This report should include a detailed breakdown of the calculation of the capital gains liability.

The payment must also be settled within 60 days from the completion of the sale. It’s vital to keep these deadlines in mind as failure to remit the capital gains tax within this specified period may lead to the imposition of penalties, and in cases of prolonged delay, it may result in prosecution.

Special Considerations for Buy-to-Let Properties

For buy-to-let property owners, there are specific points to consider. If your property has appreciated in value beyond your capital gains allowance, you may be subject to CGT upon the sale of the property.

Moreover, there are expenses related to a buy-to-let property that are not deductible from the capital gain, instead being deductible from rental profits for Income Tax, which include costs such as:

  • repairs and maintenance

  • accountancy fees

  • insurance

  • rent

  • rates

  • council tax

Additionally, previously, buy-to-let property owners could avail of letting relief, which enabled them to lower their CGT when selling a rented property that was previously their main residence. However, as of April 2020, in order to be eligible for this relief, the property owner must have lived in the property at the same time as the tenant(s).

Handling Capital Gains on Inherited and Gifted Houses

Inherited and gifted properties have unique CGT implications. If the inherited property is sold, part-exchanged, or given away, capital gains tax is due based on the property’s increased value from the date of inheritance to the completion date. However, no capital gains tax is payable at the time of inheritance itself.

In the case of gifted properties, there’s no CGT to be paid when gifting a property to your spouse, civil partner, or a charity. However, if a gifted property that is not your primary residence is gifted, CGT may be applicable. Certain exemptions apply to property transferred to a spouse, civil partner, or charity, as well as upon inheriting a property. It’s also worth noting that there might be exemptions for CGT on properties occupied by a dependent relative, underscoring the importance of seeking advice from a professional in these circumstances.

Tax Implications for Selling a Second Home

There can be specific tax implications when selling a second home. HMRC determines a primary residence for CGT purposes as a property where an individual has resided as their sole or primary residence at any point during their ownership of the property.

The tax rate for the sale of a second home is 28% for taxpayers in the higher rate bracket and 18% for taxpayers in the basic rate bracket. The gain is determined by deducting the original purchase price from the selling price of the second home.

The CGT on most sales of UK property must be reported and paid within 60 days of the sale.

Overseas Property Sales and UK Capital Gains Tax

Even as a UK resident, selling property overseas does not exempt you from CGT. UK residents are obligated to pay Capital Gains Tax on the sale of any properties they possess outside of the UK.

The HMRC will determine the Capital Gains Tax based on the amount paid in the overseas currency at the time of purchase. This amount is then converted into sterling at the time of the property’s sale. Residents of the UK also have the opportunity to seek relief if they are required to fulfil tax obligations in both the country where the property is situated and in the UK.

There are specific regulations that impact the capital gains tax liabilities of UK residents with permanent homes abroad when they sell their property.

Additional Taxes Linked to Property Transactions

While CGT is a significant tax associated with property transactions, it isn’t the sole one. There are several other taxes to keep in mind, such as:

Stamp duty land tax is calculated based on the current rate, which varies depending on whether the property is the only residential property owned. Council Tax is determined by the valuation band of properties designated for non-business use based on their valuation at a specific historical date.

The income tax rates on rental income vary depending on the individual’s income and are applied to the profit derived after deducting allowable expenses. Inheritance tax is imposed on properties as a component of an individual’s estate following their death.


In conclusion, understanding the intricacies of Capital Gains Tax doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the right knowledge and careful planning, you can navigate your way through property transactions, minimise your CGT liability, and ensure you’re compliant with tax regulations. Remember, knowledge is power, and in this case, it’s a power that could save you a significant amount of money.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much capital gains tax do I pay on a house?

You’ll pay 18% or 28% of the gain made on a property as Capital Gains Tax, depending on your income tax rate band. If your gains fall within the basic income tax band, the rate is 18%; for amounts above this band, it’s 28%.

How do you avoid capital gains tax on property?

To avoid capital gains tax on property, seek professional advice from a suitable firm of Accountants.

What is the capital gains tax rate for higher-rate taxpayers?

The higher-rate taxpayer capital gains tax rates are 20% for most assets and 28% for residential property, with the main residence remaining exempt from capital gains tax.

What is Capital Gains Tax (CGT)?

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is a tax on the gains made from selling assets that have increased in value, where the gain is taxable.

About Graham

Accountant specialising in tax, property, and estate planning. A regular speaker at landlord, property Investor, and later life planning events.

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