The concept that you can sell your home without paying tax on any profit that you make is well-known. However, the position becomes slightly more complicated if you have more than one property, if you also use your home for business purposes, or if you have let it out at some point during the period that you have owned it.
Full relief is available if you have owned your home and lived in it as your main residence throughout the period you have owned it. The relief extends to the grounds and any buildings in the grounds as long as these are not more than 5,000 square metres. If the grounds exceed this, they may still be eligible for the relief if they are reasonable for the enjoyment of the property.
Spouses and civil partners – only one main residence
Married couples and civil partners are only entitled to one main residence between them for the purposes of the relief.
More than one property
If you have more than one property in which you live as a home, for example a city flat that you live in during the week and a family home in the country, you can choose which property is your main residence for the purpose of the relief. It is not only MPs who can take advantage of flipping to secure the best capital gains tax position. You must nominate which property is your main property within two years of the date on which your combination of homes changes by writing to HMRC.
If you use part of your home exclusively for business, that part is not eligible for main residence relief and any gain on sale must be apportioned between the business and non-business parts of the property. This restriction can be overcome by not using any rooms exclusively for business, for example using a room for business during the day and homework in the evening. If this cannot be avoided, any gain arising on the business part may well be sheltered by the annual capital gains tax exempt amount (£11,100 for 2015/16).
Letting it out
In most cases, if you let your home out during the period of ownership, only partial relief will be available as the let period will not qualify for main residence relief. Where the property has been lived in as your main residence at some point, a separate relief, lettings relief, may be available to reduce any chargeable gain. The chargeable period will also be reduced by the final period exemption.
Last 18 months
Where a property has at some point been the taxpayer’s only or main residence, the gain relating to the last 18 months of ownership is always exempt,