This is the second part of a thread I began in 2016: Tax Tip 119: How to Reduce CGT on Investment Property (Part I) Tax Tip 119: How to Reduce CGT on Investment Property (Part I) 1. Claim the Main Residence Exemption Where you have previously lived in the property it may be possible to still claim the property as your main residence, even though you may have been absent and renting it out and keep it CGT free. This will be done by using the 6 year rule (s118-145). See my tax tip: Tax Tip 23: The 6 year Absent from Main Residence Rule Even where you have another main residence it can help with planning if you can live in your investment property (as your main residence) after it is first purchased. This way you will have a choice of which property to claim as your main residence on the sale of the 1st of them. It may then be possible to use the exemption on the property with the greatest gain. 2. Claim a partial Main Residence Exemption Where you had not lived in the property before renting it out you may be able to claim a partial CGT exemption based on the number of days it was your main residence, i.e. a percentage of time that it was your main residence would reduce the CGT payable. This can also allow certain costs incurred while living in the property to be taken into account and reduce any CGT on the sale. 3. Claim the main Residence exemption on another property Sometimes people will have a choice on which property to choose as their main residence. They may have had periods where they have lived in a second property, or their spouse has, and this property could also be classed as the main residence. Where the capital growth on the one being sold is less than the one being kept it might pay to not claim the main residence exemption. 3rd element cost base expenses while living there may also bring down any capital gain to be very low. 4. Ownership Choice Ownership needs to be decided upfront when the property is purchased but planning ahead can help reducing future tax on the eventual sale of the property. Utilising a discretionary trust can give flexibility in the distribution of income, including Capital Gains, amounts a large number of potential beneficiaries. This flexibility can help divert the capital gains to other family members who may have capital losses to offset the gains. Superfunds are concessional taxed entities so a property that is owned by a superfund may result in the fund incurring just 15% CGT or 10% CGT for property held longer than 12 months. When a pension is being drawn from the fund the tax rate can be reduced to nil. Which spouse owns the property can also help with CGT. Sale of the property in the year that the owner is not working can help with the savings. I also favour owning in just 1 name over joint ownership as this will result in greater flexibility in saving CGT. See my reasoning on why a property should not be purchased in 2 names here Strategy: Buying Investment Properties in 1 name only However, buying in joint names 50/50 can actually result in savings as when the property is sold any capital gains would be split according to ownership percentage and this would result in overall tax savings. 5. Pre CGT property Property purchased before 20 Sept 1985 will always be free from CGT until the owner dies. Even if rented out the property will be exempt (in most cases). Where a person owns pre and post CGT property It may work out better (from a tax point of view) to live in the post CGT property and have this CGT exempt and to rent the pre CGT property and have this also exempt. 6. Revalue before moving out Where you move out of a property that was formerly the main residence, and assuming you will not use the 6 year rule, then the cost base for CGT will be the value as at the date the property was first income producing. The ATO may accept a valuation to determine the market value. But keep in mind that valuations can vary between valuers depending what comparable sales are used. A valuation which is $20,000 lower could result in a potential tax saving of $5000 See Tax Tip 173: Strategy – Don’t rely of a lender’s valuation for CGT Purposes Tax Tip 173: Strategy – Don’t rely of a lender’s valuation for CGT Purposes 7. Operating a Business at home When operating a business at home this and mean CGT is payable on the home. The rule for this is if the interest is claimable then the full main residence CGT won’t be available. So if you are going to run a business from home make sure the owner of the home is not the one running the business. If this is the case then no interest would be claimable. See Tax Tip 91: A Non-owner running a business at home Tax Tip 91: A Non-owner running a business at home 8. Construction on vacant land Where you are building your main residence there are rules about how soon you must live in the property and for how long otherwise it won’t be possible to claim the property as the main residence from the date the land was purchased. See Tax Tip 99: Vacant Land and the CGT Exemption Tax Tip 99: Vacant Land and the CGT Exemption 9. Later in life move into your property with the biggest gain Sell the main residence and move into the investment property with the biggest capital gains. The sale of the main residence could be tax free while so could the one you move into if it is your main residence at the date of your death. 10. Special Disability Trusts If you have a related family member who has a disability it may be worthwhile considering a transferring the property to a SDT as this can be done without triggering CGT. Naturally there are lots of issues and conditions to consider. 11. Claim the main residence exemption on 2 properties It can be possible to claim the main residence on 2 neighbouring properties where both are being used as one main residence. This is the case even though they may be on separate titles. 12. Don’t have flat mates or Airbnb your property If you have flatmates you might be able to claim a portion of the expenses on your tax. However, these savings will be minimal compared to the eventual capital gains tax that you might end up paying. Airbnbing your property for a weekend could also result in a huge CGT bill when you sell as well, so take care. This because the cost base is reset to market value when the property is rented out. 13. Don’t move out when there is a slump You don’t want to have to value you house for CGT when the market has crashed as this could lead to a capital gains tax bill when you sell at a loss.