How To Avoid Capital Gains Tax On Investment Property

How To Avoid Capital Gains Tax On Investment Property

Capital Gains Tax will invariably form a part of every property investors journey.

Fortunately there are a number of strategies to help you avoid Capital Gains Tax on investment property.

What is Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax is tax paid on the profit you make from the sale of a property.

A capital gain is the difference between what you paid for a property and what you sold it for.

In Australia investors pay Capital Gains Tax on:

  • Real estate.
  • Shares.
  • Managed funds.

How much Capital Gains Tax will I have to pay?

If you decide to sell an investment property, your Capital Gains Tax calculation will be based on the sale price of the property, minus your expenses.

These expenses form your cost base and are calculated by adding the total sum of the original purchase price, plus any incidentals, ownership and title costs minus any government grants and depreciable items.

These expenses can included:

  • Incidental costs – stamp duty, legal fees, agent fees and advertising and marketing fees.
  • Ownership costs – rates, land tax, maintenance and interest on your home loan.
  • Improvement costs – replacing kitchens, bathrooms, flooring or any other improvements you’ve made on the property.
  • Title costs – legal fees associated with organising and defending your title on the property.

Can I make a capital loss?

A capital loss is when you sell a property for less than your ‘reduced’ cost base.

The good news is you can carry a capital loss forward into future years and offset this lost against future capital gains you make.

Can I avoid paying Capital Gains Tax on my principle / main place of residence?

You can avoid paying Capital Gains Tax if you’re selling a property which is considered your principle  main place of residence.

You can only ever nominate one principle / main place of residence at any given time unless your selling an old residence to buy a new new.

In this case you’re entitled to a 6 month over lap period, as long as you lived in the old property for three continuous months in the 12 months before you sold it, and you were not receiving rent in the same 12 month period.

While the Australian Tax Office does not give an exact description of what constitutes a principle / main place of residence, it does give the following points to consider:

  • You and your family live in the dwelling.
  • Your mail is delivered there.
  • You have your personal belongings there.
  • You’re registered to vote at the property’s address.
  • You have connected a phone, gas and electricity to the property.

Investment tip

Many successful renovators and investors buy and sell a principle place of residence every 12 – 18 months.

They do this to create short term profits which are exempt from capital gains tax.

This strategy can be used to:

  • Produce chunks of tax free income.
  • Own your own home quicker.
  • Climb the property ladder.
  • Re-invest in additional investment properties.

Can I legally avoid paying Captial Gains Tax while renting out my house?

If you move out of your principle / main place of residence and choose to rent it out, you may be exempt from some Capital Gains Tax liability under the ‘Temporary Absence Rule’.

What is the ‘Temporary Absence Rule?

If you’ve moved out of your home and rent it out, under the law, the property is still treated as your principal residence for a period of up to six years.

Therefore if you sell your property within this 6 years you may be exempt from paying Capital Gains Tax if you profit from the sale.

You may also be exempt from paying capital gains on the income generated from the leasing of the property.

Sound too good to be true?

Unfortunately you will still need to pay Capital Gains Tax on the sale of one of your properties.

For example if you move out of your home and rent it out, and you also buy another property to live in, you will need to elect one of the two properties as your principle place of residence and the other as the property to pay Capital Gains Tax.

Can I avoid avoid paying Capital Gains Tax by buying a property through my self-managed super fund (SMSF)?

Buying property through your SMSF is one way you can generate profits through residential property while avoiding Capital Gains Tax .

If you sell a property once you retire you won’t pay capital gains on the property.

Even if you sell the property while you’re still working, you will only be taxed at a rate of 15%.

Further more if you’re holding onto the property for longer than a year the tax rate will effectively drop to 10%.

Buying a property with your SMSF comes with some risks, so you should never attempt it without first seeking professional advice.

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to avoid Capital Gains Tax on investment property.

This said you can use the ideas in this article to position yourself in the best position possible.

The information in this article was provided by Daniel Hill from Mulraneys. Daniel is a CPA and specialises in small business advice & taxation, business structures, SMSF, GST, capital gains tax & audit.

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Ben Everingham


Ben founded Pumped On Property after building a multi-million dollar property portfolio over a 5 year period. His mission is to show you how to replace your income through property investing so you can do what you love…full time.

52 thoughts on “How To Avoid Capital Gains Tax On Investment Property

  1. Hi Ben
    We relocated interstate and purchased a block of land to build on so we were renting whilst obtaining building quotes. we ended up selling that block of land due to huge acoustic requirement costs.
    We have since purchased another block of land and building is due to commence in the next couple of weeks.
    my issue is our accountant made us pay capital gains tax on the profit we made on our personal block of land. We do not own any other personal properties. And were and still are renting whilst we are waiting for our home to be built. I still feel we have been ripped off by the ATO.
    Does this situation sound correct??

    Kind Regards

    1. Hi Monika,

      Unfortunately your accountant is correct in the advise that was given

      Unless you build a property on the land and reside in it for three months, the sale of land will be subject to capital gains tax.

      You should have been able to claim costs you incurred while holding the land against the capital gain

      Hope this helps.

      This information was provided by Daniel Hill from Mulraneys. Daniel is a CPA and specialises in small business advice & taxation, business structures, SMSF, GST, capital gains tax & audit.

  2. Hi Ben we live overseas at the moment but are planning to move back to Victoria in a few years. If we purchase a house in melbourne now, rent it out for a few years and then move into it upon our return, will it be considered our principle place of residence if we decide to sell it 3 years after moving into it? Will we enjoy exceptions from capital gains tax or do you have to move into your purchased place immediately? Many thanks caroline

    1. Hi Caroline,

      No, the property will be subject to capital gains tax as it was rented first and not lived in for six months from buying the property.

      The only way to avoid capital gains tax would be to buy the property when you move back to Australia and live in it straight away which would then make the property your principal place.

      This information was provided by Daniel Hill from Mulraneys. Daniel is a CPA and specialises in small business advice & taxation, business structures, SMSF, GST, capital gains tax & audit.

  3. Hi Ben, I haven’t read anything in your great case studies about stamp duty. When you list your profit do you subtract stamp duty from that?

  4. Hi Ben
    I have a property in Cairns since 2004 which I lived in until 2009. I have since moved to Adelaide and purchased another property which I live in. I am at the 6 yr mark of renting it out this coming December, and realize I have another principal place of residency, but can I do anything (like move back to Cairns for a period of time) to reduce the CGT? Regina

    1. Hi Regina,

      Thank you for this great question.

      The Six Year Rule:

      You have 3 options:

      1. Use Cairns as main residence and move back in before end of six year period to allow it to still be main residence;
      2. Use Cairns as main residence until you purchased Adelaide property and treat Adelaide as main residence from that point on;
      3. Use Cairns as main residence until end of six year period and then treat Adelaide property as main residence from that point.
      The choice is made when you sell one of the properties and incurs CGT. At that point you make a decision as to which would give the best outcome for CGT purposes.

      The following can also come into play and is an interesting read:

      Any home used as a main residence initially and then used to produce income might need to apply this rule, however it may not apply if you continue to treat a dwelling as a main residence after the dwelling ceases to be your main residence.

      This information was provided by Daniel Hill from Mulraneys. Daniel is a CPA and specialises in small business advice & taxation, business structures, SMSF, GST, capital gains tax & audit.

  5. Hi Ben. I was reading on another website that CGT does not apply to a property purchased befroe 1985. If that is so and we moved overseaes in 1999 after spending 17-years in our Melbourne property, does that exempt us from CGT on trhat property? The only concern I have is that becoming a non-resident for Taxation purposes is considrered a CGT event, but I;m hoping that might only apply after 1985.

    1. The sale of the property should be CGT Free however it’s important to consider when dealing with pre CGT assets it may not be always as straight forward as you think.

      Pre Capital Gains Tax on Property

      Because the property was acquired before the 20th of September 1985. This will make the capital gain on the property acquired not subject to capital gains tax. (Section 104 -10 Income Tax Assessment Act 1997)

      However it is important to consider during the time that you owned the property post 20th of September 1985 did you make any significant improvements to the property e.g add a garage or another level to the building. If you did part of the proceeds from the sale of the property maybe subject to capital gains tax depending on how much you spent on the renovation. (Section 108 -70 (2),(3))

      Change of Residency

      There is a CGT Event when an individual ceases to be an Australian resident (CGT Event I1 Section 104-60 Income Tax Assessment Act)

      The Capital Gain from the CGT event is calculated as the difference between the amount you purchased the asset and the market value of the asset when you ceased being a resident.

      However CGT Event I1 does not apply in the following situations that are applicable to you:

      The asset is a property situated in Australia

      The asset is acquired pre CGT i.e 20 September 1985.

      In Summary

      – The property is a pre CGT asset therefore not subject to capital gains tax.
      – Consider if you made any substantial renovations. If yes you may be subject to capital gains tax on portion of the property. If the property was your principle place of residence for a period of time you may be eligible to apply the main residence exemption for a significant period of time.
      – Change of Residency does not affect the capital gains on the sale of property and pre CGT assets.

      This information was provided by Alex Myles from Mobbs and Company. Alex is a CPA and specialises in small business advice & taxation, business structures, management rights, GST, capital gains tax & audit.

  6. Hi Ben
    We bought a property and rented it out for 6 years and have been living in it for the past 4 year We are hoping to sell it later this year so it will then be 5 years.
    i know we cannot avoid GCT completely but looking at what we can claim to reduce it. We went to a accountant to crunch some figures but I have noticed you mention stamp duty ect which he never asked about. Some sites I have looked at mention rates,insurances and the cost of eventually selling the house. Any help or suggestions would be much appreciated

    1. Hi Lee,

      The easiest way for me to explain is by example. Here is what an apportioned capital gain might look like:

      Cost Base (what you paid for the property) $200000
      Legal fees on Purchase $1000
      Stamp Duty on Purchase $4000
      Written down value of any capital improvements $12000
      Adjusted Cost Base $217000

      Sale Price $450000
      Agents fees ($12870)
      Less Legal Fees on sale ($1000)

      Gross Capital Gain $219,130

      Apportioned for the Number of Days as Main Residence 1825 days / 4015days = 45.45% exempt

      Gross Capital Gain (after Apportionment) $119,535
      Less 50% discount $59,767
      Net Capital Gain $59,767

      This information was provided by Alex Myles from Mobbs and Company. Alex is a CPA and specialises in small business advice & taxation, business structures, management rights, GST, capital gains tax & audit.

      1. Ben
        I understand your calc however what is the effect of interest paid to purchase and hold the property
        Can you add the total interest paid from time of purchase less interest claimed to the cost base
        Is this a third element

  7. Hi Ben,
    We bought our home three years ago, and we have been living in it since then. We are planning to knockdown and re-built two townhouses. We want to keep and live in one and sell the other one. We understand there may be some CGT implications associated with this project. We would be very grateful if you would let us know as to how we should go about doing this project so that our tax exposures are minimized.
    Thank you very much for your help.

    1. Hi,

      This is a fairly complex area of residential capital gains & will vary on a case by case basis.

      From the information you have provided above I believe the ATO would argue that you have entered into an isolated property development transaction & they would seek to tax you as a property development business and not solely under the capital gains provisions.

      In MT 2006/1, the ato indicates that one of the factors indicating a profit-making purpose is the erection of buildings on land. Hence, if ‘mum & dad’ subdivide the main residence and sell the vacant block of land (subject to a number of factors, such as they are not undertaking this transaction on a regular basis they would usually argue that the sale of land is a mere realisation of an asset and any profit is on capital account. However if ‘mum & Dad’ arranged for the construction of a building on the subdivided block of land (even though they outsourced the construction to a building company) then the ATO is likely to argue that the transaction has a profit-making purpose. This is likely to be the case even if mum & dad have never undertaken a property development of this nature previously.

      This information was provided by Alex Myles from Mobbs and Company. Alex is a CPA and specialises in small business advice & taxation, business structures, management rights, GST, capital gains tax & audit.

  8. Hi Ben
    We have had a block of undeveloped land (it has water and electric to the block) for about twenty five years. If we put a transportable/very large garage dwelling on it and live in it as our main dwelling for 6 months do we avoid CGTor is there a way we can avoid paying CGT.


    1. Hi Angie,

      This Garage structure will satisfy the ATO “dwelling” requirement, so long as it is used mainly to live in. Living in this dwelling will unlock the main residence exemption.

      Unfortunately you will only be eligible for a partial exemption from the date that you moved into the property. That is the period prior to this move in date is still subject to CGT.

      This information was provided by Alex Myles from Mobbs and Company. Alex is a CPA and specialises in small business advice & taxation, business structures, management rights, GST, capital gains tax & audit.

  9. Hi Ben.

    I have an investment property that I have owned for 20 years and I an currently planning to sell it. I understand CGT will be payable however could you explain if I will be able to off set all expenses incurred over that period or just expenses incured in the last financial year when doing the Selling price v purchace price calculation. I have kept all documentation over that time. Kind regards and many thanks in advance.

  10. Purchased a property in 2007, rented it out mid 2013. Want 2 sell and downsize in a year or two. Would it be wise 2 move back as main residence for min of 12 months b4 selling to reduce capital gains tax?

  11. Hi Ben
    Is the following true
    If I live for six months in a property I am purchasing and after that six months rent it out will I be liable for capital gains tax when I sell it.


  12. If I purchase a property and move into it (as my main residence) then later rent it out, I know I am exempt from the CGT for a period of up to 6 years but my question is there a minimum period of time I need to stay in the property before moving out.


    I purchase and move into my main residence 30/4/2015 I move out 31/10/2015 and rent it out

    I then sell the property on the 31/10/2017

    Am I exempt from paying capital gains tax.

  13. We bought a block of land over ten yrs ago, we are considering building on it.
    If we build on it
    Will the capital gains be on the block of land when selling.
    Will the capital gains be on the whole property.

    Can you claim the following to reduce the capital gains for the ten yrs of paying the
    Rates water and shire fees.
    Can these be claimed to help reduce the over all capital gains on either, the gains on the block or the gains on the block and house.

    Not sure if you get the gains on the house as it was built later.
    Might seem a silly question but so many people ask the same things or think it but never ask.
    I like to ask and cover all my bases, to make sure it’s clearer.
    Thankyou kindly

    1. Also another question please.

      If we decided to rent it out for a while then finally live in it as our main residence, what is the capital gains on it
      What would you be able to. Use to reduce the capital on it.

  14. Hi, we sold our home in October 2013, and purchased an off the plan block of land. In the mean time we have been renting. We have now been told the land will not be registered for another 2 yrs, so we have decided to buy another block of land. My question is can we claim the rent and a deduction against the capit gains for the first block when it does become registered and we sell it? Hope this makes sense. Thanks

  15. Hi, My wife and I purchased our first home in 1995 for $123000. We refinanced on a failed business in 1999 increasing our loan to $240000. We moved interstate and have rented the house out for 7 years. For 6 of those years we also rented and recently purchased a new house. We are now looking to sell our rental for $400000. Will my capital gains be calculated on the original purchase price.

  16. Hi Ben,

    I bought my first property in Melbourne in 2012 and lived in it for 12 months. I have since been working interstate and I’m currently renting it out.

    I am planning on moving back into the property next year (therefore would have rented it out for approximately 3 years by that time).

    When I do end up selling this property, in about 5-10 years time, will I qualify for the 6 year rule considering it was my PPOR for 1 year, and I only rented it out for 3 years?

    Thanks for your help in advance, Katrina.

  17. Hello,

    I am planning to put a property straight onto rent as a investment. But was told if I choose to live in it for 12 months after it’s been rented.. so I move in after 3 years, that I would avoid CGT if I choose to sell it 12 months later.

    Is this true?


  18. Hi,we have bought a property and rented it for 1 year before moving in and renovating it at a cost of approx. $150,000 if we decided to sell it in 5 years would the renovations be added to the cost base and the capital gain apportioned over the period it was a private dwelling and the period it was rented?

  19. Hi Ben
    I understand the 6 year exemption on PPOR but does it work the other way around?

    eg. if i buy a property today with say a cost base of 450k and rent it out for a year or two and then move into it myself and get a valuation (lets say it comes in at 500k), for CGT purposes am I only taxed on the gain of $50,000 (on paper) for the two years I held it as an investment property and after that date it’s CGT exempt for any additional gains?

    Thanks, Nicole

  20. Hi Ben, we bought a property (as an investment) rented it out for approx 3 years, moved in for approximately 4 years and moved out again, so far it’s been another 2.5 years. How will this affect the capital gains on the sale of this property?

  21. Hi, I have two properties and i use one as rental. My primary one was build by me and i have been living their from November 2014 nearly 7 months. I want to sell my primary property and few ppl have said if u sell it before 2 years you have to pay CGT. We never rented our primary property and i will be selling property first time. Can you guide me on that plz? I live in WA.

  22. Hi
    I have just sold a rental property. The contract is signed this financial year in late May so I told my capital gain liability. Is in the current financial year. Can I offset some of this gain by making a contribution to my super fund (Not a SMSF)?
    Could I make the contribution when I actually receive the proceeds next financial year but count it against my assessable income for the current financial year?

  23. I have bought my first home, I lived in for 1 week, then have been renting it for the past 6 months.
    I did this to be able not to be charged capital gains tax when I sell it less than 1 year later after some minor works.

    It’s my understanding, that if you live in the property, then rent it out for less than 6 years, you do notpay tax because it is still considered your primary place of residence.

    Is this correct, and is 1 week enough to suffice?

  24. planing to sale my warehouse after i used it for my wholesale business since 1997
    its listed under my LTD company which i am 100% shareholder is there any way to avoid capital gain since i still have a loan exceed 150.000

  25. Hi Ben,

    Please could you advise me regarding ? Possible CGT.
    I purchased my property on 22/10/2003 for $335,000. I rented it out from 14th February 2009 and my last tenant moved out on 18th January 2015. I have been unsuccessful getting another tenant in since and so have been trying to sell my property. I have ended up moving back into the property in June 2015 to save paying rent to my landlord. I would have moved in sooner but I was locked into a lease contract. essentially I have been paying electricity bill since January 2015 in my property. So could I claim I have been living here since end of January and ? Fall into the 6 year exemption rule or do I have to pay CGT. I have had an offer for $610,000. If so how much would I be expected to pay. Thank you so much. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. kind regards Clare

  26. Hi Ben,

    My brother purchased a property in his name in 2002 for $515,000 as a investment property. One year later my brother partnered with me on the property, but my name is “NOT” on the title deed, it was just a letter written up and signed by a JP to say i am involved. I have been living in it for 4 years. We just sold it for $1,470,000.

    1) What is the situation regarding CGT for me and my brother?
    2) Do we have to purchase another property within 180 days i.e. 1013 exchange and live in and sell after 12 months to avoid CGT? or is there another way?
    3) Having this investment in his name did he benefit tax wise?


  27. Hi Ben

    I bought an apartment in ACT off the plan in July 2012, there have been multiple delays and the property is due Dec 2015 – March 2016. Would you please confirm that I would need to live in the apartment for a minimum of 6 months from the date of settlement before I could rent the apartment for up to 6 years to avoid paying CGT?

    Or is 12 months the minimum you need to reside in the property in order to be able to rent out for the maximum of 6 years and avoid CGT?

    Thanks in advance


  28. Hi there,
    If I bought a house and rented it for 18 months whilst living with my parents, but now got it vacant (I’ve had the property vacant for 1 month now)… What do I do To get a full exemption of cgt for when selling?

  29. Hi there, I’m hoping to get some advice about capital gains tax. I bought my house about 9 years ago, lived in it for 3 yrs and then rented it for the last 6 years. We’re now in the process of knocking down and rebuilding, will we have to pay capital gains tax if/when we sell in the distant future???

    Thanks for any help u can provide 🙂

  30. Hi Ben,
    I bought an unit $249,000 on December 2009 in Bankstown 2200. In march 2014 we bought a house and rent out to the owner. In march 2015 we moved to house and rent out the unit from them then. When I bought the house we re finance the unit valued $350,000. Now I am planning to sell my unit I believe I can sell it 420,000. Do I have to pay capital gain tax as it was my principal property for 6 years ? Or I have to pay fraction ? How much ? please let me know. thanx

  31. Hi Ben,

    We have three investment property and my wife is the sole primary earner. I only have part time job. Is it better option for us to form a discretionary trust to get the tax benefit. We are losing on negative gearing on investment property because my income is below the tax threshold. What are our options??
    Appreciate your response

  32. Hi Ben, I purchased a block of land in 1983, built a house on the land in 1987 and immediately rented it out as I was in the RAAF at the time and unable to live in the property due to my military commitments. Since that period I have lived in the property for only a 12 month? period before I moved into my partners house so this property then went back on the rental market. My partner has been transferred from Brisbane to Maryborough Qld where we purchased a house to live in, and the property which I owned has been on the rental market since then. I know that the property which we live in will not be subject to CGT as we have lived in it almost since moving to Maryborough in 2009 but we are considering selling the property at Morayfield. As I owned the property since 1983 will I have to pay CGT if we decide to sell the property? If we sell in M’boro and move to Morayfield for a period of at lease 12 months before selling do I still have to pay CGT? Would appreciate any information relevant to our circumstances.

  33. We purchased an Aussie investment property on 30 June 1999 and sold it on 23 November 2015 with an estimated capital gain of $195,544 Thus, I assume CGT would be at 50% rate for some 13 years and 100% for the period after 8 May 2012, giving a total CGT of about $38k. Am I about right with this CGT calculation and would you suggest a pro rata calculation or a $200 market evaluation? Also, what deductions might apply to the $195,544? And when is this CGT sum payable please? Would very much appreciate your comments/advise please.

  34. Hi Ben
    I bought an off the plan apartment with sunset clause Dec 2017 for $684,000. This was intended for me to move into ie become my main residence. The off the plan building is complete and ready to settle May 2016. I will now be stuck with 2 residences.
    What is the best way to manage this to reduce or negate any liability for CGT?
    I understand that the property that I live in as main residence will be CGT free.
    If I were to sell the off the plan would I be liable for CGT? Could I use the six month rule of 2 main residences?
    Thanks in advance

  35. Hi,
    I have a question regarding property ownership and rental income tax.
    If i get a loan for an investment property and buy it in my wife’s name(who is not working hence has no income), will the rental income be included as her income for tax purposes or will it be included in my income

  36. Hi Ben,
    How does CGT apply for an investment property bought under a trust/company? the investment property was bought over an year ago and I am trying to figure out the tax liability if the property to have a gain of 100k.

  37. Hi Ben,

    If I sell my investment house do I have to pay any stamp duty fees? I believe it will be paid by the buyer but not sure it is correct. Thanks

  38. Hi Ben,

    My parents have been living on there only property since 1986 when they bought it for $125,000. The property is now valued at $135,0000 – $1.1 million dollars more. We have subdivision approval, but have not subdivided yet for fear of capital gains tax. My parents, who are now pensioners, want to subdivide the property and gift us the new vacant straight away. Would this incur capital gains tax?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated

  39. HI,
    If my father purchased properties before 1985, and in 2008 he transferred the titles to my name (i did not pay him for them, we just put them in my name), is that considered ownership since before 1985 because it is still in the family & i will be exempt from paying CGT? or will i be required to pay CGT when i decide to sell?
    Thank you

  40. i have a property with a house on about to subdivide it and want to sell the back block of it once has been subdivided the house has always been rented out I have never lived in it want to pay as less tax and capital jains as possible how do I go about doing that

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