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Capital Gains Tax: Types, Tax Rate, Calculation & Tax Savings

Written By: Manish Sharma

Last Updated: January 12, 2024

Capital Gains Tax

Understanding capital gains tax is very important when you want to make money from selling assets. Whether it’s stocks, real estate, or a valuable art collection, knowing how this tax works can help you save a lot of money.

You will find that capital gains tax is not as difficult as it may seem once you understand the basics. It all depends on when you sell the asset and the type of asset you are dealing with. Let’s dive into what you need to know to handle capital gains tax like an expert.

What is Capital Gains Tax?

When you sell assets for more money than you paid for it, you may have to pay a tax called capital gains tax. It’s based on the difference between what you originally paid for the item and how much you sold it for. You only pay tax on the profit you made, not the entire selling price.

Types of Assets Subject to CGT

Almost any kind of property you own is subject to capital gains tax if you sell it for more than the purchase price. This includes:

  • Stocks and bonds
  • Real estate properties, excluding your primary residence under certain conditions
  • Precious metals like gold and silver
  • A wide variety of collectibles

How It’s Calculated

To calculate your capital gains, you’ll need to establish the base cost of the asset. This includes the purchase price, along with any expenses incurred while buying or improving the asset and costs related to its sale.

Here’s a simplified example:

DescriptionAmount (INR)
Purchase Price10,00,000
Renovation Cost2,00,000
Selling Price15,00,000
Capital Gain3,00,000

You may be able to make deductions to lower your taxable gain. The exemptions you qualify for depend on the type of asset and how long you held it. The rates you pay for capital gains vary depending on if they are short-term or long-term.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Capital Gains

  • Short-term capital gains are made on assets held for 36 months or less and are taxed according to your income tax slab.
  • Long-term capital gains are on assets held for more than 36 months and have a fixed tax rate, with the most common rate being 20% with indexation benefits.

Real-Life Example

Suppose you purchased company shares two years ago for INR 500,000 and sold them today for INR 800,000. Since the sale occurred within 36 months, the profit of INR 300,000 is classified as a short-term capital gain and will be added to your taxable income for the year.

How Capital Gains Tax Works

Definition of Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is levied on the profit you earn when you sell an asset that has appreciated in value since the time you bought it. Remember, it’s the gain that’s taxed, not the total amount you receive.

Calculation of Capital Gains Tax

To calculate CGT, determine your capital gain. This is the difference between the asset’s sale price and its base cost. The base cost includes the purchase price, acquisition costs, and money spent on improving the asset. Let’s break it down:

  1. Start with the sale price of your asset.
  2. Deduct the base cost to find the initial gain.
  3. Substract any exemptions or deductions you’re entitled to.

To better understand, consider the example of selling stocks:

  • You bought stocks for ₹50,000.
  • You sold the stocks for ₹100,000, making your sale price ₹100,000.
  • The base cost remains at ₹50,000.
  • Assume you’re entitled to a deduction of ₹10,000.

The capital gain would be calculated as follows:

DescriptionAmount (₹)
Sale Price100,000
Base Cost50,000
Deductions10,000
Capital Gain40,000

It is important to know the details of each deduction and exemption, as they differ based on the type of asset and how long it is held. For example, when it comes to real estate, the expense of repairs can be subtracted from the initial cost. If you have held stocks for over a year, you may qualify for a lower tax rate on long-term capital gains. Keeping track of your expenses and maintaining thorough records makes this process simpler and helps prevent overpayment of CGT.

Different Types of Capital Gains

When dealing with capital gains tax, it is important to understand the difference between short-term and long-term gains. These differences impact the amount of tax you will pay and your strategies for buying and selling assets.

Short-Term Capital Gains

Short-term capital gains occur when an asset is sold within one year of being held. In India, these gains are taxed at the same rate as ordinary income. They are added to your annual income and taxed according to your income tax bracket. This may push you into a higher tax bracket, resulting in a potentially higher tax rate on your gains.

For example, if you buy shares in a company and sell them within 12 months, making a profit of ₹50,000, this profit is considered a short-term capital gain. If your annual income, including this gain, falls within the ₹2,50,001 – ₹5,00,000 tax bracket, you will owe a 5% tax on your short-term gain. It’s important to note that no adjustment for inflation is available for assets sold within a short-term holding period. This can sometimes lead to a higher tax liability due to inflation not being taken into account.

Long-Term Capital Gains

Long-term capital gains (LTCG) are profits from selling an asset held for more than one year. In India, these gains are taxed at favorable rates and can be adjusted for inflation using indexation benefits.

For example, if you bought property in January 2015 for ₹40,00,000 and sold it in February 2021 for ₹60,00,000, your long-term capital gain would be ₹20,00,000. After adjusting for inflation, the taxable amount would be reduced. The tax rate for long-term gains on property is 20% with indexation benefits.

Equities are also subject to LTCG tax in India, with a 10% tax on gains exceeding ₹1,00,000 from the sale of equity shares or equity-oriented mutual funds. This tax does not provide for indexation benefits and was implemented on April 1, 2018.

The following table gives you a quick overview of current LTCG tax rates for various assets:

Asset TypeHolding PeriodTax Rate
Property, Gold, Debt FundsMore than 1 year20% (with indexation)
Equity Shares, Equity Mutual FundsMore than 1 year10% (over ₹1,00,000 without indexation)

Knowing the different types of assets and strategically planning when to sell them can have a big impact on the amount of capital gains tax you owe. Holding onto assets for a longer period of time usually lowers your tax obligation, and taking advantage of indexation can also decrease the amount subject to taxes. Therefore, it’s important to think about how long you’ve held an investment and the tax consequences before deciding to sell.

Capital Gains Tax Rates

Tax on Long-Term Capital Gains and Short-Term Capital Gains

When it comes to capital gains, it’s important to understand the difference in tax rates between long-term and short-term gains. If you hold an asset for more than 36 months, it is usually considered a long-term asset. If you hold it for a shorter time, any profit you make when selling it is treated as a short-term gain.

Short-term capital gains (STCG) are taxed at the same rates as your regular income tax. So, if you’re in a higher income bracket, you’ll end up paying more taxes on your short-term gains.

Long-term capital gains (LTCG) exceeding INR 1 lakh from the sale of equity shares or equity-oriented mutual funds are taxed at a rate of 10%, without considering inflation. However, for other assets like real estate or debt mutual funds, the tax rate for long-term gains is 20% after adjusting for inflation.

Let’s take an example: Imagine you sell an apartment that you’ve owned for 4 years and make a profit. In this case, you would be liable to pay long-term capital gains tax at a rate of 20%, after considering the effect of inflation on the purchase price.

Tax on Equity & Debt Mutual Funds

The tax rules for mutual funds in India depend on the type of fund and how long you hold it. If you have equity mutual funds and hold them for more than 12 months, you will be charged a 10% tax on any long-term capital gains exceeding INR 1 lakh. However, you won’t have to pay any tax on gains up to INR 1 lakh. On the other hand, if you sell these funds before 12 months, your short-term capital gains will be taxed at a flat rate of 15%, regardless of your income level.

Debt mutual funds have different rules. To qualify for long-term capital gains on these funds, you need to hold them for more than 36 months. Any long-term gains are taxed at a rate of 20% with indexation benefits. However, if you redeem your debt fund investments within 3 years, the gains are added to your income and taxed according to your income tax slab.

Let’s say you invested in a debt fund and redeemed your investment after 2 years at a profit. That profit will be added to your taxable income for that financial year and will increase the amount of income tax you owe. But if you hold onto the investment for over 3 years, you’ll pay a significantly reduced long-term capital gains tax thanks to the indexation benefit.

Understanding the details of capital gains tax is important, and staying informed about these rules will help you optimize your tax liability. By keeping track of your holding periods and choosing the right assets, you can make a significant difference in the amount of tax you have to pay.

Ways to Reduce Capital Gains Tax

Holding Period Strategy

To optimize your capital gains tax, it’s important to understand the significance of how long you hold your investments. For assets like stocks or mutual funds focused on stocks, if you hold them for more than 12 months, any gains you make will be considered long-term and will be subject to lower tax rates. Investments in stocks held for over a year are taxed at 10% for gains exceeding INR 1 lakh without considering inflation.

On the other hand, real estate and debt mutual funds need to be held for more than 36 months to be considered long-term. Long-term capital gains from debt funds are taxed at 20% with the benefit of adjusting the purchase price based on inflation, known as indexation. This often results in a lower taxable gain.

Let’s take the example of Mr. Sharma, who invested INR 2 lakh in a mutual fund focused on stocks. After 13 months, his investment grew to INR 3 lakh. Since he held the investment for over a year, he only had to pay tax on the amount that exceeded INR 1 lakh, which significantly reduced his tax burden.

Tax-Loss Harvesting

Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy to help you lower your taxes by selling investments that have lost value. When you sell these investments at a loss, you can use those losses to offset any gains you may have made from other investments. This means you can reduce the amount of money you have to pay in taxes. To make the most of this strategy, it’s a good idea to review your investment portfolio near the end of the financial year and identify any investments that have performed poorly.

Let’s say you sold some stocks and made a profit of INR 50,000. However, you also have other investments that haven’t done so well and have lost INR 20,000 on paper. By selling these underperforming investments, you can reduce your taxable gain to INR 30,000.

It’s important to keep in mind the ‘wash-sale’ rule. This rule prevents you from claiming a loss on a security if you buy the same or a similar asset within 30 days before or after selling it. So be cautious about repurchasing the same or similar investments within that timeframe.

Charitable Donations

Donating assets like stocks or property to qualified charitable organizations can be a great idea. When you donate, you don’t have to pay capital gains tax on the increase in value of the asset. Additionally, you can claim the current market value of the asset as a deduction on your income tax return.

Let’s say you bought shares for INR 50,000 and they are now worth INR 75,000. If you donate these shares directly to a charity, you won’t have to pay capital gains tax on the INR 25,000 gain. You can also deduct the current market value from your taxable income. Just make sure that the charity is registered and able to accept such donations.

By using these strategies wisely, you can effectively manage your capital gains tax bill. It’s important to stay informed about the market and any changes in tax laws so that you can make well-informed decisions about your investments. Remember, I’m here to help you with any questions you may have!

Reporting Capital Gains and Paying Taxes

When it comes to capital gains tax, it’s essential to be well-versed not only in how much you need to pay but also in how you go about reporting it. The process can be exacting, but with the right information, you’ll navigate through it like a pro.

Filing Requirements

To make sure you follow the tax laws in India, you need to report all the money you made from selling investments in your income tax return. This includes both short-term and long-term gains. If you sold any investments that resulted in a profit during the financial year, this rule applies to you.

For example, if you sold shares of a company that you held for more than a year, you have long-term capital gains. Remember, even if your gains are below the exempt limit and you don’t have to pay any tax, it’s still important to mention them in your tax return.

Forms for Reporting Capital Gains

You report your capital gains on specific forms that are part of the ITR. The forms you use depend on the nature of your income and the type of asset that generated the capital gains. For individuals and HUFs not carrying out business or professional activities, Form ITR-2 is the go-to. Here’s where you’d list out your capital gains in detail:

  • Section CG for long-term capital gains
  • Section B Short-Term Capital Gains for gains from assets held for a short period

If you’re involved in a business or profession, Form ITR-3 is the appropriate form. It includes a schedule CG where both short-term and long-term gains are reported:

  • Part A for short-term gains
  • Part B for long-term gains

If you have sold property, the person who bought it needs to meet certain tax requirements and give you a document called Form 16B. This form shows the amount of tax that was deducted from the payment they made to you.

Let me give you an example. Imagine you are Manish, an IT professional who sold shares in a start-up that you had invested in three years ago. You made a good profit from the sale, which is considered a long-term capital gain. In this case, you would need to use Form ITR-2 while filing your taxes and provide all the necessary information about this transaction in the appropriate sections.

Similarly, if you are dealing with capital gains from mutual funds or real estate, it is important to keep a record of documents such as sale deeds or mutual fund statements. These documents will help you accurately report your capital gains and ensure that your financial records are in order.

Reporting capital gains and filing taxes correctly is crucial to maintain accurate financial records and avoid penalties. It is important to be diligent, understand the requirements, and seek assistance from a tax professional if you are unsure about how to proceed. By following the right approach, managing your taxes becomes a simple part of your financial routine.

Conclusion

To navigate capital gains tax efficiently, it’s important to understand the difference between short-term and long-term gains and use strategies to manage your tax bill. Holding onto assets for a longer period can help you save money. Consider using tax-loss harvesting or making charitable donations to offset any tax liabilities you may have. It’s crucial to stay on top of your reporting responsibilities to avoid any issues. If you’re ever unsure, consulting with a tax professional can save you both time and money.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Capital Gains Tax (CGT)?

Capital Gains Tax, or CGT, is a tax on the profit gained from selling an asset that has increased in value. It’s applicable only on the capital gains realized upon the sale of the asset, not the amount you originally paid for it.

How do short-term and long-term capital gains differ?

Short-term capital gains are profits from selling assets held for one year or less and are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. Long-term capital gains are from assets held for more than one year and are subject to lower tax rates.

What are some strategies to reduce capital gains tax?

You can reduce capital gains tax by adopting strategies such as holding assets for longer periods to qualify for lower long-term rates, tax-loss harvesting to offset gains with losses, and donating appreciated assets to charitable organizations.

How are equity shares and equity-oriented mutual funds taxed?

Equity shares and equity-oriented mutual funds, when held long-term, are subject to special capital gains tax rates which may differ from the rates applied to other assets like real estate or debt mutual funds.

Does the type of asset affect the capital gains tax rate?

Yes, the type of asset affects the capital gains tax rate. Different assets such as real estate, debt mutual funds, or equity securities are subject to different tax rates and rules based on the asset’s nature and the holding period.

Is it important to consult a tax professional for capital gains matters?

While not always necessary, consulting a tax professional can be important, especially for complex transactions or large amounts of capital gains, as they can help ensure accurate reporting and compliance with tax laws.

Capital Gains Tax: Types, Tax Rate, Calculation &Amp; Tax Savings

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About the Author

I'm tech-savvy, loves to write about saving, investing and proper financial planning. Also, I am a blogger, share everything with 100% transparency and the best of my knowledge.

Manish Sharma

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