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Debt forgiveness

Last updated 3 March 2016

A debt is forgiven if you are freed from the obligation to pay it. Commercial debt forgiveness rules apply to debts forgiven after 27 June 1996. A debt is a commercial debt if part or all of the interest payable on the debt is, or would be, an allowable deduction.

Under the commercial debt forgiveness rules, a forgiven amount may reduce (in the following order) your:

  • prior year revenue losses
  • prior year net capital losses
  • deductible expenditure
  • assets' cost base and reduced cost base.

These rules do not apply if the debt is forgiven:

  • as a result of an action under bankruptcy law
  • in a deceased person's will, or
  • for reasons of natural love and affection.

Example – Applying a forgiven debt

On 1 July 2003, Josef had available net capital losses of $9,000. On 1 January 2004, he sold shares he had owned for more than 12 months for $20,000. They had a cost base (no indexation) of $7,500. On 1 April 2004, a commercial debt of $15,000 that Josef owed to AZC Pty Ltd was forgiven. Josef had no prior year revenue losses and no deductible capital expenditure.

Josef must use part of the forgiven commercial debt amount to wipe out his net capital losses and the rest to reduce the cost base of his shares. He would work out what net capital gain to include in his assessable income as follows:

Adjust net capital loss

Available net capital losses


less debt forgiveness adjustment


Adjusted net capital loss


Adjust cost base

Cost base of shares (no indexation)


less debt forgiveness adjustment


Adjusted cost base (no indexation)


Calculate net capital gain

Sale of shares


less adjusted cost base (no indexation)


less adjusted net capital loss


Capital gain (eligible for discount)


less discount percentage (50%)


Net capital gain



End of example