In some cases, you can choose to treat a dwelling as your main residence even though you no longer live in it. You cannot make this choice for a period before a dwelling first becomes your main residence - see Is the dwelling your main residence?
Example: Not main residence until you move in
Therese bought a house and rented it out immediately. Later, she stopped renting it out and moved in.
Therese cannot choose to treat the house as her main residence during the period she was absent under the continuing main residence rule, because the house was not her main residence before she rented it out. She will only be entitled to a partial exemption if she sells the dwelling.End of example
This choice needs to be made only for the income year that the CGT event happens to the dwelling - for example, the year that you enter into a contract to sell it. If you own both:
- the dwelling that you can choose to treat as your main residence after you no longer live in it, and
- the dwelling you actually lived in during that period
you make the choice for the income year you enter into the contract to sell the first of those dwellings.
If you make this choice, you cannot treat any other dwelling as your main residence for that period (except for a limited time if you are changing main residences, see Moving from one main residence to another).
If you do not use it to produce income - for example, you leave it vacant or use it as a holiday home - you can treat the dwelling as your main residence for an unlimited period after you stop living in it.
If you do use it to produce income - for example, you rent it out or it is available for rent - you can choose to treat it as your main residence for up to six years after you stop living in it. If you make this choice and as a result of it the dwelling is fully exempt, the 'home first used to produce income' rule does not apply.
You can choose when you want to stop the period covered by this choice.
For information about when and how you make a choice, see Choices.
Example: Choosing to stop the period covered by the choice early
James bought his home in Brisbane on 1 July 2002 and moved in immediately. On 31 July 2003, he moved to Perth and rented out his Brisbane home. James bought a new residence in Perth on 31 January 2006. He sold the property in Brisbane on 31 July 2006. In completing his 2007 tax return, James decided to continue to treat the Brisbane property as his main residence after he moved out of it, but only until 31 January 2006 - when he purchased his new main residence in Perth.End of example
If you rent out the dwelling for more than six years, the 'home first used to produce income' rule may apply, which means you are taken to have acquired the dwelling at its market value at the time you first used it to produce income - see Home first used to produce income.
If you are absent more than once during the period you own the home, the six-year maximum period that you can treat it as your main residence while you use it to produce income applies separately to each period of absence.
Example: One period of absence of 10 years
Home ceases to be the main residence and is used to produce income for one period of six years
Lisa bought a house after 20 September 1985, but stopped using it as her main residence for the 10 years immediately before she sold it. During this period, she rented it out for six years and left it vacant for four years.
Lisa chooses to treat the dwelling as her main residence for the period after she stopped living in it, so she disregards any capital gain or capital loss she makes on the sale of the dwelling. The maximum period the dwelling can continue to be her main residence while she used it to produce income is six years. However, while the house is vacant, the period is unlimited, which means the exemption applies for the whole 10 years.
In addition to this, as the dwelling is fully exempt because Lisa made this choice, the 'home first used to produce income' rule does not apply.
Home used to produce income for more than one period totalling six years
In the 10-year period after Lisa stopped living in the dwelling, she rented it out for three years, left it vacant for two years, rented it out for the next three years, then once more left it vacant for two years.
If she chooses to treat the dwelling as her main residence for the period after she stopped living in it, she again disregards any capital gain or capital loss she makes on selling it. This is because the period she used the home to produce income during each absence is not more than six years. (See the example below for more detail.)End of example
1 July 1992
Ian settled a contract to buy a home in Sydney on 0.9 hectares of land and used it as his main residence.
1 January 1994
Ian was posted to Brisbane and settled a contract to buy another home there.
1 January 1994 to 31 December 1998
Ian rented out his Sydney home during the period he was posted to Brisbane.
31 December 1998
Ian settled a contract to sell his Brisbane home and the tenant in his Sydney home left.
The period of five years from 1994 to 1998 is the first period the Sydney home was used to produce income for the purpose of the six-year test.
1 January 1999
Ian was posted from Brisbane to Melbourne for three years and settled a contract to buy a home in Melbourne. He did not return to his Sydney home at this time.
1 March 1999
Ian again rented out his Sydney home - this time for two years.
28 February 2001
The tenant of his Sydney home left.
The period of two years from 1999 to 2001 is the second period the Sydney home was used to produce income under the six-year test.
31 December 2001
Ian sold his home in Melbourne.
31 December 2002
Ian returned to his home in Sydney and it again became his main residence.
28 February 2007
Ian settled a contract to sell his Sydney home.
Ian chooses to treat the Sydney home as his main residence for the period after he stopped living in it. The effect of making this choice is that any capital gains Ian made on the sale of both his Brisbane home in 1998-99 and his Melbourne home in 2001-02 are not exempt.
Ian cannot get the main residence exemption for the whole period of ownership of the Sydney home because the combined periods he used it to produce income (1 January 1994 to 31 December 1998 and 1 March 1999 to 28 February 2001) during his one absence were more than six years. As a result, the Sydney house is not exempt for the period it was used to produce income that exceeds the six-year period - that is, one year.
If the capital gain on the disposal of the Sydney home is $250,000, he calculates the amount of the gain that is taxable as follows:
Period of ownership of the Sydney home:
1 July 1992 to 28 February 2007
Periods the Sydney home was used to produce income after Ian stopped living in it:
1 January 1994 to 31 December 1998
1 March 1999 to 28 February 2001
First six years the Sydney home was used to produce income:
1 January 1994 to 31 December 1998
1 March 1999 to 28 February 2000
Income producing for more than six years after Ian stopped living in it: 365 days
Proportion of capital gain taxable in 2006-07
$250,000 × (365 ÷ 5,356) = $17,037
Because Ian entered into the contract to acquire the house before 11.45am (by legal time in the ACT) on 21 September 1999 and entered into the contract to sell it after that time, and owned it for at least 12 months, he can use either the indexation or the discount method to calculate his capital gain.
21 August 1996 important
The 'home first used to produce income' rule does not apply because the home was first used by Ian to produce income before 21 August 1996.End of example