Your main residence is generally exempt from capital gains tax (CGT).
For CGT purposes, your home qualifies for the main residence exemption from the time you acquire it, provided you move in as soon as practicable.
If you buy your home, the 'time you acquire it' is the settlement date of the contract.
- there is a delay moving in because of illness or other unforeseen circumstances – your home is still exempt, provided you move in as soon as the cause of the delay is removed (for example, when you recover from the illness)
- you cannot move in because the property is being rented to someone – the property does not become your main residence until you move in
- you have not yet sold your old home – you can treat both homes as your main residence for up to 6 months.
Example: moving in as soon as practicable
Li Jing signed a contract to buy a townhouse in March. She took possession when settlement occurred in April.
In late March, Li Jing's employer sent her overseas on an assignment for 4 months. She moved into the townhouse when she returned in late July.
Li Jing's overseas assignment was unforeseen at the time she bought the townhouse. She moved in as soon as practicable after settlement of the contract. Therefore, she can treat the townhouse as her main residence from the date she acquired it.
If Li Jing treats the townhouse as her main residence for this period, she cannot treat any other property as her main residence (except for a limited time if she is moving house).End of example
If you acquire a new home before you dispose of your old one, you can treat both as your main residence for up to 6 months.
You can do this if all of the following are true:
- you lived in your old home as your main residence for a continuous period of at least 3 months in the 12 months before you disposed of it
- you did not use your old home to produce income (such as rent) in any part of that 12 months when it was not your main residence
- the new property becomes your main residence.
Example: full exemption for both homes
Jill and Norman bought their new home under a contract that settled in January and they moved in immediately.
They sold their old home under a contract that settled in April.
Both the old and new homes are treated as their main residence for the period January to April, even though they did not live in the old home during that period.End of example
Exceeding the 6-month limit
If it takes longer than 6 months to dispose of your old home, the main residence exemption applies to both homes only for the last 6 months before you dispose of your old home.
For the period before this, when you owned both homes, you can choose which home to treat as your main residence. The other will be subject to CGT for that period.
Example: partial main residence exemption for one home
Jeneen and John bought their old home under a contract that settled on 1 January 1999 and moved in immediately. It was their main residence until they bought another home, under a contract that settled on 1 January 2022.
They retained their old home after moving into the new one. They did not use the old home to produce income.
They sold the old home under a contract that settled on 1 October 2022. Jeneen and John owned this home for a total of 8,675 days.
Both homes are treated as their main residence for the period 1 April 2022 to 1 October 2022, the last 6 months that Jeneen and John owned their old home. One of the homes will not get the main residence exemption for 90 days from 1 January 2022 to 31 March 2022.
Jeneen and John have 2 options:
- They can claim the main residence exemption for their new home from the time they first move in. The capital gain on their old home is then partially assessable for CGT. The assessable proportion is 90 ÷ 8,675, which is the number of days the old home was not their main residence divided by the total days they owned the old home.
- They can treat their old home as their main residence for the period 1 January 2022 to 31 March 2022, even though they have moved out. This means it is fully exempt. If they later sell their new home, it will be assessable for CGT for the 90-day period.
You can choose to continue treating your former home as your main residence after you move out. If you do this, you cannot treat your new home as your main residence (except for up to 6 months while you are moving house).Find out when the exemption starts for your new home and ends for your old home.