Tax Glossary

Capital Loss

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Last updated on:
March 17, 2024

A capital loss occurs when you sell an asset for less than its purchase price. This loss reflects a decrease in the investment value and can apply to a variety of assets, such as real estate, stocks, cryptocurrencies, and personal possessions.

How Capital Loss Works

For instance, if you purchase a buy-to-let property for £250,000 and later sell it for £200,000, you incur a capital loss of £50,000. This loss is calculated by subtracting the sale price (£200,000) from the purchase price (£250,000). Moreover, you can claim a loss on assets that have become completely worthless, even if they haven't been sold.

Capital Loss and Tax

Capital losses have specific roles in tax management:

  • Offsetting Gains: Capital losses can be used to reduce the taxable profit from other Capital Gains within the same tax year, effectively acting like an expense deduction.
  • Carry Forward: Losses can be carried forward to offset future capital gains, which can be particularly useful in strategic tax planning.
  • Excess Loss Utilization: If carrying forward a capital loss reduces your gain below the tax-free Capital Gains Tax (CGT) allowance (noted as £3,000 for the 2024/25 tax year, which seems to be an error since the standard allowance has been higher in previous years), the remaining losses can continue to be carried forward.
  • Restrictions on Family Transactions: Losses from assets given or sold to family members can't be deducted unless they are used to offset gains from transactions with the same family member.

Capital Gain Defined

Conversely, a capital gain is the profit made from selling an asset above its purchase price. Profits exceeding the Capital Gains Tax Allowance are subject to CGT. This tax mechanism ensures that individuals pay taxes on the net profits realized from their investments after accounting for any losses.

Key Takeaways

Understanding how to effectively use capital losses can significantly impact your tax liabilities, offering a method to manage and reduce the amount of CGT owed. Strategic use of losses, especially when planning sales or disposals of assets in different tax years, can optimize your tax outcome, ensuring you maximize tax efficiency.

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