There are a number of tax concessions available to married couples and civil partners which recognise that their financial affairs may be interlinked. One of these concessions relates the transfer of assets between spouse and civil partner for capital gains tax purposes. The disposal is deemed to take place at a value which gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss. This means that the spouse or civil partner making the disposal does not end up with a capital gains tax bill; the spouse or civil partner acquiring the asset simply takes over his or her partner’s base cost. This rule can be very useful from a tax planning perspective as the following case studies show.
Case study 1
Jane and John have been married for a number of years. Jane has built up a portfolio of shares, which she wishes to now sell so that the couple can take a mid-life gap year. The sale of the shares will realise a gain of £30,000. Jane is a higher rate taxpayer and John is a basic rate taxpayer. Neither has used their 2019/20 annual exemption and the intention is to sell the shares before the end of the 2019/20 tax year.
The annual exemption for 2019/20 is set at £12,000.
If Jane simply goes ahead and sells the shares, she will realise a chargeable gain of £18,000 after deducting the annual exempt amount. As a higher rate taxpayer, the gain will be taxed at 20%, giving rise to a capital gains tax bill of £3,600.
However, if Jane and John make use of the inter-spouse exemption to transfer shares which would otherwise give rise of a gain of £18,000 to John, the position is very different. Jane is left with a gain of £12,000 which is covered by her annual exempt amount, leaving nothing in charge. John, however, is left with a chargeable gain of £6,000 (£18,000 - £6,000) after deducting his annual exempt amount. As the gain falls within his basic rate band, it is taxed at 10%, resulting is a capital gains tax liability of £600.
By making use of the inter-spouse exemption, the couple’s combined capital gains tax bill is reduced by £3,000.
Case study 2
Karamo owns an investment property jointly with his civil partner Robert. The property is let and the couple receive rental income of £20,000 a year. Karamo is a higher rate taxpayer, whereas Robert is in the process of setting up a photography business and earning around £14,000 a year.
Each civil partner is deemed to have received rental income of £10,000 a year. Karamo pays tax of £4,000 (£10,000 @ 40%) on his share, while Robert pays tax of £2,000 (£10,000 @ 20%) on his share. The total tax paid on the rental income is therefore £6,000.
By making use of the inter-spouse exemption, Karamo transfers his share of the property to Robert. As a result, Robert receives all the rental income, which is now all taxed at 20%, reducing the tax bill to £4,000, saving the couple £2,000 a year.
Partner note: TCGA 1992, s. 58.