With the tax deadline looming, it’s time to worry about capital gains tax on shares. Capital gains tax (CGT) falls due on investments you sell for a profit in any given tax year, unless:
- The asset is sheltered in your ISAs or pensions.
- Your gains are covered by your annual capital gains tax allowance.
- Your gains can be sufficiently offset by your trading losses on other shares and assets. See our guide to defusing your capital gains below.
- The asset is exempt from capital gains tax.
CGT on shares and other assets is payable on your profits – that is, the difference between what you bought the asset for and what you sell it for, after costs.
For example if you buy a share for £100 and sell it for £1,100 ten years later, then your gain equals £1,000.
CGT is payable on your total taxable gains in a tax year. All capital gains and losses are pooled together for HMRC purposes.
If you fall into the ‘liable for tax’ net then you’ll pay CGT on the gains you’ve made above your tax-free allowance.
However, there are plenty of strategies you can legitimately use to reduce or eliminate capital gains tax on shares.
How much capital gains tax on shares?
The capital gains tax rate on shares and other investments is:
- 10% for basic rate taxpayers.
- 20% for higher rate taxpayers and additional rate taxpayers.
Other investments are also taxed at the same rate as shares, except for second-homes and buy-to-let properties.
The CGT rate for property is:
- 18% for basic rate taxpayers.
- 28% for higher rate taxpayers and additional rate taxpayers.
The rate you pay normally depends on your total taxable income, and what sort of assets you’ve made a profit on.
Beware that basic rate taxpayers can pay CGT at the higher rate, if your gains nudge you up a tax band.
You can work it out like this:
- Subtract your annual CGT allowance from your total taxable capital gains.
- Now add to that your total taxable income (including salary, dividends, savings interest, pensions income and so on, minus income tax allowances and reliefs).
- You pay the higher CGT rate on any profit that falls within the higher-rate income band.
Note: Scottish and Welsh taxpayers pay CGT at UK rates. A higher-rate Scottish taxpayer may pay capital gains tax at the UK basic taxpayer level.
You need to report your taxable gains via your annual self-assessment tax return.
Do this if your total taxable gain in the tax year exceeds your annual capital gains tax allowance…
…if your sales of taxable assets are over four times the annual CGT allowance up to 5 April 2023. From 6 April 2023 the reporting limit will be set to £50,000.
For example, if you sold £70,000 in shares, then from 6 April 2023 you’d report the gain – because the amount sold is higher than the CGT reporting limit of £50,000.
Remember that sales of assets in ISAs and SIPPs aren’t reported, and so don’t count in your sums at all.
Offshore funds may pay tax even higher than CGT rates
Capital gains on offshore funds are taxed at higher income tax rates – rather than CGT rates – if they:
- Do not have UK reporting fund status.
- Aren’t protected by an ISA or SIPP.
Check that the offshore funds you own (i.e. any not domiciled in the UK) have UK reporting fund status. This should be indicated on the fund’s website. HMRC also keep a list of reporting funds here.
A kicker is that you can’t cover non-reporting fund gains with your CGT allowance, either.
Capital gains allowance on shares
The annual capital gains tax allowance (or Annual Exempt Amount) for your total profits is:
£12,300 from 6 April 2022 to 5 April 2023. From 6 April 2023, the allowance is cut to £6,000. It falls again to £3,000 from the tax year 2024-2025.
The UK Government regularly issues updates on CGT.
Capital gains tax exemptions
Some investments and other assets are exempt from capital gains tax:
- Your main home (in most cases)
- Individual UK Government bonds (not bond funds)
- Cash which forms part of your income for income tax purposes
- NS&I Fixed Interest and Index-Linked Savings Certificates
- Child Trust Funds
- Premium bonds
- Lottery or betting winnings
- Anything held in an ISA or SIPP
Capital gains tax is payable on shares, ETFs, funds, corporate bonds, bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies), and personal possessions worth over £6,000, including some collectibles and antiques.
Avoiding capital gains tax on shares
You can reduce your tax bill by offsetting trading losses against your capital gains. This is known as tax loss harvesting and it is a legitimate way to avoid capital gains tax on shares.
Terminology note Tax avoidance means legally reducing your tax bill such that HMRC won’t raise an eyebrow. Tax evasion involves things like owning shell companies like some people own shell suits, and funneling cash to places with super-yacht congestion problems. These days the best phrase to use in polite society is tax mitigation.
Tax-loss harvesting involves selling shares and other assets for less than you originally paid for them. You strategically sell assets to realise losses you are already carrying in your portfolio, thus minimising your capital gains.
You don’t try to create losses with bad investments! That is where people can get confused.
The goal is ideally to reduce your gains to within your CGT allowance for the year.
We’ve come up with a quick step-by-step guide to help you do this.
1. Calculate your total capital gains so far
Tot up the gains, if any, you’ve made from selling shares, funds, and other chargeable assets this tax year (starting last 6 April).
Your records (or your platform’s statements) are worth their weight at moments like this.
You need to include every sale you made over the tax year, regardless of what you did with the money afterward.
You make a capital gain on any share holding or fund (outside of ISAs or SIPPs) that you sold for more than you paid for it.
Work out each capital gain by subtracting the purchase value and any costs (such as trading fees) from the sale proceeds.
Add up all these capital gains to work out your total capital gain for the year.
Remember that shares and funds are not the only chargeable assets for CGT. You need to add all such capital gains into your total for the year. They all count towards your annual CGT allowance.
For example, any property – other than your main home – is potentially liable for CGT when you sell it.
See HMRC’s property guidance.
2. Calculate your losses
You register a capital loss if you sold shares, other investments, or a dodgy buy-to-let flat for less than you originally paid for it.
Add up all your losses over the year.
Grit your teeth, fling your hands over your eyes, peek at your grand poo-bah loss.
Remember it’ll be okay because you’ll harvest the loss to neutralise your gains.
Sales of CGT-exempt assets don’t count towards capital losses. You can’t count disaster-trades that happened within your ISAs and SIPPs, for example.
Now for the good bit – offsetting your losses against your gains.
Let’s say you made £15,000 in capital gains on shares over the year, and you made capital losses of £6,000. Your total gain is £9,000.
Your losses have trimmed your gains to within your annual CGT allowance. No capital gains taxes for you this year!
You can also offset unused capital losses you made in previous years, provided you notified HMRC of your loss via earlier tax returns. (Best do so in the future).
3. Consider selling more assets to use up more of your CGT allowance and so defuse future gains
You now know what your total capital gains for the year are (from step 1), after subtracting any capital losses (step 2).
If your total gains are higher than your CGT allowance
…then you’ll pay CGT on the gains above the allowance.
If you will have CGT to pay, then, before the tax year ends, consider selling another asset you’re carrying at a loss in order to offset that loss against your gains. This will further reduce or eliminate your capital gains tax bill.
If your total gains are less than your CGT allowance
…then you won’t have to pay any capital gains tax on those gains. You don’t need to report the trades to HMRC, either, provided the total amount you sold the assets for was less than four times your annual CGT allowance.
Before the tax year ends, consider selling other assets you’re carrying that are showing a capital gain. This enables you to use more of your available CGT allowance for the year – without going over the allowance, of course.
Like this, you defuse some of the capital gains you’re carrying. That may help you avoid breaching your CGT allowance in future years.
If you’ve made an overall loss in a tax year
…after subtracting losses from gains, then you should declare it on your self-assessment tax return.
Capital losses that you declare and carry forward like this can be used to reduce your capital gains in future years, when you might otherwise be liable for tax.
Losses can be a valuable asset, but only if you tell HMRC.
4. Reinvest any proceeds from sales
If you made any share sales to improve your capital gains position, then it’s time to reinvest the cash you raised.
These are the key techniques:
Bed and ISA / Bed and SIPP – Ideally you’ll now tax-shelter the money you released within a stocks and shares ISA or SIPP. That puts that money beyond the reach of capital gains tax in the future.
You can purchase exactly the same assets in your tax shelters, immediately.
New asset – If your tax shelters are full and you don’t want to earmark the money for next year’s ISA/SIPP, then you can reinvest in a different holding as soon as you’ve completed your sale.
This new investment starts with a clean slate for CGT purposes.
Beware the 30-day rule – You need to wait 30 days to reinvest in exactly the same share, ETF, or fund outside of your tax shelters.
If you flout the 30-day rule, then the holding is treated as if you never sold it. That undoes all your tax loss harvesting work.
Same but different – You can sidestep the 30-day rule by purchasing a similar fund (or even share) that does the same job in your portfolio. For instance the performance gap between the best global index funds is usually small.
You can defuse your gain, buy a lookey-likey fund straightaway with the proceeds, and keep your strategy on course.
Bed and spouse – This is the ever-romantic finance industry’s term for keeping an asset in the family. You sell the asset and encourage your spouse or civil partner to purchase it in their own account.
Your gain is defused and your significant other starts afresh with the same asset. This maximises the use of the two CGT allowances available to your household.
Tax on selling shares
The cost of trading is a bit like a tax on selling shares, and it’s a can’t ignore factor that means selling for tax purposes isn’t always a good idea.
Trading costs include dealing fees, any stamp duty you pay on reinvesting the money, and also the bid-offer spread on the churn of your holdings.
Trading costs can significantly damage the benefit of defusing gains – especially on small sums – and even more so if you pay CGT at the basic taxpayer’s rate.
It’s best to realise capital gains as part of your rebalancing strategy, when you’re already spending money to reduce your holdings in outperforming assets while adding to the laggards.
Deferring capital gains tax
You can defer capital gains tax on your shares and other assets by never selling.
No sale, no gain, no capital gains tax.
This is especially relevant if you’re an income investor who hopes to live off their dividends for the rest of their life.
In this case, you simply enjoy the dividend income from your shares and let the capital gain swell.
A risk though is you could someday be forced to sell.
Unforeseen emergencies are one problem. Routine events such as company takeovers, fund closures, or mergers can also count as disposals for CGT purposes. Then you’ll be hit with a big tax charge on the gains.
Best practice would therefore still be to try to defuse gains as you go, by using your annual CGT allowance as described above. This reduces the tax impact of any unforeseen sales in the future.
Capital gains tax on inherited shares
Capital gains tax is not payable on the unrealised gains of shares belonging to someone who dies.
Inheritance tax may be due on the value of the shares, but not CGT.
Any gain you make between the date of the person’s death and your disposal (of the shares, not the body) does count for capital gains tax purposes. That’s assuming you couldn’t tuck the assets in a tax shelter.
Capital gains on shares help
HMRC issues lots of guidance on calculating capital gains tax on shares.
It’s also tax article law that we writers must include a warning about ‘not letting the tax tail wag the investment portfolio dog’ in any discussion like this.
There is definitely a fine line to tread between avoiding a higher capital gains tax bill and becoming dangerously obsessed.
In practice, most of us can do a fair bit of selling to defuse CGT – without derailing our strategy – by repurchasing the assets within an ISA or SIPP.
Think of it partly as an insurance policy. You may as well use the allowances you’ve got now, in case you’ve got more money and more capital gains on shares in the future, but not more allowances. The CGT allowance could even be reduced or removed by a future government.
It’s a case of use it or lose it.
> Shares held in an approved Share Incentive Plan
Are you sure about this? I’m under the impression that both shares purchased out of pretax income and share options purchased from post tax income are liable to CGT. Though I’ve maxed these the performance of my company has never been such to produce such a gain, but this is likely to happen in a year or so on one scheme because the option price was particularly low.
I normally sell sharesaves immediately on maturity if the options are in the money, because I don’t want exposure to my employer in my shareholdings because if they do badly and I lose my job I lose share value too, but this forthcoming one I will probably have to half-sell specifically because of CGT issues 😉 And certainly the blurb that come out on what to do with maturing options seems to indicate CGT may need to be considered if selling.
Or are these share incentive plans the sort of thing used for City bonuses etc, rather than the sharesave/share incentive plans targeted at the wage-slave proles?
@ermine — Thanks for the info, and no I’m not sure. I was going on an accountants comment and hesitated to include the entry due to my lack of personal experience with them, but then thought leaving them out might cause some readers issues too.
I’ll try and do some more research at some point, and would gladly welcome more informed comment here in the meantime! 🙂
I think you might mean diffuse rather than defuse?
@Marc – Nah, I mean defuse. Like removing the explosive potential of a ticking time bomb.
I didn’t coin the term with respect to CGT, though I don’t think it’s widely used. I think it’s apt.
This Proshare fact sheet seems to indicate CGT is liable on sharesave (a.k.a. Save As You Earn) schemes 🙁 Haven’t managed to track down a definitive statement on ESIPs
@Ermine – Thanks for that. I’ve been having a torrid time trying to work out the cost price of some shares I bought and sold regularly starting a decade ago (including fractional holdings and reinvested dividends to boot!) for capital gains tax reporting purposes.
Which is a way of saying:
1) I will research more when I get more time.
2) Really, everyone, use ISAs to save paperwork someday or else SIPPS if you are pretty sure you won’t need the money before retirement.
Even if you’re just starting out. One day you won’t be, and even under the new easier rules CGT is a PITA.
Yes, ISA are great, and so are SIPPs, but both suffer from annual limits, and those limits have swung around in complex ways for SIPPs over recent years.
My “7 year plan” to (hopefully) retirement shows us ending up with about 50% of our pot in pensions, 25% in ISAs and 25% outside ISAs in assets that generate dividend income as my wife is a basic rate tax payer.
Please could you confirm that if I bought £10000 worth of shares in a shares ISA and then they increased in value to £50000, am I right in saying that I would not have to pay any CGT on that £50000?
@Emma — That’s correct. Capital gains in an ISA are NOT taxable. You might want to read this article:
Just to be pedantic, please note I can’t ‘confirm’ anything as such, because I’m just a writer. The best place to get confirmation is HMRC. 🙂
However they will tell you what I have told you. (I will however underline it — ISAs are great! 🙂 )
Thanks for this article TI. I just want to know as I couldn’t see you cover this bit clearly whether you have to do a tax return in order to claim the capital gains allowance or whether you simply keep records for yourself which you seemed to suggest but then also you mentioned when you send your tax return in one part which suggests you have to do this every year even when you are well under the limit?
I feel pretty silly for misunderstanding this. I assumed that if your fund was making less than £11,000 a year then there was no tax etc so an ISA was only better if you had a large amount of money in a fund or if you were in a higher income tax bracket. If we do a buy and hold strategy for 25 years outside of an ISA, we would likely be hit with a huge tax bill if we were not selling the fund units every now and then to use the allowance.
I’m in the fortunate position whereby I will likely be able to max out my ISA every year from saving a £1000 a month leaving a couple thousand and will therefore need to keep over £40,000 in a standard share account using iWeb for many years which brings me these concerns.
@Chris — From memory you have to fill in the capital gains pages of the Self Assessment tax return if you realize gains in one year of over the personal CGT allowance of £11,000 and/or if you dispose of CGT-taxable assets worth more than 4x the annual CGT allowance.
The reason I always have to think about CGT is I am always defusing CGT on assets as described above. However most years I try to dispose of less than 4x the allowance (so £44,000 currently) so I don’t need to get involved in declaring it to HMRC — just because the paperwork is so tedious. This means that effectively my ex-ISA/SIPP holdings are long-term buy and hold in the past few years.
I suggest you try to be specific in your language. You say “if your fund is making less than £11,000 a year”. That’s not the way to think about it. You need to think about income and capital gains, as different components of the return, for your own clarity as well as understanding the rules and so forth.
Note — as I think you understand but just in case — you are only liable for CGT when you realize (i.e. Sell) an asset. Until then you can enable the capital gains to roll-up:
…which helps, but I think it’s clearly better to defuse what you can as you go to make use of your personal allowance every year.
Please note I’m not a tax advisor and I *cannot* give personal advice as to what you or anyone else should do, so this is just for your further info/research. See a fee-based hourly ETF if you need to! 🙂
Good luck — always worth remembering that CGT is a nice problem to have, especially as some day a bear market will come along again… 😉
Thanks for your reply TI. I never used to understand the difference between income and capital gains as much as I do in recent times. That article helps too yes. i could not find them for some reason.
My fund is an accumulation fund just to note. I would think that if my current Vanguard life strategy 60% fund (Non-ISA) has £46200 (2x seperate buys to make matters easier) and I will be selling £3000 worth of units a year that will go into an ISA (same fund) so don’t need to wait 30 days as I read. I will not be making over the allowance of £11,000 for sure so likely will not need to be worried about this as I do not intent to ever Invest in Non-ISA wrapped investments again.
As this will take over 10 years though, I will need to keep aware of any tax changes that come about. I think my main concern/question here now is as I currently do not file any tax return / self assessment etc as I am not self employed and do not have any investments earning me an income of any real value. I should not need to send anything to HMRC. I just should keep track of what I do in case at any point in the future it needed to be reviewed. If that is too specific and not general enough for you to answer then I understand.
Like you say, it’s a nice thing to have to worry about as opposed to where the next meal is coming from or how I’m going to afford the next rent payment.
@Chris — You can sell outside of an ISA and buy the same thing *inside* an ISA and not have to worry about the 30-day rule. (Google “Bed and ISA”.) The 30-day rule is only relevant if you’re rebuying the same assets outside of an ISA or SIPP, and yet reducing the cost basis (i.e. Defusing the capital gains).
Yes, far FAR better to keep all your money in ISAs and SIPPs if you can. 🙂
I think your understanding of the tax situation is accurate, but keep an eye on the gains on the LifeStrategy fund. You should know exactly what capital gain you’ve made on the assets you dispose of. Over 10 years, it’s not impossible the units you bought in your fund could double or even triple in value.
You just need to work out every year the capital gain on the units you dispose of, and make sure it’s under £11,000 / you’re disposing of less than £44,000 (assuming you’re not disposing of other assets elsewhere).
Again, I am saying “You” but you could read it as “one has to make sure” as I don’t know your specifics, and can’t give you personal advice — this is just to help you understand for your own research.
I hoped my questions were more general and not too personal. Thanks for your answers. I agree with checking carefully the gains that are made on a yearly bases to ensure that I will not be creeping towards the CPT allowance limit. I don’t think I would be too gutted if it were I were earning over this to be fair though :).
Thanks very much!
Hi. Great article but I do have one question. Say my total gains from selling shares is £6,000 which is under the £11,000 allowance. Say that I also have £2,000 in losses. Am I required to offset the gains with the losses or can I elect to carry forward the £2000 into the future?
Per HMRC you offset your reported losses against your reported gains. You do not have to report your losses in the year in which they occur – you can delay reporting them for 4 years and then offset them in the year you report them.
Obviously if you do not report a loss in the year you incur it you’ll have to remember to declare it later.
At least that’s my reading: http://www.gov.uk/capital-gains-tax/losses
Very helpful article. If you defuse CGT by selling and rebuying the same share within 30 days I get that the tax man considers it a continuous purchase. What if you subsequently gift those re purchased shares to your spouse? When they sell them do they just sell at their prevailing rate or does it get tracked all the way back to your initial attempt to defuse CGT? In trying to find out if that is a legitimate way to defuse CGT or not! Thanks!
Might be a very silly question but I accrued a CGT amount of 11k on sale of a second property in April 15. I am currently running a similar amount loss in shares. Can I sell and offset even though they are in 2 different tax years please?
I don’t believe that you can carry CGT losses backwards (i.e. to extinguish gains from previous years). You can carry losses forward – but you have to declare them on your tax return to be able to do this.
Thus in your case the answer is “no” – because the gains came in the year before the losses. If the opposite was true and the losses came first then, yes, those losses could be carried forward to extinguish future gains.
The CGT exemption in 2015/16 was £11,100, I think, so hopefully you didn’t pay any CGT last year. (And there’s no CGT at all on shares held in ISAs or pensions.)
If you sell your shares to crystalise your loss then you can carry this forward – which will only be of benefit if you think you will have any future gains (outwith ISAs, pensions, principle private residence, etc).
Thanks. Bad news but a very educational clarification. Just going to have to pay up 🙁 Don’t think that I will have any more CGT gains next year to offset this one.
Thanks for your prompt reply.
hi if you get your dividends as scrip shares, how does that equate to the new 5000 dividend tax allowance from 2016? thanks john.
@John — I don’t know, is the short answer, and haven’t seen commentary on it. My inclination though is that they will be counted towards the Dividend Allowance, for two reasons.
Firstly, if they’re not then it’s a tax loophole that’s going to be exploited.
Secondly, scrip share distributions are already treated as equivalent income. See:
Please remember I’m not a professional adviser, so do your own research! (And let us know what you find… 🙂 )
Thanks for the article, but you don’t mentioned profits on spread betting. I hold a few shares in far dated spread bets (so they don’t need to be rolled every night). Some with many £000’s of gains but absolutely none are liable for CGT.
Well worth mentioning in my view.
@Pete R — Hi, glad you liked the article. Spreadbetting for tax avoidance is a different matter really, this article is about defusing gains you already have (which in my experience some people with investments outside of tax shelters don’t even think to do, leaving the annual allowance going begging every year).
We’ve covered spreadbetting in the manner you suggest here:
I mistimed a rather risky investment back in August last year. I’m currently making a £5k loss. If i was to sell these shares before April at a loss to offset CGT, and then reinvest the remains into my ISA. If these shares were to recover, i’d have shielded the gains from tax, but would i still be able to offset my CGT balance with the loss i incurred in my stocks and shares account?
@Scott — I can’t give personal tax or investing advice. However as a general point, once money goes into the ISA it effectively disappears from HMRC’s radar (of course you must follow the rules and only put in your annual ISA allowance per year etc). Your investment gains (and losses) in there are not reportable.
I don’t mean this in any dodgy sense. I mean that’s by design. It wouldn’t matter if one made new gains in the ISA in the same shares you sold outside of the ISA or in anything else. It’s irrelevant. You don’t need to tell anyone.
Losses on taxable gains (i.e. outside of ISAs/pensions) are set off immediately against gains (outside of ISAs or pensions).
You may be thinking of the ’30-day rule’, which prohibits one from declaring losses on assets you buy back within 30 days?
This doesn’t apply if you’re buying back in an ISA. The technique that exploits this is call ‘bed and ISA’, and is effectively what you’re describing. There’s a few articles around on this, have a Google. For example:
One other general point — remember in investing you don’t have to make back your money the same way you lost it. 🙂
I’ve been looking at defusing capital gains this year and run into a complication (obvious in hindsight). A few days ago I got my non-sheltered portfolio valuation and worked out that selling down three funds would allow me to ‘defuse’ about £7,500. My plan then was to buy comparable funds holdings like those from the ‘cheap trackers’ monevator article or similar. I could also sell two other positions with a loss of about £2,500.
Then blow me, overnight the market movement reduces the capital gain to £2,500. Now I feel stymied. I’m reluctant to sell 6 figure holdings and be out of the market for several days while the trades settle. The article cautions against letting the tax efficiency dog wag the investments’ tails, so I’m backing out of this now, I think. I might trade out the two losing funds as that seems a safer bet.
I’m left wondering though in what circumstances I would be prepared to sell a down a holding to use my CGT allowance. I could imagine maybe waiting until an individual fund (or perhaps two) could absorb most of the capital gain allowance, given that the gain was quite a bit bigger than its typical short term variability. If daily variation in the gain calculated over several holdings (in my case, I looked at 3) is of the order of say 50% of the CGT allowance, and the annual aggregate gain is of the same order, as is the case this year for my portfolio, then it seems to me holding is a better option.
I’d be interested to hear how other folk have thought this through.
Hi, thanks for a great article. Assuming you’re not concerned with filling out a tax return form with a view to offseting unused capital losses in the future, you’re gains from selling shares is greater than the CGT allowance, but your losses on other shares sold in the same tax year bring you back under the allowance threshold, does anyone know if you have to submit a tax return form to HMRC or is this not necessary?
@Snoopy — This is not individual tax advice to you. My understanding of the rules though is that if you add up your capital gains in a year and subtract your capital losses, and the result is under the capital gains tax allowance thresh hold then you do not need to report to HMRC that year.
HOWEVER there is a slight catch, which is you do need to report if your *total* proceeds exceed the CGT allowance by more than four times.
See this article:
Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it’s not tax advice but it’s definitely useful to have your take on it. Cheers.
I traded an ETF during summer, bought and sold the same etf a few times within 30 days. I did end up with +10k profit. How can i calculate my actual CGT – as I have violated the 30-day rule. Thanks for helping+
Say I have a GIA with a single platform. Does the annual platform fee go towards ‘costs’ that can be deducted for CGT purposes? So if I sell (for the first time) in 21/22, could I deduct (from my gain) the platform fees, even those paid in prior tax years?
Would the answer be the same if I only sold part of what sits in the GIA?
This is my first comment on a Monevator article, so couldn’t let it pass without a thank you for your wonderful work.
@Balit — We can’t give specific individual tax advice. But in principle to calculate your gain due, you work out all your gains and losses for each trade, add up all the gains (from this and any other chargeable assets you’ve sold in the year) and subtract all the losses (ditto), and hope it comes in under your personal capital gains tax allowance. If it doesn’t you’ll have CGT to declare and pay.
See this article: https://monevator.com/defuse-capital-gains-on-shares/
Also multiple trades might mean you need to declare anyway due to the turnover rule. See:
Platforms – especially the new ones – really should do more to alert users to these potential tax consequences.
@MK — Interesting question, I have no idea! I’d imagine one certainly couldn’t allocate all the fees, because they weren’t all incurred on this holding. But possibly one could allocate a proportion?
I am neither a tax advisor nor a tax expert beyond the basics, so this is certainly not individual tax advice or anything like it. You’d have to seek professional advice for that.
If you do and find out the answer please do let us know here.
Thanks for the kind words about our site!
Hi, similar first time commenter though long time lurker, and I would like to echo the thanks and gratitude expressed by others.
I have a query re “bed and ISA” alongside CGT harvesting. I haven’t done either before, but note my Vanguard funds in my GIA have made a tidy gain since I invested them a couple of years ago. My first plan is to sell £20,000 and transfer the cash to my ISA, then immediately rebuy the same fund (this seems to be how Vanguard as a platform operates bed & ISA). Am I right in thinking that HMRC wouldn’t regard this as a sale, simply a transfer, and so it wouldn’t trigger a CGT liability? Which then leads on to, could I also sell more of the funds in my GIA, within the 4x/CGT allowance, and buy a similar fund within 30 days, to harvest some if not all of the total gain?
I have Googled around for the answer to this, but most links seem to deal only with one or the other circumstance.
As a secondary question, am I right in thinking that for an OEIC, the sale value is now calculated as being the average unit cost, as I bought different tranches at different times?
Any information would be welcome, and I appreciate this can only be general not specific advice!
@Hudluck — This is in no way personal advice to you! 🙂 No, I believe that’s entirely a sale and would be treated as such by HMRC. The clue is in “sell the £20,000” 😉
You can’t directly transfer shares into your ISA. This is why it is called “bed and ISA” — the ‘bed’ part is the sale. You can buy what you like once the money is in your ISA, including what you just sold, it’s irrelevant to HMRC as it is ‘invisible’ to them in there in that you don’t have to report it or pay taxes on it.
You can sell a fund to buy something similar to avoid violating the 30-day rule, but opinions about ‘similar’ do vary, as comments on this and other threads attest. You’ll have to do your research and make your mind up. Sales will of course be subject to CGT.
I believe your understanding re: average unit cost is correct.
Please remember, this is not personal tax advice. We are just bloggers on the Internet and cannot be liable for anything you do, so please seek pro advice if/as needed.
Thanks, TI. Looks like I will need to get the calculator out!
Again, many thanks to you and the Accumulator for doing what you do. I keep trying to persuade my kids that they should dive into your site as a fantastic resource for passive investing. But I guess they have other things to keep them busy right now. I know that I came late to investing (fortunately my DB fund were doing some heavy lifting!) and I shall just keep gently nudging them till they are ready
@TI, #29 – “ you do need to report if your *total* gains exceed the CGT allowance by more than four times”
Perhaps using the word “proceeds” rather than “gains” is more accurate?
Also – perhaps worth a mention of “Nil gain nil loss spousal transfers”. My wife is a basic rate tax payer so most GIA investments are in her name. We are then able to do a nil gain nil loss spousal transfer so that I can use up my CGT allowance.
@Hudlbuck, #35 – that would be a sale in terms of GIA liable to CGT
In terms of finding out the cost, have a read up on Section 104 pools – in short, though, it works out at an average price.
Given you’re with Vanguard Investor with no additional trading costs, I recommend introducing some new money to your ISA (say £2k) and selling the asset in your GIA (£2k) at the same time. That way, there is no time out of the market and you can do this bit by bit until you’ve manually “bed and ISA’d” what you want.
@Genghis — You’re quite right. It’s hard to continually be precise about this stuff without slipping into writing ‘price’ or ‘gains’ or similar sooner or later. Anyway I went back and amended my comment, cheers!
Ugh… thanks for reminding me how simple HMRC make CGT for us….
Seriously, though, these are very useful articles, as you are one of the few people who can ‘translate’ these things into real English – I would propose you to rewrite the tax legislation!
To be hypocritical though, the one ‘complication’ I would be in favour of is a return of ‘tapering’ for long-term holders rather than traders, especially if Rishi raises CGT rates this year.
If you have no income can you also use your personal allowance before using your capital gains allowance. So a zero income might have around 25k CGT?
Thanks for a very useful and timely article.
I inherited my father’s share portfolio on his death and since the introduction of tax on dividends, I sell enough shares every year to realise my CGT allowance and buy the same shares in my ISA.
My ISA account is with IWEB, and apart from an initial £25.00 fee and trading costs, there are no other platform charges.
Having reached the magic £85,000.00 threshold I am looking around for another provider to hold an ISA for 2021/22.
Lloyds at £40.00 p/a looks to be the cheapest, (Halifax is cheaper but in the same group as IWEB).
I need to remember that as a holder of certificated shares I pay no annual fees, so any charge to keep those shares in an ISA must be offset by the savings in dividend tax.
@Tim #42 – DYOR but I believe Lloyds Share Dealing is operated by HSDL, hence Lloyds + Halifax + iWeb all part of the same £85k FSCS limit.
Great summary thanks, quick one please… does stamp duty count as part of purchase costs? TIA
Perhaps worth highlighting that the need to report if selling > 4x CGT allowance only applies if one is already registered for self-assessment as per gov.uk.
“You still need to report your gains in your tax return if both of the following apply:
– the total amount you sold the assets for was more than 4 times your allowance
– you’re registered for Self Assessment”
@Scott, yes stamp duty is part of your costs.
@Genghis “Also – perhaps worth a mention of “Nil gain nil loss spousal transfers”. My wife is a basic rate tax payer so most GIA investments are in her name. We are then able to do a nil gain nil loss spousal transfer so that I can use up my CGT allowance.”
That’s a bit cryptic and I am not sure what you mean there, but CGT is not really avoided if you transfer an asset into your wife’s name (unless she dies before disposal). No CGT is due on the transfer, but when your wife sells she must consider the price you originally paid, not the price on the day they were transferred to her.
@Naeclue. Indeed. Point being is that it’s possible to have best of both worlds: basic rate tax being paid on dividends (in wife’s name) and then transferred to me to use up my CGT allowance.
@TI, very good article, but this bit is not right “If you flout the 30-day rule, then the holding is treated as if you never sold it. That undoes all your tax loss harvesting work.”
If you sell something and buy it back within 30 days CGT may well be payable. The way it works is that for each disposal you match a purchase. The matching happens in this order:
1) shares acquired on the same day as disposal
2) shares acquired in the 30 days following the day of disposal
3) all other shares on an average cost basis (Section 104 holding)
The 30 day rule means that a disposal can be matched with a purchase that happened AFTER disposal. So if you sell something for 20k and buy it back within 30 days for 10k, you have made a capital gain of 10k.
When it comes to CGT, everything hinges around the disposal. It is the disposal that triggers any gain/loss calculation and any tax is due in the tax year of disposal. So selling on 5th April 2021, buying back 6 April 2021 would mean a potential capital gain in the 2021 tax year. This means, for example, that for those who write an option that expires worthless, the gain (the option premium) falls into the tax year the option is written.
@Genghis, I see what you mean now and agree with you.
Brilliant article. It looks as if it has been around in one form or another for 10 years, but I have never noticed it before in the time since I discovered this website (no doubt less than 10 years ago) – do make sure it stays in a prominent position.
Query – general not specific. You answered @Hudlbuck to say that non-ISA disposals would be averaged if there were multiple purchases, how does that work. I have some non-ISA investments, but bought in chunks on a pound-cost averaging basis and using only two funds. When I sell some (the aim is bed-and-ISA) how do I come up with a purchase price in practice?
And comment, for anyone who happens to be interested. I have been dealing with my late mother’s estate, and she had some shares (which were in an AIM portfolio to minimise inheritance tax) which gained value between probate and disposal. I did indeed have to pay CGT, in part because there was also a gain in the value of her home once sold (we benefited from a bidding war).
Not complaining, if tax is due I pay it, but more of a hassle than I had expected. And I and my siblings did very well out of those AIM shares, quite apart from the no IHT aspect, she had bought them on financial advice after my father died and by pure luck she liquidated all previous holdings in July 2008 and re-entered the market in November.
And another comment relating to the offshore issue which I now have experience of too. Again as part of my mother’s 2008 financial advice she put her (then) personal IHT allowance into a trust that would be outside IHT in 7 years. That bit worked, but for some reason the underlying investment was offshore. Having liquidated the trust I and my siblings now face some complicated income tax form-filling for the 2020-21 tax year. Plus bills.
One thing that might trip people up is with the disposal of shares/ETFs that are priced in a foreign currency. The way to do the calculation is to convert everything into pounds at the prevailing exchange rates on the days of the purchases and disposals. The way NOT TO DO IT is to calculate the gain/loss in the foreign currency and convert that gain. This is an easy trap to fall into. If you see a gain of $15,000 on a share/ETF position, fitting within the annual allowance, you might find that it ends up being £15,000 when you do the calculation properly (eg due to the fall in the pound against the dollar over the last few years). That would put you over the annual allowance if you sold.
@Jonathan B, Google “Section 104 holding” and you should find lots of examples. It basically works like this:
Buy 1000 shares for £5,000 (after costs), average price £5 per share
Buy 2000 shares for £13,000 (after costs). Total 3000 shares for total £18,000, average price of section 104 holding £6 per share.
Sell 1000 shares for £10,000 (after costs). Those 1000 shares are matched with 1000 from the section 104 pool, with average cost £6,000. Profit £4,000.
@Marco, “If you have no income can you also use your personal allowance before using your capital gains allowance. So a zero income might have around 25k CGT?”
No. The personal allowance applies to income only. I guess that could change if CGT is overhauled and gains are taxed as another form of income. This would be along the lines of the recent OTS report. The annual allowance might be heavily cut back to say £1k de minimis, but gains above that taxed as income. I believe that is how it works in Australia, but with no de minimis allowance at all. A horrifying proposal for those with substantial investments outside tax shelters, those with second homes or buy-to-let portfolios.
Naeclue and Genghis, thanks for the tip/explanation re S104 pooling, very useful and will do some Googling as suggested…
@Naeclue — Seems your name is a gross misnomer when it comes to tax matters! 😉 Thanks for fielding these queries so comprehensively!
@all — As the range of responses/queries and the bits and pieces highlighted that aren’t in the article demonstrate, tax is always a tricky area and individual circumstances matter a lot. If your tax affairs are potentially complicated or you’re unsure, most people will find this is a much better place to spend your money on advice versus guessing which active manager will perform.
Thanks @Naeclue, that has straightforwardly resolved a nagging question. Even better, checking my account on iWeb I found it quotes the average purchase price for investments bought in stages.
Thanks for this – good timing, obviously.
We’re struggling with what seems like it should be an easy one but can’t find a clear cut answer, wondering if you/others can help.
My partner has an old unit trust which has done surprisingly well and so want to take some of the gains out against our CGT limit this year. But it’s not clear how you figure out what purchase you use to calculate the gain.
The units were bought monthly over last 20 years odd, clearly at a huge range of prices. There’s no way to know which units we’re actually selling and the .gov website has zero useful info.
It can’t be that unusual situation? Is it as simple as using an average purchase price? How would that work when you carry on buying and changing the average?
Clearly I’m missing something blindingly obvious but appreciate if anyone can point me in the right direction on this one!
Lurker and regular reader of the blog – a 29 YO who has gained almost all of his financial knowledge from yourself.
Despite reading around the area to the best of my ability, this part still stumps me:
‘if total proceeds on capital disposals exceed four times the Annual Exemption’.
My capital gains are under the £12,300 threshold due to offsetting losses and unrealised gains however there have been quite a number of trades this year (crypto assets from one to another, or to stablecoins, not GBP).
How do I determine if my capital disposals exceed £49,200? This may seem like a silly question but I am confused by what a ‘proceed’ is defined as. I wonder is it all gains added together, not considering losses? Is it the value of the products at the time of sale?
Any help would be greatly appreciated and I am sorry if this is a ridiculous question!
> Is it the value of the products at the time of sale?
It is the total value of all your sells.
Good article, but I don’t think the explanation of tax avoidance is quite right. It is not correct to say that HMRC won’t raise an eyebrow about tax avoidance.
If HMRC considers something to be tax avoidance, they are likely to carry out an investigation.
The factor that means tax mitigation arrangements are considered avoidance is that the reduction in the tax liability was not what parliament intended, even though the taxpayer has grounds to argue that it is in line with the letter of the law. So, if rules are introduced to stop taxpayers doing something, finding loopholes that seem to allow you to continue to do it would be avoidance. Or using rules to create a benefit that was not intended.
As the detailed intentions of parliament are not always clear, there’s a grey area in which it is a matter of subjective opinion as to whether something is tax avoidance.
BTW, I’m not saying that HMRC will investigate anyone who crystallises a tax loss in order to offset a profit or gain that would otherwise be taxable. As long as it is a real loss (with a real economic impact, rather than an artificially created loss), I doubt it could be said to be avoidance if you choose to crystallise it at a time when it will help to reduce a CGT bill.
@IvanOpinion — Yes, I did hesitate over that phrase, but driving out all such colour makes articles unreadable (/as dull as the official guidance) so on balance I left it in. I think that need for some caution you highlight is surfaced by the following few sentences in that box, though, including the link to our article on the shift to “tax mitigation” which goes into all this. 🙂
Has anyone recently sold an investment property recently and had to pay the CGT immediately under the new 30 day rule? I was wondering how, if you decide to spend some of the proceeds on EIS investments or make a charitable donation (both valid ways of deferring or reducing your CGT liability) subsequent to the property sale, the CGT would be clawed back (assuming that this is possible). I would guess that you report the CGT liability and associated tax for a second time via your FYE self assessment and a tax refund is then forthcoming but I haven’t seen anything in the HMRC guidance.
Me and my wife have a joint trading account with ii does this mean the capital gains tax allowance is £24,600 ?
With the power of attorney I’ve been trying to better diversify my aunt’s share portfolio, I do not have the buying price for some of her shareholdings that were acquired in the 1980s. Unfortunately she is in a care home with dementia, so no paperwork either. The shares aren’t in an ISA and have been transferred between brokers over the years. So no information on the date of purchase or their buying prices.
I am trying to defuse their significance (one share is worth £100k+) to the overall portfolio each year using the CGT allowance and having to assume a zero purchase price.
I guess it’s not the worst financial situation to be in and I realise CGT will not apply anyway to the shares on her death…….but is there another way to do this?
Thank you for your excellent article. However, I feel you have perhaps missed a claimable expense for those with Unit Trust Accumulation Share holdings and I hope accumulation script holdings of Shares & Funds too. Last year I sold a large holding of Utility shares in two companies so I could reinvest in a more diversified passive portfolio mainly in Vanguard Funds but a few £1000s invested directly in shares, and some in Gold & Silver ETFs, not covered by Vanguard. The Utility shares sold were not in an ISA or SIPP.
I had inherited the shares on my mother’s death in 2010 and they were included in her estate for IHT. I changed the shareholdings by switching the dividends from income to accumulation via the companies’ script scheme. I also had to pay for some replacement share certificates which had been lost in my mother’s possession.( I assume I can claim this as an expense too?)
I was working out my Capital gain on the shares using your helpful guide and it looked as though I was facing a CGT Tax bill for shares on the 20/21 return. I was a little concerned I was being double taxed as I had paid income tax on my annual tax returns every year on these notional share dividends. This sometimes put me into a higher tax bracket! Initially I thought well that’s CGT for you, like “Death Duties” a form of double taxation!!
However, a little research in Gov.uk I discovered https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/shares-and-capital-gains-tax-hs284-self-assessment-helpsheet/hs284-shares-and-capital-gains-tax-2020#rule. This has a section on Accumulation Shares in Unit Trusts and I quote
“If you hold accumulation units you will not receive distributions of income from the trust. Instead, the income is retained and reinvested automatically for you (a ‘notional distribution’). You do not receive any new units, but the value of your existing units is increased. If you receive notional distributions which are subject to Income Tax, you’re allowed the amount of these distributions as additional expenditure on your accumulation units.”
Does this only apply to Unit Trusts or Accumulation Shareholdings in general? As this would make a significant difference as Utility shares have traditionally paid handsome dividends and when I total this “additional expenditure” from notional dividends on which I declared on my tax returns since 2010 it is actually larger than the amount of the gain on the shares.
If this is a valid expense for share how do I show this on my tax return or do I do not have to declare it at all? If the expenses are greater than the loan does this now become a claimable loss to offset other tax on my return?
I am sure this will be of interest to your other readers with accumulation share holdings or Unit Trusts. If you can clarify if it applies to all accumulation share holdings, funds and Unit Trusts or just Unit Trusts?
What I think this Accumulation units rule is explaining is that you are not liable for CGT on your ‘notional dividends’.
It’s widely accepted that the slice of your Accumulation units’ value that has increased due to the reinvested dividend is subject to dividend income tax but not capital gains – because that would be double taxation.
So when accounting for the capital gain on unsheltered accumulation units you deduct your reinvested dividends, thus ensuring you only pay CGT on the actual ‘gain’, and dividend tax on the ‘notional distributions’.
That is obviously a feat of record-keeping, and I’d guess some people are being double-taxed.
As I understand it, this isn’t a special treatment of unit trusts but applies to any accumulation holding e.g. accumulating / capitalising ETFs.
The object being to achieve equivalence between accumulation holdings and normally distributing ones for tax purposes.
Presumably on your tax return, you account for your ‘notional distributions’ in the dividend tax section, while the accumulation fund’s gain is in the capital gains section. Notional distributions aren’t capital gain so don’t need to be accounted for there.
Bear in mind, all this comes with the massive caveat that I’m not a tax expert, and I may have misinterpreted the substance of your question.
For peace of mind, it may well be best to consult a tax professional.
Thank you, that’s a great help, but I will make further queries including HMRC themselves as after all they are the tax professionals. I do have records for most years especially the last ten years. It took me a few years to sort out these shares as some of the share certificates could not be found and I had to apply and pay for replacements.
@Howard Gilbert (67&69) I think the subtle difference between accumulation units in unit trusts and shares acquired through scrip dividends is that the number of accumulation units held does not increase, whereas the number of shares held does. Therefore, when you sell these shares and work out your average acquisition cost for the CGT calculation, some of the shares will have been purchased with the notional dividend payments at the price prevailing each time. So you have no additional expenditure, merely a collection of shares bought at different times with different prices. This situation is well covered on the gov.uk pages on CGT for shares. Still a feat of record keeping to manage this calculation, but no special principle involved.
There had been talk in the press of possible cuts to CGT allowances… but
Budget 2021 at section 3.11
“Capital Gains Tax Annual Exempt Amount (AEA) uprating – The value of gains that a taxpayer can realise before paying Capital Gains Tax, the AEA, will be maintained at the present level until April 2026. It will remain at £12,300 for individuals, personal representatives and some types of trusts and £6,150 for most trusts.”
A big thanks to Monevator (The Accumulator and The Investor) and all others making the very helpful explanations and observations above. I’ve been enthralled for the last hour reading through !
I’m presuming that it’s the Trade Date of your share trade that defines the Tax Year of the transaction (?). If you execute a sale of UK shares/assets on Thursday 1st April 2021, but the Settlement Date for the trade is e.g. Weds 7th April 2021 (i.e. 2 business days later), that’s a trade/disposal for tax purposes in the old/expiring ’20/21 Tax Year isn’t it ? (or does HMRC use the Settlement Date?).
Thanks to anyone who can clarify that for me 🙂
I’m in the fortune position of owning ~£315k of vanguard Lifestrategy 100 shares in my main account (which have exactly doubled in value to make the maths easy). I’m diligently Bed and ISAing to make use of my CGT allowance but other things get in the way of using both allowances.
Other than carrying on the same 15 year strategy (if the allowance lasts that long) I’m looking for other ways to hurry things along.
1. If I can’t use my ISA allowance in a year then can someone recommend a “comparable” share that I could buy in place of Lifestrategy 100?
2. If I can’t use my CGT allowance in a year do I have any options?
3. For many practical reasons think it’s time to get married (romantic I know!), when I do could I gift half the shares to my spouse to speed things up?
Thanks for the advice!
@ J – here’s some suggestions for LifeStrategy 100 alternatives:
You can roll over CGT losses but not your allowance. See bed and spouse above for the CGT benefits of being married. I’m told there’s more to married life but not sure I believe it 😉
This might help you convince your significant other:
Those links are much appreciated and a very interesting read.
I think “Fidelity Multi Asset World” is a suitable bed fellow for Lifestrategy 100 (although I need to remind myself why I shouldn’t just go for a HSBC FTSE All World?! Time to refresh my memory!).
Did you Civil Partner in the end?
Do you have any insight into how to exercise “capital gains tax inter-spouse exemption” in practice? Does one actually have to transfer the shares before sale? (so one needs to contact their platform) Or just fill out a box in the tax return?
Can anyone point me to examples of section 104 holding pools on the second sale? As Naeclue says in #53:
Buy 1000 shares for £5,000 (after costs), average price £5 per share
Buy 2000 shares for £13,000 (after costs). Total 3000 shares for total £18,000, average price of section 104 holding £6 per share.
Sell 1000 shares for £10,000 (after costs). Those 1000 shares are matched with 1000 from the section 104 pool, with average cost £6,000. Profit £4,000.
What I am having trouble finding is how to work out the cost / profit of a second sale of 1000 shares, e.g. for another £10,000. Do you recalculate the average, e.g. discarding the oldest shares (1000 @ £5), or condense the remaining shares into a nominal 2000 shares @ £6 when considering new contributions: e.g. buying 1000 new shares at £8 would bring the cost to £20k for 3000 shares?
FYI: I’m both trying to understand how much to sell to make the most of the current CGT allowance and then how to track the info for next year.