Buying a property and selling it at a higher price later is very common. Since, most investors sell their property at a profit, every profitable sales transaction attracts certain tax liability. The tax rate however depends on several factors. As the amount involved in sale/purchase of a property is usually very high, the resultant tax amount thereby is sky-rocketing. So as to reduce tax burden for investors, the Government of India has laid down several alternatives for availing tax exemption under the Income Tax Act.

  1. Capital Gain from the Sale of a Property:

Before computing the net tax liability and investing your funds in right avenues to save tax, it is first important to understand classification of your gains arising from sale of a property. A property held for 3 years or less, attracts Short-Term Capital Gain (STCG), when sold at a profit. The gain from this sales transaction is added to the tax payer’s income and taxed as per the income tax bracket he falls under. For instance, if a tax payer falls under the tax slab of 30 percent, the STCG will also be taxed at the rate of 30 percent. The tax on STCG however, is not eligible to any type of exemptions.

Condition (i): The investor/seller should use the funds from capital gain to purchase a new residential house within 1 year before or 2 years after the transfer date (sale/transfer of the original property).

Condition (ii): If the investor intends to invest his money in under-construction residential property or construct his own residential property, the construction needs to be completed within 3 years from the date of transfer of the original property.

Condition (iii): The investor should not own more than one house (other than the new house) on the date of sale or purchase. Or, should not construct any residential house (other than the new house) within a period of three years, after the sale date.

Condition (iv): The investment in new residential property has a lock-in period of three years. If the new property is sold within a period of three years, the exemption claimed with respect to the old property shall be revoked and the capital gains become taxable.

Condition (v): If amount invested for buying a new house is more than the capital gain, then the maximum amount of tax exemption be restricted to proceeds from LTCG invested for buying a new house. In other words, maximum exemption cannot exceed the amount of LTCG used for buying a new house. The balance amount of LTCG (after investing in new property), if any, is taxable at 20%.

Condition (vi): As per union budget for FY 2014-15, for availing the benefit of LTCG tax exemption, the investment should be made only in one residential house property situated in India, not abroad.

2. Deposit funds in Capital Gains Account Scheme (CGAS):

So as to avail tax benefit, the capital gains should be re-invested in a residential property before filing income tax return of that year. And of you are unable to find the right property for you or invest that money in another property before the due date (usually 31st July) of filing tax return, then the unutilized sale proceeds can be deposited into Capital Gains Account Scheme (CGAS). Taxpayers can avail exemptions under the CGAS only when the amount of capital gain, or net consideration, is deposited by the last date for filing the income tax return.

There are 2 categories of Capital Gains Account:-

Deposit Account Type A: All deposits into this account are in the form of savings. This account is suitable for taxpayers who want to construct a house over a long period as withdrawals are permitted according to the provisions of the scheme.

Deposit Account Type B: This account is similar to a term deposit as it is payable after a fixed time duration. The depositor can opt to keep the deposits cumulative or non-cumulative and withdrawals from this account can be made only after a stipulated duration.

The Capital Gains Account however, is only a temporary arrangement to park your funds for 2-3 years. The withdrawals from these accounts should be made to pay for purchasing/constructing a residential property only.

3. Investment in Bonds (Section 54 EC):

LTCG arising from the transfer of any long term capital asset are exempt under section 54EC if the investor, within a period of 6 months of sale, invests the capital gain in notified bonds issued by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) or Rural Electric Corp. (REC) Ltd for a minimum period of 3 years. This is restricted to a cap of Rs.50 lacs per financial year. These bonds are also known as capital gain bonds.

An investor who wishes to claim the exemption from LTCG tax has to invest the amount in the capital gain bonds within 6 months from the date of sale (of property) or before the due date of filing income tax return (usually 31st july), whichever is earlier.

The interest rate offered on above mentioned bonds is currently 6% and the interest income from these bonds is not tax-free.

Tax treatment for Capital gains is different from regular income. It is important for an investor to be aware of its computation and the availability of various options to save his/her tax liability.