When does share sales trigger capital gains tax?

MONEY: Learn when capital gains tax can impact the sale of shares.
MONEY: Learn when capital gains tax can impact the sale of shares.

ANDREW Heaven, an AMP financial planner at WealthPartners Financial Solutions, tells us about where capital gains tax can apply.

Question: Mum and dad purchased some Australian shares prior to September 1985. My dad died in 2002.

I don't have a copy of his will, but I believe they owned them jointly, and when he died my mum was the beneficiary. She sold her shares last year and sadly died later that year.

The accountant who the estate executor appointed has said they are subject to capital gains tax. Is this correct?

Answer: Broadly, a capital gain is calculated by taking the difference between the sale proceeds you receive and the cost base of the CGT asset.

The cost base of a CGT asset is typically what you paid for it, together with some other costs associated with acquiring, holding and disposing of it.

Assets acquired prior to September 20, 1985 are generally exempt from CGT.

However, when you inherit assets and subsequently dispose of the asset, the CGT treatment will vary depending upon when the asset was originally purchased.

For assets originally acquired prior to September 20, 1985 the cost base of the asset will be set to the value of the asset at the time of death if the assets are retained by the beneficiary.

For assets originally acquired on or after that date, the cost base of the asset will continue to be the original purchase price, including transaction costs, paid by the deceased.

While death itself will not trigger CGT, a capital gain will be assessed when the assets are sold either by the estate or the beneficiary.

The tax liability is determined based on the relevant tax return.

Based on the information you have provided, it appears that your mum would have inherited your father's jointly held shares following his death.

The cost base for these shares she inherited would have been reset to the applicable market value at the date of his death.

As she sold these shares and presumably triggered a capital gain based on the cost base established in 2002, the capital gain on this portion of shares would be assessable.

However, the cost base for your mum's original shares, that is her initial 50% interest, should have remained unchanged following your dad's death.

That is, they should have retained their pre-September 20, 1985 exempt status.

As such, any capital gain made on this portion of the shares sold by your mum should not have been assessable.

The key to managing capital gains is to keep good records of when assets were acquired, by whom, at what price and with what related costs.

Likewise for when assets are inherited and ultimately when they are disposed of.

Q&A with The Coach story first appeared on the WealthParners They can followed on Facebook and Twitter. Any general advice in this story doesn't take account of your personal objectives, financial situation and needs.

Topics:  andrew heaven finance financial advice general-seniors-news investment retirement planning superannuation wealth partners

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