Capital Gains Tax

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax

Quick Summary of Capital Gains Tax

A capital gains tax is one levied on the difference between the sale and purchase price of an investment, assuming the difference is a profitable one.

What is the dictionary definition of Capital Gains Tax?

Dictionary Definition

A capital gains tax (abbreviated: CGT) is a tax charged on capital gains, the profit realized on the sale of a non-inventory asset that was purchased at a lower price. The most common capital gains are realized from the sale of stocks, bonds, precious metals and property. Not all countries implement a capital gains tax and most have different rates of taxation for individuals and corporations.

For equities, an example of a popular and liquid asset, each national or state legislation, have a large array of fiscal obligations that must be respected regarding capital gains. Taxes are charged by the state over the transactions, dividends and capital gains on the stock market. However, these fiscal obligations may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction because, among other reasons, it could be assumed that taxation is already incorporated into the stock price through the different taxes companies pay to the state, or that tax free stock market operations are useful to boost economic growth.

Full Definition of Capital Gains Tax

Capital gains are subject to capital gains tax.

A capital gain is the profit earned by selling capital assets (stocks, bonds, real estate) for more than the original purchase price. The amount of capital gains tax depends upon whether the asset is sold short-term (less than one year) or long-term (more than one year). An investor’s federal tax bracket determines what percentage of capital gains tax is applied. Long-term capital gains tax are subject to a lower rate than short-term gain. Capital gains tax on short-term gains are taxed like regular income. New and changing laws make capital gains tax a complex issue. Something to remember – certain types of long-term gains (collectables, for one) are subject to a different rate of capital gains tax than real estate or certain other assets.

The exact rate of taxation depends on the holding period of the asset.

Short-Term Capital Gains Tax

The short-term capital gains tax applies to investments held for fewer than 366 days. The short-term capital gains tax is currently 35%, compared to a ceiling of 15% for long-term capital gains.

Long-Term Capital Gains Tax

The long-term capital gains tax applies to any investment held for at least 366 days. The top rate for capital gains tax is currently 15% in the United States, compared to 35% for short-term capital gains tax.


There is no capital gains tax charged in Argentina.


Capital gains tax in Australia is only payable upon realized capital gains, except for certain provisions relating to deferred-interest debt such as zero-coupon bonds. The tax is not separate in its own right but forms part of the income tax system. The proceeds of an asset sold less its ‘cost base’ (the original cost plus addition for cost price increases over time) are the capital gain. Discounts and other concessions apply to certain taxpayers in varying circumstances. From the 21st of September 1999, after a report by Alan Reynolds the 50% capital gains tax discount has been in place for individuals and some trusts that acquired the asset after that time, however, the tax is levied without any adjustment to the cost base for inflation. The amount left after applying the discount is added to the assessable income of the taxpayer for that financial year.

For individuals, the most significant exemption is the family home. The sale of personal residential property is normally exempt from Capital Gains Tax, except for gains realized during any period in which the property was not being used as your personal residence (for example, being leased to other tenants) or portions attributable to business use.


There is no capital gains tax in Belgium.


Capital gains tax is set at 15%.


There is no capital gains tax in Bulgaria.


Currently, 50% of capital gains are taxed in Canada at the general rate. (ie $100 CG with a 30% tax rate will attract $15 of tax.) Some exceptions apply, such as selling one’s primary residence which may be exempt from taxation.


Flat 20% of capital gains taxed with traded equities being exempt.


Share dividends and realized capital gains on shares are charged 28% to individuals of gains up to DKK 45,500 (2007-level, adjusted annually), and at 43% of gains above that. As of 1 January 2008, an additional marginal rate of 45% will apply to gains above DKK 100,000 (2007-level, adjusted annually) per year. Carryforward of realized losses on shares is allowed.

Individuals’ interest income from bank deposits and bonds, realized gains on property and other capital gains are taxed up to 59%, however, several exemptions occur, such as on selling one’s principal private residence or on gains on selling bonds. Interest paid on loans is deductible, although in case the net capital income is negative, only approx. 33% of tax credit applies.

Companies are taxed at 25%. However, for instance, realized gains on shares owned more than three years are tax-exempt and only 66% of share dividends are subject to taxation. Carryforward of realized losses on shares owned less than three years is allowed.


Ecuador does not have capital gains tax for income gained abroad.


The capital gains tax in Finland is 28% on realized capital income.


Capital gains tax is a flat 16%, with an annual exclusion or allowance of €5600. Residents pay an additional 11.6% ‘Social Charges’, non-residents are not liable to this, there is a 15-year taper relief. However, in some specific situation tax can be reduced or eliminated (such as selling one’s principal private residence).


There is currently no capital gains tax after a holding period of one year for shares (if held in a private account not in a corporate account and if the holding is less than 1% of the outstanding number of shares of the company) or ten years for real estate if held as private wealth (less than 3 transactions every ten years). Germany will introduce a very strict capital gains tax for shares, funds, certificates etc. from 2009 on. Real estate will still be free of capital gains tax if held for more than ten years. The German capital gains tax will be 25% plus Solidaritätszuschlag (add on tax to finance the 5 eastern states of Germany) plus church tax effectively coming to about 28%. No deductions of cost like custodian fees, travelling to and from annual shareholder meetings, legal and tax advice, interest paid on loans to buy shares etc. will be allowed any more from 2009 on.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has no capital gains tax. This creates a loophole in the law whereby company directors can be paid in shares and stock options. As no tax is due on the capital gains, such individuals are able to avoid paying large amounts of tax which would otherwise have been due on their salaries, whereas corporation tax would be due on their company profits. However, salaries tax would be due on the open market value of the shares and options granted, less any amount that the individual paid for the grant.


Since 1st of September 2006, there is one flat tax rate (20%) on capital income. This includes: selling stocks, bonds, mutual funds shares and also interests from bank deposits.


In Iceland, there is a 10% tax on realised capital gains.


As of 2007, equities are considered long term capital if the holding period is one year or more. Long term capital gains from equities are not taxed. However short term capital gain from equities held for less than one year, is taxed at 10% (plus surcharge and education cess). This is applicable only for transactions that attract Securities Transaction Tax (STT).

Many other capital investments (house, buildings, real estate, bank deposits) are considered long term if the holding period is 3 or more years. Short term capital gains are taxed just as any other income and they can be negated against short term capital loss from the same business.

Entity Short Term Capital Gains Tax Long Term Capital Gains Tax
Individuals (resident and non-residents) Progressive slab rates 20% with indexation, 10% without indexation (for units/zero-coupon bonds)
Partnerships (resident and non-resident) 30% 20% with indexation, 10% without indexation (for units/zero-coupon bonds)
Overseas financial organisations 40% (corporate), 30% (non-corporate) 10%
Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) 30% 10%
Other Foreign Companies 40% 20% with indexation, 10% without indexation (for units/zero-coupon bonds)
Local Authority 30% 20% with indexation, 10% without indexation (for units/zero-coupon bonds)
Co-operative societies (resident and non-residents) Progressive slab rates 20% with indexation, 10% without indexation (for units/zero-coupon bonds)


There is a flat 20% on capital gains, with several exclusions and deductions (e.g. agricultural land, primary residence).


Capital gains are taxed at a flat 12.5%.


In Japan, there are two options for paying tax on capital gains. The first, Withholding Tax (源泉課税), taxes all proceeds (regardless of profit or loss) at 1.05%. The second method, declaring proceeds as “taxable income” (申告所得), requires individuals to declare 26% of proceeds on their income tax statement.

Many traders in Japan use both systems, declaring profits on the Withholding Tax system and losses as taxable income, minimizing the amount of income tax paid.


There is no capital gains tax for equities in Malaysia. Malaysia used to have a capital gains tax on real estate but the tax was repealed in April 2007.


There is no capital gains tax in Mexico.


There is no capital gains tax in the Netherlands.

However, a “theoretical capital yield” of 4% is taxed at a rate of 30%.

In other words, all property and savings (with the exception of owner-occupied dwelling, pensions, approved “green” investments and monies below a certain threshold) are taxed at 1.2% as a substitute for capital gains tax.

Also, dividends and “proceeds from significant stakes” (e.g. ownership of a company) are taxed.

New Zealand

New Zealand does not have a capital gains tax in most cases. However, certain capital gains are classified as taxable income in New Zealand and thus are subject to income tax, such as regular share trading.


The individual capital gains tax in Norway is 28%. In most cases, there is no capital gains tax on profits from sale of your principal home. There is no capital gains tax for share-based profits for companies in Norway (capital gains excluding gains from property, bonds, and interest). Personal investment companies are popular for this reason, as well as single-purpose companies for property investments.


Since 2004 there is one flat tax rate (19%) on capital income. It includes: selling stocks, bonds, mutual funds shares and also interests from bank deposits.


There is a capital gains tax on the sale of home and property. Any capital gain (mais-valia) arising is taxable as income. For residents, this is on a sliding scale from 12-40%. However, for residents, the taxable gain is reduced by 50%. Proven costs that have increased the value during the last five years can be deducted. For non-residents, the capital gain is taxed at a uniform rate of 25%. The capital gain which arises on the sale of own homes or residences, which are the elected main residence of the taxpayer or his family, is tax-free if the total profit on sale is reinvested in the acquisition of another home, own residence or building plot in Portugal.

In 1986 and 1987 Portuguese corporations changed their capital structure by increasing the weight of equity capital. This was particularly notorious on quoted companies. In these two years, the government set up a large number of tax incentives to promote equity capital and to encourage the quotation on the stock exchange. Currently, for stock held for more than twelve months, the capital gain is exempt. The capital gain of stock held for shorter periods of time is taxable on 10%.


The capital gains tax in Russia is 13% for tax residents and 30% for non-residents. A tax resident is any individual residing in the Russian Federation for more than 183 days in the past year.


There is no capital gains tax in Singapore.

South Korea

Capital gains tax in South Korea is 11% for tax residents for sales of shares in small- and medium-sized companies. Rates of 22% and 33% apply in certain other situations.


The capital gains tax in Sweden is 30% on realized capital income.


There is no capital gains tax in Switzerland for residents. Corporate capital gains are taxed as ordinary income. Capital gains tax is charged to individuals on the sale of property.


There is no separate capital gains tax in Thailand. All earned income from capital gains is taxed the same as regular income. However, if an individual earns capital gain from security in the Stock Exchange of Thailand, it is exempted from personal income tax.

United Kingdom

All individuals are exempt from CGT up to a specified amount of capital gains per year. For the 2007/8 tax year this “annual exemption” was £9,200.

Individuals who are resident or ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom (and trustees of various trusts) are subject to a capital gains tax, with exceptions for, for example, principal private residences, holdings in ISAs or gilts. Every individual has an annual capital gains tax allowance: gains below the allowance are exempt from tax, and capital losses can be set against capital gains in other holdings before taxation. Individuals pay capital gains tax at their highest marginal rate of income tax (0%, 10%, 22% or 40% in the tax year 2007/8) but since 6 April 1998 have been able to claim a taper relief which reduces the amount of a gain that is subject to capital gains tax (reducing the effective rate of tax), depending on whether the asset is a “business asset” or a “non-business asset” and the length of the period of ownership. Taper relief provides up to a 60% reduction in taxable gains for an individual. Taper relief replaces indexation allowance for individuals, which can still be claimed for assets held prior to 6 April 1998 from the date of purchase until that date.

A taxpayer is exempt from CGT on his/her principal private residence and on the sale of private motor vehicles. Certain other gains are allowed to be rolled over upon re-investment. Investments in some start-up enterprises are also exempt from CGT. The sale of a family business can be exempt from CGT upon retirement.

Companies are subject to corporation tax on their “chargeable gains” (the amounts of which are calculated along the lines of capital gains tax). Companies cannot claim taper relief, but can claim an indexation allowance to offset the effect of inflation. A corporate substantial shareholdings exemption was introduced on 1 April 2002 for holdings of 10% or more of the shares in another company (30% or more for shares held by a life assurance company’s long-term insurance fund). This is effectively a form of UK participation exemption. Almost all of the corporation tax raised on chargeable gains is paid by life assurance companies taxed on the I minus E basis.

The rules governing the taxation of capital gains in the United Kingdom for individuals and companies are contained in the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992.

In the Chancellor’s October 2007 Autumn Statement, draft proposals were announced that would change the applicable rates of CGT as of 6 April 2008. Under these proposals, an individual’s annual exemption will continue but taper relief will cease and a single rate of capital gains tax at 18% will be applied to chargeable gains. This new single rate would replace the individual’s marginal (Income Tax) rate of tax for CGT purposes. The changes were introduced, at least in part, because the UK government felt that private equity firms were making excessive profits by benefiting from overly generous taper relief on business assets. The changes were criticised by a number of groups including the Federation of Small Businesses, who claimed that the new rules would increase the CGT liability of small businesses and discourage entrepreneurship in the UK. At the time of the proposals, there was concern that the changes would lead to a bulk selling of assets just before the start of the 2008-09 tax year to benefit from existing taper relief.

United States

In the United States, individuals and corporations pay income tax on the net total of all their capital gains just as they do on other sorts of income, but the tax rate for individuals is lower on “long-term capital gains,” which are gains on assets that had been held for over one year before being sold. The tax rate on long-term gains was reduced in 2003 to 15%, or to 5% for individuals in the lowest two income tax brackets (See progressive tax). Short-term capital gains are taxed at a higher rate: the ordinary income tax rate. The reduced 15% tax rate on eligible dividends and capital gains, previously scheduled to expire in 2008, has been extended through 2010 as a result of the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act signed into law by President Bush on May 17, 2006 (P.L. 109-222). In 2011 these reduced tax rates will “sunset,” or revert to the rates in effect before 2003, which were generally 20%.

The IRS allows for individuals to defer capital gains taxes with tax planning strategies such as the Structured sale (Ensured Instalment Sale), charitable trust (CRT), instalment sale, private annuity trust, and a 1031 exchange. The United States is unlike other countries in that its citizens are subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income no matter where in the world they reside. U.S. citizens, therefore, find it difficult to take advantage of personal tax havens. Although there are some offshore bank accounts that advertise as tax havens, U.S. law requires reporting of income from those accounts and failure to do so constitutes tax evasion.

Deferring Or Reducing Capital Gains Tax

Capital gains tax can be deferred or reduced if a seller utilizes the proper sales method and/or deferral technique. There are many such sales techniques and methods, each of which has its benefits and drawbacks. See some ways to defer and/or reduce capital gains tax below.

Related Phrases

Capital gains
Tax rate

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Definition Sources

Definitions for Capital Gains Tax are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 11th August, 2022 | 0 Views.