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What is Capital Gains Tax?

Updated on February 26, 2021 , 4209 views

In simple words, any profit or gain that arises from the sale of a ‘Capital asset’ is a Capital Gain. Some examples of capital assets can be Land, house property, building, vehicles, trademarks, patents, machinery, jewellery, and Leasehold rights. This profit is considered as Income and thus its attract certain Taxes in the year, which the transfer of the capital asset takes place. This is called as capital gains tax. One should note that capital gains are not applicable when an asset is inherited because there is no selling that is taking place, it is only a transfer. But, the person who inherits the asset decides to sell it out, capital gains tax will be applicable.


Note- The following are not considered capital assets:

  • Stock in trade
  • Personal goods such as clothes and furniture held for personal use
  • 6.5 percent gold bonds, Special Bearer Bonds and National Defence Gold Bonds
  • Agricultural land. The land must not be located within 8kms from a municipality, Municipal Corporation, notified area committee, town committee or a cantonment board with a minimum population of 10,000.
  • Gold Deposit bonds under Gold Deposit Scheme

Type of Capital Gains

Capital gains tax is based on the holding period of the capital asset. There are two categories of capital gains- the Long Term Capital Gain (LTCG) and the Short Term Capital Gain (STCG).

Short Term Capital Gain

Any asset/property which is sold within less than three years of acquisition are considered as short-term assets, hence the profit earned by selling the asset is called to be short-term capital gain.

In shares/equities, if you sell the units before one year of the purchase date, the profit would be considered as the short-term capital gains.

Long Term Capital Gain

Here, the profits earned by selling the property or asset after three years is called as long-term capital gains. In case of equities, LTCG is applicable if the units have been held for at least one year.

Capital assets that are classified as long-term capital assets if the period of holding exceeds 12 months include:

  • Units of UTI & Zero Coupon Bonds
  • Equity shares that are listed on any stock exchange
  • The units of equity oriented Mutual Funds
  • Any listed Debenture or government security

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Tax of Capital Gains in India

The tax rate of capital gains is divided into the short-term capital gains tax and long-term capital gains tax. They are such as-

Tax Rate on Short Term Capital Gains

The short-term capital gain is taxable at the rate of 15 percent +surcharge and education cess. In case of debt mutual fund, STCG is taxed as per individual's tax slab.

Tax Rate on Long Term Capital Gains

As per Union Budget 2018, long-term capital gains exceeding INR 1 lakh arising from the redemption of mutual fund units or equities on or after 1st April 2018, will be taxed at 10 percent (plus cess) or at 10.4 percent. Long-term capital gains till INR 1 lakh will be exempt.

For example, if you earn INR 3 lakhs in combined long-term capital gains from stocks or Mutual Fund investments in a financial year. The taxable LTCGs will be INR 2 lakh (INR 3 lakh - 1 lakh) and tax liability will be INR 20,000(10 per cent of INR 2 lakh).

Capital Gains Tax on Shares/Equity MF

Equity investments attract long-term capital gains if invested for more than 12 months. And if the units are sold before 12 months, short-term capital gains tax will apply.

Following are the taxes applicable-

Equity Schemes Holding Period Tax Rate
Long Term Capital Gains (LTCG) More than 1 Year 10% (with no indexation)*
Short Term Capital Gains (STCG) Less than or equal to a year 15% Tax on Distributed Dividend - 10%#

*Gains up to INR 1 lakh are free of tax. Tax at 10% applies to gains above INR 1 lakh. Earlier rate was 0% cost calculated as closing price on Jan 31, 2018. #Dividend tax of 10% + Surcharge 12% + Cess 4% =11.648% Health & Education Cess of 4% introduced. Earlier, education Cess was 3%.

Capital Gain Tax on Property

Selling a house/property attracts tax and it is charged on the amount gained from the sale and not on the entire amount itself. If a property is sold before 36 months of purchase, the profit would be counted as short-term capital gains, and if the property is sold after 36 months, the profit would be considered as long-term capital gains.

The following rate of capital gains tax is applicable for the property.

Capital Gain Tax Rate on Property
Short Term Capital Gains Tax As per the applicable income tax slab rate
Long term capital Gains 20% with Indexation

Exemptions on Capital Gains Tax

Below is a list of those cases which are exempted from any capital gains tax-

Section Exemption Description
Section 10(37) Compulsory Acquisition of Farm land The land should be used for agriculture
Section 10(38) LTCG arising on transfer of equity shares or units of equity oriented mutual fund The STT should be paid
Section 54 LTCG arising on transfer of residential house property Gain to be re-invested in purchase or construction of one residential house property in India
Section 54B LTCG or STCG arising on transfer of agricultural land Gain to be re-invested for the purchase of agricultural land
Section 54EC LTCG arising on transfer of any capital asset Gain to be reinvested in bonds issued by National Highway Authority of India or by the Rural Electrification Corporation Limited
Section 54F LTCG arising on transfer of any capital asset other than residential house property Net sale consideration to be re-invested in purchase or construction of one residential house property in India
Section 54D Gain arising on transfer of land or building forming part of an industrial undertaking which is compulsorily acquired by Government and was used for an industrial purpose for a period of 2 years prior to its acquisition Gain to be re-invested to acquire land or building for an industrial purpose
Section 54GB LTCG arising on transfer of residential property (a house or a plot of land). The transfer should take place during 1st April’ 2012 and 31st March’ 2017 The net sale consideration should be utilised for subscription in equity shares of an “eligible company”
All efforts have been made to ensure the information provided here is accurate. However, no guarantees are made regarding correctness of data. Please verify with scheme information document before making any investment.
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