Section 54 of Income Tax Act : Capital Gains Exemption on Sale of House

When a taxpayer shifts from one residential house to the other, the intention is not to earn income out of it but to acquire a suitable house. If such a taxpayer is liable to pay income tax on the capital gains on house sale, there would be a hardship for him. Thus, the income tax department has laid down a list of Capital Gain Exemption on the sale of specified assets by the taxpayer. The taxpayer on fulfilling certain conditions can claim such exemptions to reduce their Capital Gains Tax. Exemption under Section 54 of the Income Tax Act is available on Capital Gains on the sale of one residential house property and purchase or construction of another residential house property. The amount of Exemption under Section 54 will be lower of:

  1. The cost of new residential house property
  2. The capital gains on the sale of house property

Who can claim an exemption under Section 54 of Income Tax Act?

A taxpayer can claim an capital gain exemption on sale of house property under Section 54 if he/she satisfies all the below conditions:

  1. The taxpayer must be an Individual or HUF. The benefit of exemption u/s 54 is not available to the company, LLP, or Firm
  2. The asset sold is a Long Term Capital Asset i.e. house property sold after at least 24 months
  3. The asset sold is a Residential House Property. And any income earned from this property was shown under the head “Income From House Property”
  4. A new Residential House is purchased before 1 year or after 2 years from the sale of the residential House Property, or
  5. In case of construction of a new House Property, within 3 years from the sale of the residential House Property
  6. The new residential house should be in India
  7. If the taxpayer purchases or constructs more than one house, the taxpayer can claim an exemption for one house property only
From FY 2019-20, a taxpayer can claim exemption u/s 54 in respect of investment made in 2 residential house properties. However, The exemption for the investment made, by way of purchase or construction, in 2 residential house properties shall be available if the amount of long term capital gains does not exceed Rs. 2 crores. This option can be exercised only once in a lifetime.
Tip
From FY 2019-20, a taxpayer can claim exemption u/s 54 in respect of investment made in 2 residential house properties. However, The exemption for the investment made, by way of purchase or construction, in 2 residential house properties shall be available if the amount of long term capital gains does not exceed Rs. 2 crores. This option can be exercised only once in a lifetime.

The taxpayer can claim the Capital Gains Exemption under Section 54 while filing ITR for that particular financial year. The taxpayer needs to file ITR-2 on the income tax website on or before the due date of 31st July.

What is the amount of exemption available under Section 54 of Income Tax Act?

As mentioned above, the Amount of Exemption under Section 54 will be least of the following:

  1. Cost of the new residential house property OR
  2. Capital Gains arising on the sale of old residential house property (including amount deposited in (Capital Gains Account Scheme)

Example: Ravi sold a house property in FY 2021-22 for Rs. 60,00,000. He has purchased the property in FY 2016-17 for Rs. 30,00,000. And he purchased a new house property worth Rs. 45,00,000 in another city. Ravi will be able to claim a deduction under section 54 as follows:

Particulars Amount
Sales Consideration 60,00,000
Less: Index Cost of Acquisition (30,00,000*317/264) (36,02,272)
Long Term Capital Gains 23,97,728
New House Property Purchase Price 45,00,000
Section 54 Exemption Amount 23,97,728
Refer Index Cost from here.
Index Cost Calculator
You can calculate the Index Cost of acquisition of property from here.
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Index Cost Calculator
You can calculate the Index Cost of acquisition of property from here.
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What happens to Section 54 exemption if the taxpayer sells the new house property?

The lock-in period of 3 years is applicable when the taxpayer claims an exemption under Section 54 of income tax act. And the following situations can arise:

Situation 1:

When the taxpayer sells the new residential house within 3 years from the date of purchase or construction and the cost of the new house purchased is less than Capital Gains.

Consequences: The exemption under Section 54 is withdrawn. And the total sales value of new house property will be taxable as capital gains. Here the cost of acquisition will be NIL.

Situation 2:

When the taxpayer sells the new residential house within 3 years from the date of purchase or construction and the cost of the new house purchased is more than Capital Gains.

Consequences: The exemption under Section 54 is withdrawn. However, the taxpayer will be able to claim the cost of acquisition (Total Purchase Price – Exemption u/s 54) while calculating capital gains.

Situation 3:

When the taxpayer sells the new residential house after 3 years from the date of purchase or construction.

Consequences: The exemption under Section 54 is not withdrawn. A taxpayer will be able to claim the index cost of acquisition while calculating capital gain on sale of house property. The taxpayer must pay income tax on capital gains at the rate of 20%.

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CGAS Scheme for claiming exemption under Section 54

If a taxpayer is unable to utilize the whole or part of the sales consideration for purchase or construction of new property till the due date of submission of ITR, he.she should deposit the funds in the Capital Gains Deposit Account Scheme (CGAS). The taxpayer can claim exemption of amount already spent on construction or purchase of property along with the amount deposited in CGAS.

However, it is important to note that if the taxpayer is unable to utilise the amount deposited in the Capital Gains Account Scheme within the time limit of 3 years, then it shall be taxable as income of the last year.

FAQs

Can I claim an exemption if I buy a new property in the name of my spouse?

No. In order to claim exemption u/s 54, the property that the taxpayer purchases must be in the name of the seller. The exemption is not available if a new property is purchased in the name of the spouse.

Can NRI claim exemption under Section 54 on purchase of a House Property?

Yes, NRI can claim exemption under Section 54 of the Income Tax Act. However, it is mandatory that the old house property sold and new house property purchased is situated in India.

Is exemption allowed if the builder of a property fails to hand it over within 3 years?

Yes. The taxpayer can claim the exemption under Section 54 even when the builder of a property fails to hand over the possession of the property.