Capital gains tax is mainly charged on profits realised from the disposal of assets. If you buy a house for £100,000 and sell it 5 years later for £150,000, you may have to pay capital gains tax on the “profit” of £50,000.
You don’t have to sell the asset to have a capital gain – tax will still be payable if you simply give it away. For example, if the house was bought by Mr & Mrs Smith for their son to live in while at university, and they decide to give it to him as a graduation present, they may find that they have a tax bill, even though there are no sale proceeds to pay it from.
With careful planning, you can avoid unexpected bills, or at least make them smaller. The key is to think ahead, and to take advice when you first acquire the asset, not only when you dispose of it. Main residence relief, which applies to the house you live in as your main residence, can also apply to your holiday home. Trusts can be used to avoid or to defer tax charges and even simple planning techniques, such as a transfer of assets between spouses or civil partners can significantly reduce the tax bill.