Noel Whittaker tells John how he can minimise his tax

Noel Whittaker explains the CGT implications of a plan to subdivide.

Smart ways John can minimise tax

Noel Whittaker explains the capital gains tax implications of John’s residence and his block of land now that council rules have changed to allow for sub-division.


Q. John
YourLifeChoices recently had an article on the repercussions for the Age Pension of owning a house on several hectares. I’d like to know the tax repercussions.

About 26 years ago, we bought 20 hectares and built a house on it. We have lived in it ever since. When we bought it, council rules did not allow it to be subdivided. When I inquired last year I was told it can now be divided in half. Can you explain the tax liabilities?

A: Julia Hartman, of National Accountants Group Ban Tacs, says that you are only allowed to cover two hectares with your main residence exemption so the capital gain on the rest of the property will be subject to capital gains tax (CGT).

The costs associated with the property and the selling price will need to be apportioned. Other than the land under the dwelling, you are allowed to choose what pieces of the land you cover with the main residence exemption providing the area has been used for private purposes.

This is where some planning comes in. A segment of the property might be a flood-prone swamp that may have been worthless when you bought the property and still is. Put that in the 18 hectares that is exposed to CGT.

A valuer could find parts of the land to have gone up in value more than the rest because, for example, a neighbour has cleared their land and you now have views from there. Consider that for your main residence exemption.

Expose to CGT an area that you have wasted a lot of money on, such as stables you built that have now fallen into disrepair. Include these in the area exposed to CGT and add the cost of the stables to the cost base.

Fortunately, it sounds like you bought the property after 20 August 1991, so you will be entitled to increase the cost base by holding costs under section 110-25(4) ITAA 1997. This could even include slashing costs, rates, interest, etc.

Don’t let the fact that you do not have receipts put you off. A record is what is required and under section 121-30(1) ITAA 1997, you could try to argue for exemption: that it was reasonable for you to expect that the gain was going to be ‘disregarded’ under the main residence exemption. 

If you would like to know more, here is an article I wrote on this subject several years ago. Please note that if you decide to subdivide and sell off half the block, there is a lot more to consider. You need to get advice first.

Do you have a question you’d like Noel to tackle? Email us at

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature, and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions.


    Financial disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.


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    Old Geezer
    13th Nov 2018
    That answer is not correct.
    13th Nov 2018
    A retired National Party MP or retired accountant? Starting to look good OG.
    It will be an interesting read though as this is something I may not have paid attention to and need to. Thanks.
    double j
    13th Nov 2018
    I agree with OG , maybe the property is or can be operated as a business and the 15 year/ selling for retirement rule may allow exemption from Captial gains !!
    13th Nov 2018
    So avoiding paying tax in a case like this is all fine and dandy, but woe betide anyone using other 'perfectly legal' methods to reduce their tax burden especially if they happen to earn more than the 'pension'!

    Double standards much?

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