What is Capital Gain?

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Capital gains are the profits that you earn when you sell an asset for more than its purchase price. In India, such gains are subject to taxation, which necessitates a deeper understanding of what they are and how they affect your finances. From defining the capital gain meaning to explaining Capital Gains Tax in India, we will cover all the essentials in this blog post. Whether you are a seasoned investor or new to the game, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to navigate the complexities of capital gains wisely.


What is Capital Gain?

At its core, a capital gain is the difference between the selling price and the purchase price of an asset. This can include anything from property to stocks to patents. In India, the profit from the sale of these assets is not just mixed into your income; it’s taxed under a distinct heading: ‘Capital Gains Tax‘. Understanding this tax is crucial for all Indian residents engaging in the sale of assets. 

The amount of tax you pay depends on how long you’ve held the asset. If it’s under a certain period (usually less than 36 months for property and 12 months for shares), it’s a ‘Short-term Capital Gain‘, taxed at a higher rate. If you hold the asset for longer, it becomes a ‘Long-term Capital Gain’, which enjoys a lower tax rate. Knowing about capital gains is crucial because it influences your investment returns. 

In India, there are also opportunities to save on taxes if you reinvest your gains in specific ways. So, understanding capital gains is not just about knowing your taxes; it’s about smart financial planning to maximise what you keep from your sales.

Understanding Capital Assets

Capital assets are widely defined in India as any property held by an individual, whether related to their business or personal use. The spectrum of capital assets spans from physical assets such as real estate and jewellery to non-physical ones like intellectual property. There are exceptions to what constitutes a capital asset, such as consumable goods, agricultural land in rural areas, and certain government-issued bonds.

Types of Capital Gain

  1. Short-term Capital Gains (STCG): These gains arise when you sell an asset within a short holding period. The duration that constitutes ‘short-term’ varies: for assets like property, it’s within 36 months; for shares and securities, it’s 12 months. The tax rate for STCG is generally higher and is added to your income, being taxed at the applicable income tax slab rates.
  2. Long-term Capital Gains(LTCG): When an asset is held for a more extended period before selling, the profit is categorised as long-term. This period is more than 36 months for most assets and more than 12 months for shares and securities. LTCG benefits from a lower tax rate, recognising the investor’s commitment. Moreover, indexation benefits (adjusting the purchase price for inflation) are available, which can significantly reduce the taxable amount.
  3. Equity and Debt Instruments: The classification for STCG and LTCG also applies to equity and debt instruments. However, equity investments in stocks or mutual funds that are subject to Securities Transaction Tax (STT) and are held for more than 12 months fall under LTCG and are taxed differently.
  4. Real Estate: The period for classifying gains from real estate as long-term was reduced to 24 months from FY 2017-18 onwards. This incentivises investment in real estate by offering a quicker route to the benefits of long-term capital gains.

Additional read: Capital Gain Index

Computation of Capital Gains

To calculate capital gains, you need to be familiar with the following terms:

  1. Full Value Consideration: The total amount received or accruing from the transfer of the capital asset.
  2. Cost of Acquisition: The value for which the capital asset was originally purchased, including expenses directly related to the purchase.
  3. Cost of Improvement: Costs incurred in making any additions or improvements to the capital asset.
  4. Indexed Cost of Acquisition and Improvement: The cost of acquisition/improvement adjusted for inflation. This is calculated using the Cost Inflation Index (CII) provided by the tax authorities.

The capital gains are calculated as follows:

STCG = Full Value of Consideration − (Cost of Acquisition + Cost of Improvement + Transfer Expenses)

LTCG = Full Value of Consideration − (Indexed Cost of Acquisition + Indexed Cost of Improvement + Transfer Expenses)

Tax Exemptions on Capital Gains

Several exemptions are offered under Indian tax law to minimise the tax burden on capital gains:

  1. Investment in Residential Property: Section 54 provides exemptions when reinvesting capital gains from residential property into another residential property.
  2. Investment in Capital Gains Bonds: As per Section 54EC, capital gains reinvested into certain bonds within six months of the transfer are exempt.
  3. Investment in New Asset Class: Under Section 54F, exemptions are provided when long-term capital gains from the sale of any asset other than a residential house are reinvested into a residential property.

Additional Read: Capital Gains Exemption


Capital gains tax can appear complex, but with a clear understanding, it can be navigated successfully. Recognising the different types of gains and how they are taxed is vital for effective financial planning. Remember, the Indian taxation system offers various options for exemptions and benefits; you just need to know where to look. By seeking professional advice when needed, you can optimise your investments and minimise your tax liabilities. 

Disclaimer: Investments in the securities market are subject to market risk, read all related documents carefully before investing.

This content is for educational purposes only. Click here for RA Disclaimers

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