Will you have to pay tax when you sell your home?

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A For Sale sign in front of a model house



It's not just Maria Miller whose second home could prove something of a headache. New rules could mean that any of the million people in the UK with a second home could end up paying far more tax than they ever expected when they come to sell.

So what is the threat?



New rules

At the moment, you are deemed to live in one home, and then you may have a 'second home'. When you sell your main residence there's no tax to pay, but when you sell your second home you pay capital gains tax at 28% on any profit you make over the annual threshold.

Right now, you can choose which to name as your main property and which to name as your second home. Usually people will designate the most expensive property as their main home - partly because the tax bill will be lower when they come to sell.

However, from April 2015, the government is proposing that the taxman should decide which is the main residence and which is their second home - based on where they spend the most time. For those who divide their time fairly evenly - or who have ended up in a cheaper second property for more time than they were expecting - this could prove very expensive.

Flipping

It's the second financial blow for people with a second home in a matter of days. As the Daily Mail reported, at the beginning of this tax year, the rules changed in order to clamp down on what's known as 'flipping'.

Under the old rules you could own two properties (let's say a one house and one flat), you could live in the house and designate it as your main property, then move into the flat and 'flip' the designation so that the house was now your second property. This would enable you to hang onto them both for three years - and even rent out the house - without being subject to capital gains tax when you sold.

From the beginning of this tax year, the government halved this to 18 months - making it harder for anyone to profit from their second property without facing a tax bill.

Is it fair?

On the one hand you could argue that both of these measures are perfectly fair. The change is designed to stop wealthy people bending the rules in order to reduce their tax liability - by designating a place they hardly use as their main residence. There are those who would say that anyone who can afford more than one property can afford to pay the tax.

However, on the other hand, there will be far less wealthy people swept up with these rules through no fault of their own. As we reported last year, most of them saw their costs increase dramatically in April 2013, when most councils decided to scrap the council tax discount on second homes. These changes could be the nail in the coffin for their second home dreams.

However, there's still a ray of hope for them. A spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs told the Daily Telegraph: "The changes in the election of private residence relief on an individual's main residence are proposals and we are seeking views on how best to implement this change." So now is the time to make your voice heard.