Tax warning for separating spouses

Tax warning for separating spouses

From April 2020 separating spouses will have to carefully consider the financial implications of moving out of the family home pending reaching a financial agreement. Currently, if a spouse moves out of the family home they have 18 months within which to sell or transfer the property to the other spouse before Capital Gains Tax becomes chargeable.

However, under the new rules that timeframe will reduce to nine months. This is a significant reduction which will impact countless families. If spouses are embroiled in financial remedy court proceedings, it is highly likely that one party may have left the family home rather than live in the same property during the process. If the spouses cannot reach an agreement and the matter proceeds to a final hearing, it is very unlikely that the case will run from start to finish within the nine month timeframe meaning that the spouse who has left the property could end up with a capital gains tax charge.

Even if the couple are not involved in court proceedings and are trying to reach an agreement directly or with the assistance of solicitors, they still run the risk of falling outside the new shorter time frame if one spouse has moved out towards the beginning of the process. It may take time for an agreement to be reached and if that agreement includes a sale of the property, further time will be spent formalising the agreement into a court order and for the property to then be marketed for the sale and for that sale to complete. It is not unforeseeable that the whole process could take longer than nine months.

This leaves the unattractive option of advising spouses, who may be happy to leave the family home to make home life easier for the family, to stay put to avoid a tax bill if it is likely that the process is going to exceed nine months, and in many cases it invariably will. This is at odds with most family solicitors trying to ensure the divorce process is as amicable and stress-free as it can be. It is therefore imperative to take advice at an early stage of the separation process to ensure you are aware of all of your options.