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Take advantage of permitted absences for main residence relief

25 Sep 2023 | BY Claire Critchley

Main residence relief is a valuable relief which prevents a tax charge arising where a gain is realised on the disposal of a property which is your only or main residence. Where a property has been an only or main residence for some but not all of the period of ownership, the gain is sheltered to the extent that it is occupied as an only or main residence or a period of absence was a permitted period of absence. The final nine months are also protected.

Permitted absences

Main residence relief remains available for some periods of absence.

Qualifying absence 1 –  period of three years for any reason

You can be absent from your main residence for up to three years in total without losing main residence relief, as long as both before and after that period of absence, there was a period when the property was your only or main residence. This is a very valuable relief and can be put to good use to shelter some or all of the gain that would otherwise arise when a property has been let, particularly when combined with the exemption for the final nine months of ownership. The three-year period of absence does not have to be continuous – shorter periods of absence also count, as long as they do not exceed three years in total.

Qualifying absence 2 – working abroad

A period of absence where the duties of your employment are all performed abroad or where you live with a spouse or civil partner whose employment duties are all performed abroad counts as a qualifying period of absence, as long as you lived in the property as your only or main residence before working abroad and:

  • you lived in the property as your only or main residence after working abroad;
  • your were unable to resuming living in the property as your only or main residence as the terms of your employment required you to live elsewhere in order to perform the duties of your employment effectively; or
  • you lived with a spouse or civil partner who was required to reside elsewhere to perform the duties of their employment effectively.

Qualifying absence 3 – 4 years living elsewhere due to work

A period or periods of absence not exceeding four years in total during which you were prevented from living in the property as a result of the place of your work or of a condition reasonably imposed by your employer requiring you to work elsewhere to ensure the effective performance of the duties of your employment is a qualifying period of absence, as long as you lived in the property as your only or main residence before working elsewhereand:

  • you lived in the property as your only or main residence after working elsewhere
  • you were unable to resuming living in the property as your only or main residence as the terms of your employment required you to live elsewhere in order to perform the duties of your employment effectively; or
  • you lived with a spouse or civil partner who was required to reside elsewhere to perform the duties of their employment effectively.

Qualifying absence 4 – living with a spouse or civil partner working elsewhere

Where you were prevented from living in your only or main residence because you are living with a spouse or civil partner who is required to live elsewhere because of where their work is situated or because of a condition reasonably imposed by their employer requiring them to live elsewhere in order to perform the duties of their employment effectively, as long as the period or periods of absence do not exceed four years in total, the absence will be a qualifying absence for main residence relief purposes. This is subject to the condition that you lived in the property as your only or main residence prior to the absence and:

  • you lived in the property as your only or main residence after working
  • you were unable to resuming living in the property as your only or main residence as the terms of your employment required you to live elsewhere in order to perform the duties of your employment effectively; or
  • you lived with a spouse or civil partner who was required to reside elsewhere to perform the duties of their employment effectively.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, ss. 222, 223.

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