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Set Off and Carry Forward of Losses

After computing and aggregating incomes under various heads, if there is a loss under a head, it can be adjusted against income from other heads in accordance with following provisions:

Intra-head adjustment

If in any year the taxpayer has incurred loss from any source under a particular head of income, then he is allowed to adjust such loss against income from any other source falling under the same head. The process of adjustment of loss from a source under a particular head of income against income from other source under the same head of income is called intra-head adjustment, e.g. Adjustment of loss from business A against profit from business B.

Restrictions on making intra-head adjustment of loss

  1. Loss from speculative business cannot be set off against any income other than income from speculative business. However, non-speculative business loss can be set off against income from speculative business.
  2. Long-term capital loss cannot be set off against any income other than income from long-term capital gain However, short-term capital loss can be set off against long-term or short-term capital gain
  3. No loss can be set off against income from winnings from lotteries, crossword puzzles, race including horse race, card game, and any other game of any sort or from gambling or betting of any form or nature.
  4. Loss from the business of owning and maintaining race horses cannot be set off against any income other than income from the business of owning and maintaining race horses.
  5. Loss from business specified under section 35AD cannot be set off against any other income except income from specified business (section 35AD is applicable in respect of certain specified businesses like setting up a cold chain facility, setting up and operating warehousing facility for storage of agricultural produce, developing and building a housing projects, etc.).

Inter-head adjustment

If in any year, the taxpayer has incurred loss under one head of income and is having income under other head of income, then he can adjust the loss from one head against income from other head. For example, loss under the head of house property can be adjusted against salary income.

Restrictions on making inter-head adjustment of loss

  1. Before making inter-head adjustment, the taxpayer has to first make intra-head adjustment.
  2. Loss from speculative business cannot be set off against any other income. However, non-speculative business loss can be set off against income from speculative business.
  3. Loss under head "Capital gains" cannot be set off against income under other heads of income.
  4. No loss can be set off against income from winnings from lotteries, crossword puzzles, race including horse race, card game, and any other game of any sort or from gambling or betting of any form or nature.
  5. Loss from the business of owning and maintaining race horses cannot be set off against any other income.
  6. Loss from business specified under section 35AD cannot be set off against any other income (section 35AD is applicable in respect of certain specified businesses like setting up a cold chain facility, setting up and operating warehousing facility for storage of agricultural produce, developing and building housing projects, etc.)
  7. Loss from business and profession cannot be set off against income chargeable to tax under the head "Salaries".

Carry forward of unadjusted loss for adjustment in next year

If after making intra-head and inter-head adjustments, still the loss remains unadjusted. Such unadjusted loss can be carried forward to next year for adjustment against subsequent year(s)' income. Separate provisions have been framed under the Income-tax Law for carry forward of loss under different heads of income.

Carry forward and set off of house property loss

If loss under the head "Income from house property" cannot be fully adjusted in the year in which such loss is incurred, then unadjusted loss can be carried forward to next year.

In the subsequent years(s) such loss can be adjusted only against income chargeable to tax under the head "Income from house property".

Such loss can be carried forward for eight years immediately succeeding the year in which the loss is incurred.

Loss under the head "Income from house property" can be carried forward even if the return of income/loss of the year in which loss is incurred is not furnished on or before the due date of furnishing the return, as prescribed under section 139(1).

Carry forward and set off of capital loss

If loss under the head "Capital gains" incurred during a year cannot be adjusted in the same year, then unadjusted capital loss can be carried forward to next year.

In the subsequent year(s), such loss can be adjusted only against income chargeable to tax under the head "Capital gains", however, long-term capital loss can be adjusted only against long-term capital gains. Short-term capital loss can be adjusted against long-term capital gains as well as short-term capital gains.

Such loss can be carried forward for eight years immediately succeeding the year in which the loss is incurred.

Such loss can be can carried forward only if the return of income/loss of the year in which loss is incurred is furnished on or before the due date of furnishing the return, as prescribed under section 139(1).

Carry forward and Set off of Loss from Other Sources

Loss incurred in the activity of owning and maintaining race horses shall be set off only against income, if any, from such activity in that year and the balance if any shall be carried forward to four subsequent years and set off against income, if any, from the same activity.


Carry forward and set off of business loss

Set off of unabsorbed depreciation, unabsorbed capital expenditure on scientific research and unabsorbed capital expenditure on promoting family planning amongst the employees

Depreciation is first deducted from the income chargeable to tax under the head "Profits and gains of business or profession". If such depreciation could not be fully adjusted against such income chargeable to tax in that previous year, the unabsorbed portion shall be added to the amount of depreciation for the following year and shall be deemed to be the part of depreciation for that year(similar treatment would be given to other allowances as mentioned above). However, in the case of set off, following order of priority is to be followed:

  1. First adjustments are to be made for current scientific research expenditure, family planning expenditure and current depreciation.
  2. Second adjustment is to be made for brought forward business loss.
  3. Third adjustments are to be made for unabsorbed depreciation, unabsorbed capital expenditure on scientific research or on family planning.

Carry forward of loss in case of change in the constitution of business

In certain cases of reconstitution of the business like amalgamation, demerger, conversion of proprietary firm into company or conversion of partnership firm into company, etc., the reconstituted entity is entitled to carry forward the unadjusted loss of predecessor entity (provided that conditions specified in this regard are satisfied).

Carry forward of loss in case of retirement of a partner from a partnership firm

Section 78 contains provisions relating to carry forward and set off of loss in case of change in constitution of a partnership firm due to death or retirement of a partner (i.e. when a partner goes out of firm by retirement or death). In such a case, the share of loss attributable to the outgoing partner cannot be carried forward by the firm.

Restriction of section 78 is applicable only in case of loss and is not applicable in case of adjustment of unabsorbed depreciation, unabsorbed capital expenditure on scientific research or family planning expenditure.

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In case of any doubt / clarification, please visit the official website of Income Tax Department.

Updated : Jan 24, 2019
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