• Dec
  • 11
  • 2013

Carry Forward and Set Off of Losses – Income Tax

While one endeavors to derive income, the possibility of incurring losses cannot be ruled out. Based on the principles of natural justice, a set-off should be available for loss incurred. The income tax laws in India recognise this and provide for adjustment and utilisation of the losses. However, there are conditions which have been introduced to prevent misuse of such provisions. 

To the common taxpayer, income tax is a crunch into the income earned. Accordingly, awareness of the relevant provisions pertaining to set off and carry forward of losses is essential in order to maximize tax benefits. The relevant provisions have been summarised here:

A) Set off of loss under the same head of income.(section 70) (Intra-head set off)

Income of a person is computed under five heads. ‘Sources’ of income derived by an individual may be many but yet they could be classified under the same head. For instance, an individual may have a dual employment, yet the income would be classified under the head ‘Salaries’. However, given the mechanism of computing taxable salary income, it would be safe to say that an individual cannot incur losses under this head of income.

Consider a situation where Harsh has two properties – one, occupied by him and the other, let out. Harsh pays interest on loan of Rs 1.50 lakh on the property occupied and derives net rental income of Rs 1.50 lakh from the let-out property. In case of a self-occupied property, income is computed as nil and interest expenditure results in loss. The loss of Rs 1.50 lakh can be set off against rent income of Rs 1.50 lakh; the income chargeable under the head ‘House property’ will be ‘Nil’.

An exception to intra head set off is loss under the head ‘Capital gains’, which may arise from transfer of any capital asset. Long-term capital loss arises from transfer of shares or units where holding period is more than 12 months and in respect of other assets holding period is more than 36 months prior to sale. Transfer of assets held for less than prescribed period results in short-term capital loss. Long-term capital loss cannot be set off against short-term capital gains.

Further, loss incurred from speculation loss (eg. from shares or commodities) cannot be set off against any other income.

Also, it is unlikely that the benefit of set off of loss under an activity or source will be available, where the income from an activity or source is exempt from taxation.

Summary of exceptions to Intra-head set off:

1.    Loss from speculation business cannot be set of against profit from an non speculation business

(Interpretation: Loss from non speculative business can be set-off against speculation income)

2.    LTCL can only be set off against LTCG and cannot be set off against STCG

(Interpretation: STCL can be set off against LTCG)

3.    No loss can be set-off against casual income i.e. Income from lotteries, cross word puzzles, betting gambling and other similar games.

4.    No expenses can be claimed against casual income

5.    Loss from the activity of owning and maintaining race horses cannot be set off against other incomes

6.    Loss from an exempted source cannot be set off

(e.g. Share of loss of firm, agricultural losses, cultivation expenses)

B) Set off Loss from one head against Income from another Head (Inter head set off)

A person may have various sources of income computed under different heads of income. Loss under one head of income is generally allowed to be set off against income under another head.

For instance, X has only one property, which is occupied by him and the loss is Rs 1.50 lakh. He derives salary of Rs 10 lakh during the year. Here, he can set off the loss of Rs 1.50 lakh against his salary income by making appropriate declarations to his employer, thereby making his net taxable income Rs 8.50 lakh.

Certain exceptions to the provisions are that the loss from business or profession cannot be set off against salary income. Capital loss, whether long term or short term, can be set off only against capital gains income.

Where during a given year, there is no sufficient income to absorb the loss, unabsorbed loss can be carried forward and set off against income, in the future years as explained here.

Summary of exceptions to Inter-head set off:

1.    Loss from speculation cannot be set of against any other head.

(Interpretation: Loss from other heads can be set-off against business income.)

For Example: House property loss can be set-off against Speculative Incomes but speculation loss cannot be set off against House property)

2.    Business loss cannot be set-off against salary income. (It can be set-off against other incomes)

3. Loss under the head Capital Gains (LTCL or STCL) cannot be set-off against any other head.

(Interpretation: Loss from other heads can be set-off against Capital Gains)

For Example: HP loss can be set-off against CG but LTCL or STCL cannot be set off against HP

4.    No loss can be set-off against casual income

5.    No expenses can be claimed against casual income

6.    Loss from the activity of owning and maintaining race horses cannot be set off

7.    Loss from an exempted source cannot be set off (e.g. Share of loss of firm, agricultural income, cultivation expenses)

C) Carry forward and set off of losses

Unabsorbed loss under house property, capital loss and business loss can be carried forward for 8 years. Unabsorbed speculation business loss can be carried forward only for a period of 4 years.

Loss can be carried forward and set off even if the business in respect of which it was incurred has been discontinued. However, such loss cannot be set off against income under any other head. An exception exists in respect of unabsorbed depreciation from business which can be set off against any other source of income in the absence of business income and can be carried forward indefinitely, even if the business through which depreciation was incurred has ceased to exist.

Carry forward of losses (other than loss from house property and unabsorbed depreciation) is permissible if the return of income for the year, in which loss is incurred, is filed in time. The late filing of return should not impact the status of carry forward of loss of previous years.

When clubbing provisions apply, loss is required to be clubbed in the same manner as income. Such clubbed loss can be set off and carried forward, as if it is loss determined in the taxpayer’s own case. The successor of business can carry forward and set off the loss of his predecessor, if such succession is by way of inheritance.

In light of the above, taxpayers are advised to be mindful of the relevant provisions and seek guidance, where required, to effectively utilise their losses and achieve optimum tax results.

Conditions in brief related to carry forward and set-off of losses :-

1. Past year losses can be set-off against income from that respective head of income (Inter head adjustment is not possible)

(e. g. Unadjusted loss of HP for the year 2004-05 c/f Rs. 20,000. This loss can be set-off only against HP income of the year 2007-08 and not under any other head)

2. The above rule (1) is not applicable to unabsorbed depreciation, which can be set-off against any other head

3. All losses (Except loss due to owning and maintaining of race horses) can be carried forward and set-off for 8 subsequent financial years following the Previous Year in which such loss arose.

4. Unadjusted loss due to owning and maintaining of race horses can be carried forward and set-off for 4 subsequent financial years following the Previous Year in which such loss arose.

5. Unabsorbed depreciation can be carried forward for an unlimited period.

D) Order of Set-off of losses

In case where profits are insufficient to absorb brought forward losses, current depreciation and current business losses, the same should be deducted in the following order

  • Current scientific research expenditure [Sec. 35(1)].
  • Current depreciation [Sec. 32(1)].
  • Brought forward business losses [Sec. 72(1)].
  • Unabsorbed family planning promotion expenditure [Sec. 36(1)(ix)].
  • Unabsorbed depreciation [Sec. 32(2)].
  • Unabsorbed scientific research capital expenditure [Sec. 35(4)].
  • Unabsorbed development allowance [Sec. 33A(2)(ii)].
  • Unabsorbed investment allowance [Sec. 32A(3)(ii)].

(Republished with Amendments)

38 Responses to “Carry Forward and Set Off of Losses – Income Tax”

  1. Tarak Seta says:

    I Have short term Capital Gain on sale of shares this year and also other Income but total income is below taxable my question is i have short term loss on sale of shares last year this year i have sort term gain but my total income is below taxable it is necessary to set off this year or i carried forward to next year loss which i earn last year

  2. Sayarmal Rekhawat says:

    I had made a short term loss of Rs. 280000/- on sale of Equity shares in F.Y. 2009-10 which i carry forward till date. Now i have made long term profit on sale of property of 285760/- & short term profit on sale of property of Rs. 87500/- both in F.Y. 2013-2014.
    My Query is if above mentioned short term loss on sale of Equity Shares is set off with current year’s long tem profit on sale of Property or not

  3. A Dhar says:

    I am unable to put carry forward loss from house property during pre-construction period in IT Return form using the Java/Excel utility. Can anyone guide me how can I do so.

  4. Ravi Arora says:

    A doctor receives pension & now he is running a hospital and given the First Floor on rent. I want to know that the rental income of the same building & pension can be set off with net loss of the Business or Profession Income.

  5. vinod says:

    I am a salaried person. In 2012 a DDA shop was allotted to me in Delhi. For purchasing it, I took loan from bank for which I am paying Rs.15000/- per month. The shop is lying vacant and there is no income from it till now. On the other hand I am paying installment to bank in which maximum part is interest. Can this loss be set off with my salary income. If yes, how?

  6. hisir says:

    Is it “Mandatory” to submit “Rental agreement” as a landlord to claim “Housing Loan Loss from House Property – letout” for salaried emp?

  7. Rajendra Soni says:

    If someone has positive total income for AY 13-14 but has speculation losses for the year and that person has not filed his return for AY 13-14 within limit of sec. 139(1). even then can he get setoff of the speculation loss in coming years. What is the meaning of words used return of loss at various places does it mean that overall the return should be of that loss or only some losses has to be carried forward though the overall retun has positive total income.
    please advise.

  8. K Baliyan says:

    When house is being constructed, the interest on H loan can not be claimed as deduction- say from salary. Once it is constructed and is in possession, one can deduct home loan interest up to Rs 150000 from Salary income for that year. What about the interest of earlier years when it was not allowed to be deducted? can one still deduct part of that against salary income?
    But the law says that losses carried forward can be set off against income from same head (here house income)?
    Please enlighten.

  9. renu says:


  10. Praveen says:

    Whether according to Section 71(2) losses under the Head Income from House Property can be sett of with Income earned under head Capital Gain

  11. sachin kumar d says:


  12. Virendra Agrahari says:

    Nice and very useful. Thanks

  13. Prachi says:

    Thank you so much

  14. Abhishek says:

    during previous year 2011-12,Mr Ghosh has income frm house property Rs 210,000 and loss from profession Rs.130,000.
    He wants to set off loss from profession to d extent of Rs. 30,000 only so that he don’t need to pay any tax and carry forward the balance of loss of profession..
    Can Mr.Ghosh do so..??

  15. Hema Bhanushali says:

    Please give solution of following case:-
    Mr. X has salary income he invested that income in some pvt company initially he earned interest out of amount invested in company. Now Company Goes into Liquidation & it’s not able to Pay amount Paid. Can Mr. X claim Loss of amount invested under other sources of income

  16. deepak aggarwal says:

    i want all the updates of taxation through messages . if it is available in taxguru . pl inform me

  17. deepak aggarwal says:

    k .mittal
    your loss is a loss from other sources . if u r not dng the business of purchase or sale of securities. nd u can carry forward upto 8 yrs

  18. deepak aggarwal says:

    Dear Nancy,
    other losses can be setoff against the capital gain income

  19. deepak aggarwal says:

    the topics available on taxguru is vry helpful & useful. it provides all the required topics in one place .thanks to taxguru .

  20. k.mittal says:

    Tax guro i was invested rs. 100000/ in equity shares of listed companey in 2007. but now companey has closed how maney years i can carrey forwared my lose. [ 4, 8 or 10 years] . if your reply in my mail i shall be highly thankfully toyou.

  21. Nancy sHAH says:


  22. K Nand Kishore says:

    could have been much better if the relevant facts are explained by more such examples

  23. Sahim Ekbal Laskar says:

    thanks, its an useful material for learners but it will be more valuable if illustration is attached herewith.

  24. swetha says:


  25. kunal says:

    i am very very thankful to u. u given me a best knowledg.
    again thanks a lot.

  26. Amit says:

    Very useful & precise article.

    Thanks a lot.

  27. Sapna says:

    Nice and very useful. Thanks

  28. RT says:

    It is one of the most precise and simple to understand articles on basics of set off that I have read.In short it is carry fwd and set off in a nut shell…

  29. Pranay says:

    nice article to get basic knowledge for set off & carry forward of losses.

  30. Sandeep Arora says:

    Usefull information.Better if yourgoodself can provide illustration along with the facts.
    Thanks and regards
    Sandeep Arora.

  31. bhautik says:

    thank u for useful information provided

    giveon line solution

  32. Usama says:

    very use ful for income tax students

  33. Vijaya says:

    Thank you. Very timely article for me.

  34. Manoj Pasari says:

    The article is useful. However,
    what would be the sequenace of adjustment for 35AD deduction that was introduced in last budget?

  35. Vidya says:

    Thanks to all for this valuable resource on set-off and carry forward of losses..

  36. Tarun Garg says:

    i thank taxguru for such useful messages…

  37. Vasudeva Prasad says:

    useful message . Thank you.

  38. Sanjeev says:

    I really thank you guys for coming up with such topics which are basics and very important for tax planning.

    Thanks for your efforts

    Best Regards,

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