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Hill on tax treaties and interpretation


This article examines the interpretation practice of Justice Graham Hill for statutes and treaties, with a particular emphasis on tax treaties. Reflecting his apparent impatience with broad generalities about the process and the exact source and nature of the law on interpretation, it carries out a deconstruction of the “rules” in the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. It then turns to consider how in tax treaty interpretation he related text, context, policy, history and the fact that treaties are negotiated texts, what extrinsic material he used in interpretation and why, and whether there are substantive principles involved. It concludes with discussion of some Delphic asides in his judgments and the lessons to be learnt, particularly by government, from his approach to interpretation of tax treaties.

Author profile

Prof Richard Vann CTA
Prof Richard Vann, CTA, is Challis Professor of Law at the University of Sydney and a Consultant at Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills. He has also taught at NYU Law School, Harvard Law School and the University of London. He has held many government consultancies in Australia, including the Review of Business Taxation (1998 - 1999), the Review of International Taxation (2002 - 2003) and the Australian Taxation Office Public Rulings Panels on international and indirect taxation (1995-2007). Most recently, he has been involved in various Board of Taxation work on managed investment trusts and collective investment vehicles, the attribution of profits to permanent establishments and as a member of Treasury’s BEPS Advisory Group. Richard is the Editor-in-Chief of the IBFD Global Tax Treaties Commentaries now being progressively published. - Current at 14 July 2017
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