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Origins of the judicial concept of income in Australia


The Australian judicial concept of income involves a narrow approach which is similar to that taken by the courts in the United Kingdom but which stands in sharp contrast to the much broader approach taken by the courts in the United States. The early Australian income tax statutes, however, sought to tax income under a global statutory structure which can be considered much closer to the global model of federal income tax statutes in the United States than the UK legislation which was based on a schedular structure.

This article traces the introduction of income tax legislation in Australia and early development of Australia's judicial concept of income and finds that the narrow interpretation was by no means a certain outcome at the time. If efforts by the Victorian Commissioner to assess amounts such as legacies, gifts and ex gratia payments had been upheld, an income tax system very different from that which is familiar today may have developed in Australia.

Author profile

Peter Mellor
Peter is a Adjunct Research Fellow and PhD candidate, Taxation Law and Policy Research Institute, Monash University. - Current at 01 October 2010
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