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A Conflict of Duty - A Federal Approach to the Tax Treatment of Goodwill and Other Intangibles


This paper focuses on goodwill as a form of intangible property and on one approach to taxing transfers of such property under state and federal taxation law in Australia. It is in the nature of such things that detailed technical analysis of provisions impacting on business must be placed in context. In the complex areas of capital gains tax (CGT), goods and services tax (GST) and stamp duty in Australia the facts are critical to every situation. It is possible to identify trends and outcomes and to generalise a little in order to evaluate the outcomes of tax policy for fairly large groups of taxpayers and parts of the economy.

This article is principally an analysis of the CGT, GST and stamp duty provisions that impact mainly small to medium sized enterprises in the event of a sale of business. The tensions created by the application of the detailed provisions provide interesting ground for analysis of the outcomes from the point of view of federal tax policy.

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Prof Michael Walpole CTA
Photo of author, Michael WALPOLE

Professor Michael Walpole is the Associate Head of School (Research) at the School of Taxation and Business Law (including Atax) in the Australian School of Business.

Michael has a PhD in Taxation Law from the Faculty of Law UNSW. Prior to academic life, Michael worked as a Tax Consultant with Ernst & Young, and prior to that he was in private practice as a legal practitioner. As a partner in a small firm, Michael's legal practice was extremely varied. As an academic he has been awarded the Hill Medal by the Australasian Tax Teachers Association (ATTA) for his contribution to tax teaching and is a past President of ATTA.

Michael has authored and co-authored several books including Proposals for the Reform of the Taxation of Goodwill, Understanding Taxation Law and Compliance Cost Control. Michael has also written and presented many papers on his research topics to practitioner and academic audiences in Australia and overseas. He is co-editor of the Australian Tax Review and he is also author and co-author of a number of articles on GST, taxation of intellectual property, tax administration and taxation compliance costs, especially psychological costs of taxation compliance.

Michael is an International Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Business Tax in the Said Business School, University of Oxford.

- Current at 27 April 2017
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