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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.

Author profile

Prof Michael Walpole CTA
Prof Michael Walpole is a Professor of Taxation Law in the School of Accounting, Auditing and Taxation (including Atax) at UNSW Business School. Prior to academic life, Michael was variously a Tax Consultant with Ernst & Young, and was in private practice as a legal practitioner. 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 the editor of the Australian Tax Forum and is an International Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Business Tax in the Said Business School, University of Oxford. He has been a visiting Professor at the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration and remains involved in its work on GST/VAT. - Current at 21 December 2020
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