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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
Photo of author, Michael WALPOLE Prof Michael Walpole CTA is the Head of School at the School of Taxation and Business Law (including Atax) in the UNSW Business School. 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 (solicitor and barrister). As a partner in a small firm, Michael's legal practice was extremely varied, ranging from criminal defence, through family law and estate planning, to commercial and taxation matters. 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 he is also author and co-author of a number of articles on GST, taxation of intellectual property, tax administration and taxation compliance costs. 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 is an International Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Business Tax in the Said Business School, University of Oxford. In 2010 and 2012, he was engaged in a project at the Centre for Business Tax to study the role of tax in choices made by large companies when locating valuable intangible property. In 2012, Michael was also a Visiting Professor in the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD in Paris. While at the OECD, Michael worked on research projects related to VAT and to tax compliance costs and he continues to contribute to the work of the CTPA Indirect Taxes division. - Current at 30 May 2017
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