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Image rights in Australia: Fair game or foul ball?


In today’s world of non-stop digital entertainment, sport, and the cult of celebrity, the names, images, likenesses and personalities of certain people are more valuable than ever before. With such value to be created, and indeed protected, comes a new form of tax mitigation strategy that can be extremely potent when undertaken effectively. This article explores the big business of image rights and image rights structuring in an international and Australian context. The author questions if Australian sports stars and other celebrities can exploit their image rights in the same way their overseas counterparts seem to be doing by examining four ATO private rulings on trusts, personal services income and capital gains tax consequences that occur on the granting of image licences. The author comes to the conclusion that it would seem that image rights structuring is a legitimate and viable tax planning option, notwithstanding the lack of specific legal recognition of image rights themselves.

Author profiles

Stephen Lawrence
Stephen is a Chartered Accountant.
Current at 1 April 2017
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Michael Bennett CTA
Michael is a barrister practicing from 13 Wentworth Chambers in Sydney. He practices in Tax planning (including Superannuation, Estate Planning and Structuring), Federal and State Tax litigation, Commercial litigation and Bankruptcy and Insolvency litigation. From 2006 to 2011, before coming to the Bar, Michael was a solicitor in two boutique SME tax and commercial practices. He was a Judges Associate before that. Michael lectures in tax law in the UNSW Masters of Laws Program. Michael frequently writes for the Tax Institute or other professional bodies and gives presentations for various bodies on the areas in which he practices. - Current at 27 November 2019
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