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Identifying the supply for GST purposes


The GST, like all value-added taxes, is a tax fundamentally on commerce. It is more concerned with immediate dealings in tangible objects and observable services and less concerned with an analysis of the rights arising and discharged in the course of the transaction. The general approach to the interpretation of the A New Tax System (Goods and Services) Tax Act 1999 is therefore one that requires the legislation to be interpreted in a practical or business-oriented way that is not unduly technical. Recently, the High Court has, in four cases, reversed the decisions of the Full Federal Court in relation to the nature of the “taxable supply” in contest. This has led to a perception that the High Court has rejected the “practical business tax” approach in favour of an approach grounded in close legal analysis of the events in question. This article rejects this perception and questions what the real nature of the transactions were in those four cases, and whether there was a supply at all.

Author profile

Anthony Slater
Tony Slater QC, FTIA, has represented both taxpayers and the Commissioner in GST disputes in appellate courts, from the time the tax was introduced. Many of the cases in which he has appeared have concerned the scope of the “supply” on which GST is levied. He is a longstanding member of the Institute and a frequent speaker at its conferences. - Current at 21 October 2016
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