During the reporting period, our National Tax Practice provided a broad range of dispute resolution and advice services to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
Litigation undertaken on behalf of the ATO included tax appeals, declaratory proceedings, judicial review matters, tax recoveries and insolvency proceedings. These matters involved a number of AGS lawyers, including Catherine Leslie, Stephen Vorreiter and Vera Mitrevska in Sydney and Evan Evagorou in Melbourne.
We represented ATO in a number of significant High Court matters – Bamford v Commissioner of Taxation (a high profile case dealing with the taxation of trust income), Travelex Ltd v Commissioner of Taxation (concerning the GST treatment of foreign currency exchanges), Aid/Watch Incorporated v Commissioner of Taxation (which considered whether the political objects or activities of an organisation result in denial of charitable status for tax purposes) and Bruton Holdings Pty Ltd (In Liq.) v Commissioner of Taxation (dealing with the effect of a statutory garnishee notice served on a company in liquidation) – as well as numerous Full Federal Court appeals.
Some of the major matters conducted during the year concerned the tax treatment of complex arrangements involving large corporate groups including corporate reconstructions, mergers and de-mergers, external and internal financing transactions and infrastructure projects. Other noteworthy cases raised international transfer pricing issues (including SNF (Australia) Pty Ltd v Commissioner of Taxation, the first Federal Court case to consider the substantive application of Division 13 of Part III of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936) or involved the application of the general anti-avoidance provisions contained in various acts.
We also acted for the ATO in relation to a number of matters arising out of the cross-agency Project Wickenby investigation. These involved responding to judicial review challenges, restraining disposal of assets in Australia and overseas jurisdictions and resolution of tax liability disputes.
In addition, our lawyers assisted the ATO in the conduct of ADR procedures in both large and small matters.
We advised the ATO on technical and tax administration questions, including issues arising out of the ATO’s far-reaching Change Program and the use of new mutual assistance procedures for the recovery of foreign revenue claims, and we continue to provide advice and assistance to ATO auditors in the context of specific continuing investigations. We also provided a wide range of training to ATO officers on topics as varied as evidence gathering, civil penalty proceedings, freedom of information, expert evidence and privilege.
This is an extract from the 2009–10 AGS annual report