Double tax agreements and the international allocation of business income in Australia

Sadiq, Kerrie (1999) Double tax agreements and the international allocation of business income in Australia. International Trade and Business Law Annual, 4, pp. 147-176.


Increasingly, the effectiveness of the present system of taxation of international businesses is being questioned. The problem associated with the taxation of such businesses is twofold. A system of international taxation must be a fair and equitable system, distributing profits between the relevant jurisdictions and, in doing so, avoiding double taxation. At the same time, the prevention of fiscal evasion must be secured. In an attempt to achieve a fair and equitable system Australia adopts unilateral, bilateral and multilateral measures to avoid double taxation and restrict the avoidance of tax. The first step in ascertaining the international allocation of business income is to consider the taxation of business income according to domestic law, that is, the unilateral measures. The treatment of international business income under the Australian domestic law, that is, the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth) and Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (Cth), will depend on two concepts, first, whether the taxpayer is a resident of Australia and secondly, whether the income is sourced in Australia. After the taxation of business profits has been determined according to domestic law it is necessary to consider the applicability of the bilateral measures, that is, the Double Tax Agreements (DTAs) to which Australia is a party, as the DTAs will override the domestic law where there is any conflict. Australia is a party to 40 DTAs with another seven presently being negotiated. The preamble to Australia's DTAs provides that the purpose of such agreements is 'to conclude an Agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income'. Both purposes, for different reasons, are equally important. It has been said that: The taxpayer hopes the treaty will prevent the double taxation of his income; the tax gatherer hopes the treaty will prevent fiscal evasion; and the politician just hopes. The first purpose, the avoidance of double taxation, is achieved through the provision of rules whereby the Contracting States agree to the classification of income and the allocation of that income to a particular State. In this sense DTAs do not allocate jurisdiction to tax but rather provide an arrangement whereby the States agree to restrict their substantive law. The restriction is either through the non-taxing of the income or via the provision of a tax credit.

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ID Code: 61801
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: No
Keywords: International Tax
ISSN: 1-876213-345
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > ACCOUNTING AUDITING AND ACCOUNTABILITY (150100) > Taxation Accounting (150107)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Taxation Law (180125)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Deposited On: 13 Aug 2013 05:31
Last Modified: 13 Aug 2013 05:31

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