Copulatio verborum*

AJ & PA McBride Ltd v FCT [2020] AATA 1909

The taxpayer bought a property with existing ‘fencing assets’.  A $2.74m deduction was claimed for capital expenditure incurred on ‘construction, manufacture, installation or acquisition’ of that fencing11.  The AAT (at [73-77]) denied the deduction. 

Statutory purpose required ‘a fence coming into existence on the land and not just the transfer of an existing fence from one person to another’12.  The AAT applied the Latin maxim, copulatio verborum13 – ‘the linking of words indicates that they should be understood in the same sense’.  This speaks to the modern weight which context has in interpretation14iTip – maxims or ‘rules’ provide soft guidance only15.

This principle is from Episode 63 of interpretation NOW!


* In full – copulatio verborum indicat acceptationem in eodem sensu.

11 s 40-525(4) of ITAA97, cf s 75B of ITAA36, Case W9 88 ATC 178 (at [181]).

12 This would reward conduct beyond that ‘envisaged by the statute’.

13 Dick [2007] NSWCA 190 (at [10-13]), Broome’s Legal Maxims (at 373-374).

14 SAS Trustee [2018] HCA 55 (at [64]), Barnes 41 UNSWLJ 1083 for example.

15 AMMAI [2018] FCAFC 223 (at [79]), Episodes 41 & 51.