Status of tax laws

Eames and Commissioner [2018] WASAT 14

The High Court said in 2009 that ‘tax statutes do not form a class of their own’12, even if their fiscal nature is part of the wider context.  Eames (at [66]), however, states categorically that revenue statutes ‘are to be interpreted in a technical manner’. 

As one judge suggested in 2004, tax statutes are ‘technical and frequently complex things’13.  To him, this justified a plain meaning starting-point, even if ‘by and large one is now to approach [them] in the same way as any other statute’14.  These overlapping ideas are difficult to reconcile smoothly. Perhaps they reflect no more than that tax often involves technical legislation enacted in a technical context.

This case is from Episode 36 of interpretationNOW!


12 Alcan [2009] HCA 41 (at [57]), cf De Marco [2013] NSWCA 86 (at [19]).

13 Charles Lloyd [2011] VCAT 1461 (at [17]).

14 Viewbank [2004] VSC 127 (at [50]), Lygon [2007] VSCA 140 (at [48]).