Statutory definitions (again)

FCT v Auctus Resources [2021] FCAFC 39

The term ‘administrative overpayment’ is defined to mean ‘an amount that the Commissioner has paid to a person by mistake, being an amount to which the person is not entitled’10.  Does choice of the adjective ‘administrative’ exert any influence over the meaning of the definition?  The natural answer is ‘yes’, but the High Court is against this for circuity reasons11.

The court pointed to decisions at odds with the High Court12  and made 3 points – (1) the High Court cases do not ‘lay down an inflexible rule’, (2) circular reasoning here is not illogical or inappropriate, and (3) ‘it will not always be the case that the defined term cannot affect the meaning of the definition’.

This principle is from Episode 71 of interpretation NOW!


10 s 8AAZN(3) of Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth).

11 Wacal (1978) 140 CLR 503 (at 507), Shin (1994) 181 CLR 404 (at 419).

12 (at [65-67]), Barangaroo [2014] NSWCA 279, Singh [2020] NSWCA 152.