Fair in love but not taxation : the English origins of the Australasian general anti-avoidance rule - Part I

For some years, it has been topical in the United Kingdom to discuss whether the UK should introduce a general anti-avoidance rule ("GAAR") for income tax purposes. A famous income tax GAAR in common law jurisdictions is that of Australia and New Zealand. While the UK often looks elsewhere for inspiration in this regard, there would be an acute sense of irony if, upon investigation, it were found that the Australasian GAAR has its origins in English precedents. The impetus for this article was a desire to convince the reader (and perhaps the author) that the origins of the Australasian GAAR do indeed lie, at least indirectly, in the English Tudor subsidies. This article, the first in a two-part series on the English origins of the Australasian GAAR, introduces the Australasian GAAR in the form in which it first appeared in the 1915 Australian federal income tax and divides the GAAR into its various components so that it can more easily be compared with its historical precedents. The article also considers a somewhat related provision making it a criminal offence to wilfully engage in tax avoidance and discusses the English and British precedents that may be viewed as influential in the development of the Australasian GAAR.