John Tretola


This article looks at the changing approach that both the Australian High Court and the House of Lords have taken over the last 70 or so years in interpreting taxation legislation. This changing approach reflects underlying changes in community attitudes.

Particular consideration is given to the High Court’s changing interpretation of the general anti‐avoidance provision (formerly s 260 and now Part IVA of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936).

The article focuses on the observations of Justice Graham Hill and his Honour’s views as to the correct approach for a court to take in interpreting taxation legislation. His Honour made it clear that a court should adopt a purposive approach by applying the ordinary meanings of the words used, to give effect to the legislative purpose behind the legislation. This approach requires looking to the context of the legislation in its widest sense to give effect to the objects of the legislation. However, such an approach should not be used to advance any personal theories of justice.

Justice Hill was widely regarded as having been the leading Australian tax judge for more than a decade before his untimely death in 2005.