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Australian Taxation Law

Commonwealth Legislation

By virtue of s 55 of the Australian Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament must ensure that the laws imposing taxes deal only with the imposition of taxes and deal with one subject of tax only. As a result, there are multiple statutes at the Commonwealth level, each imposing and regulating one subject of tax - for example, income tax, excise duties, customs duties, goods and services tax, fringe benefits tax, luxury car tax, wine equalisation tax and other indirect taxes. For each subject of tax, there are usually an imposition Act (which imposes the liability for tax), a rates Act (which specifies the rate of tax) and an assessment Act (which contains the rules to work out what is subject to tax and to calculate the tax payable). 

The main Commonwealth Acts concern:

  • the payment of income tax by individuals and companies - the principal legislation is the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (ITAA 1936) and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (ITAA 1997), and the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986. 
    • The 1997 ITAA was originally intended to replace the 1936 ITAA, but both Acts still operate concurrently.
    • The 1997 ITAA includes the capital gains tax rules, as gains are assessable income.
  • the payment of goods and services tax - A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 (the GST Act).

To see ALL Commonwealth tax legislation, use SAI Global's Lawlex (open access):

> Select 'Browse Legislation'

> Uncheck all jurisdictions except CTH

> Select 'Taxation' from the Category drop-down menu

> Select a subcategory and then click the Browse button.

From the page for each Act, you can link to the full text on the Commonwealth official legislation website, the Federal Register of Legislation (open access), from where you can see historical versions of the Act, as well as the Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and the Second Reading Speech introducing the Bill. 

Annotated (Section by Section) Commonwealth Acts

Annotated Acts include up-to-date information about amendments, repeals and historical notes that identify the timing and wording of amendments. Some of the following annotators also include cases and authoritative commentary.

State and Territory Legislation

The power of the States and Territories to tax is limited by the Australian Constitution (see the Starting Your Research section in this guide), so to ensure sufficient levels of revenue, these jurisdictions impose other taxes. The three key State and Territory tax regimes are Stamp Duty, Land Tax and Payroll Tax. See an overview of these three taxes on the ATO website.


Each of the eight State and Territory jurisdictions has its own powers to impose taxes, so jurisdiction-specific rules apply, and the taxes are administered by revenue authorities pursuant to their own tax administration legislation. The State and Territory revenue authorities are listed below, with links to all of their taxing legislation on their official legislation websites, and in some cases to their revenue rulings and cases.


To find all State and Territory tax and duties Acts and Regulations, use the open access part of SAI Global's Lawlex:

> Select 'Browse Legislation'

> Tick the jurisdictions you want to search (e.g. to search stamp duty for all states and territories, tick all except CTH)

> Select 'Taxation' from the category drop-down menu

> Select 'Stamp duty' as a subcategory and then click Browse.

From the page for each Act, you can link to the full text on the official legislation website for that jurisdiction, and also see historical versions of the Act, as well as the Bill, Explanatory Statement or Memorandum and the Second Reading Speech introducing the Bill. 

Local Government Legislation

The local government sector is a statutory creation of the States and derives its powers from State and Northern Territory legislation. The Australian Capital Territory has no local governmentsState and NT legislation give powers to local governments (city and shire/regional councils) to impose rates on property. This power is contained in the following State and NT local government Acts:


New South Wales


Northern Territory




South Australia






Western Australia