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Interpretation And Avoidance Notes

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Interpretation and Avoidance The interpretation of taxing statutes The traditional approach Styles v Treasurer of Middle Temple

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Wills J I am rather disposed to repudiate the notion of there being any artificial distinction between the rules to be applied to a taxing Act and the rules to be applied to any other Act. I do not think such artificial distinctions can help anybody arrive at the plain meaning of words.

Mangin v IRC

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Lord Donovan The words are to be given their ordinary meaning. They are not to be given some other meaning simply because their object is to frustrate legitimate tax avoidance devices. Moral precepts are not applicable to the interpretation of revenue statutes.

Partington v AG

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Lord Cairns LC If the subject comes within the letter or the law he must be taxed, however great the hardship may appear to be. On the other hand, if the Crown, seeking to recover the tax, cannot bring the subject within the letter of the law, the subject is free, however apparently within the spirit of the law the case might otherwise appear to be. If there be admissible, in any statute, what is called an equitable construction, certainly such a construction is not admissible in a taxing statute, where you can simply adhere to the words of the statute.

Cape Brandy Syndicate

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Rowlatt J In a taxing Act one has to look merely at what is clearly said. There is no room for any intendment. There is no equity about a tax. There is no presumption as to a tax. Nothing is to be read in, nothing is to be implied. One can only look fairly at the language used.

Ramsay v IRC

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Lord Wilberforce A subject is only to be taxed on clear words, not on 'intendment' or on the 'equity' of an Act. Any taxing Act of Parliament is to be construed in accordance with this principle. What are 'clear words' is to be ascertained on normal principles. There may, indeed should, be considered, the context and scheme of the relevant Act as a whole, and its purpose may, indeed should, be regarded.

Wilcox v Smith

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If the Act is ambiguous, the subject is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

R v Winstanely

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Lord Wynford

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If the legislature is not made to speak plain and intelligible language let not individuals suffer, but let the public... if there is any doubt about these words, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the subject.

Adamson v AG

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Lord Warrington of Clyffe It is incumbent upon the Crown to establish that its claim comes within the very word used... if there is any doubt or ambiguity, it can only be remedied by legislation.

Bladnoch Distillery v IRC

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Lord Thankerton If the provision is reasonably capable of two alternative meanings, the courts will prefer the meaning more favourable to the subject.

IRC v Ayrshire Employers Mutual Insurance Assoc

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Lord Simonds It follows that upon an initial assumption in favour of counsel (for the Revenue) the section became meaningless and the hypothetical profit or surplus indeterminable.

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* The legislature has plainly missed fire. Bladnoch Distillery v IRC

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If the provision is so wanting in clarity that no meaning is reasonably clear, the courts will be unable to regard it as of any effect.

Comrs of C & E v Top Ten

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The courts may find themselves so totally unable to draw the line as to decide nothing more than that the subject has not clearly enough been taxed.

Monroe, Intolerable Inquisition

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This appears to be the judge's dilemma. In looking for the meaning of a taxing statute he must reject as indications the purpose of the Act. His eyes must be fixed on the words, and the words alone, which he is called on to construe. If the words are clear, his task is over. He takes them, he applies them; down tumbles the sky, but the rules have been observed. If, however, the words are blurred, if they are not clear, then he may, nay he must, look at the context in which they are found and construe the Act as a whole.

Craven v White

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The purpose does not appear to be of any assistance, for the elaborate provisions of the Act make it clear that the purpose was to tax some people and not others in respect of certain transactions and not others and one can only determine which people and which transactions by looking at the words of the section.

Dealing with tax avoidance The traditional approach

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