Lewski – Full Federal Court of Australia finds that a trust income declaration that was subject to a tax contingency did not result in an income inclusion to the beneficiary

On June 30, 2006, the trustee of an Australian trust declared a distribution to the taxpayer of all its income for the year then ended and at the same time made a further resolution that in the event the Australian taxation authority denied a deduction to the trust, the trust income for that year was instead to be deemed to have been distributed on the same 2006 date to an alternate beneficiary. This contingency in fact materialized, i.e., the ATO denied a loss carryforward by the trust, so that all the income of the trust for that year was now a material amount. The Court accepted that the further resolution made the distribution declaration contingent, so that it did not cause the (now material) income amount to be included in the taxpayer’s hands as an amount to which she was “presently entitled” on that (June 30, 2006) date.

The taxpayer had delegated the handling of all her affairs to her husband, and did not find out about the purported income distribution until over seven years later, at which point she promptly executed a disclaimer of any interest in the distribution. The Court found that she should be imputed with the knowledge of her agent (her husband), so that she had not promptly disclaimed - so that if (contrary to the finding above) the income distribution to her had otherwise been valid, her purported disclaimer thereof would have been ineffective.

Neal Armstrong. Summaries of Lewski v Commissioner of Taxation, [2017] FCAFC 145 under s. 104(24), s. 248(8)(b) and s. 18(1)(a) – incurring of expense.