Trautwein v Federal Commissioner of Taxation: 9 Sep 1936

(High Court of Australia) Latham CJ considered how the Inland Revenue might make an assessment of a taxpayer’s income and said: ‘In the absence of some record in the mind or in the books of the taxpayer, it would often be quite impossible to make a correct assessment. The assessment would necessarily be a guess to some extent and almost certainly inaccurate in fact. There is every reason to assume that the legislature did not intend to confer upon a potential taxpayer the valuable privilege of disqualifying himself in that capacity by the simple and relatively unskilled method of losing either his memory or his books.
The application of section 39 is not, in my opinion, excluded as soon as it is shown that an element in the assessment is a guess and that it is therefore very probably wrong. It is prima facie right – and remains right until the appellant shows that it is wrong. If it were necessary to decide the point I would, as at present advised, be prepared to hold that the taxpayer must ‘at least as a general rule’ go further and show not only negatively that the assessment is wrong, but also positively what correction should be made in order to make it right or more nearly right. I say ‘as a general rule’ because, conceivably, there might be a case where it appeared that the assessment had been made upon no intelligible basis even as an approximation, and the court would then set aside the assessment and remit it to the commissioner for further consideration.’


Latham CJ, Starke, Dixon and Evatt JJ.


[1936] 56 CLR 63, [1936] HCA 77





Cited by:

CitedBi-Flex Caribbean Ltd v Board of Inland Revenue PC 1990
The general burden falls upon a tax payer to provide the information to allow a tax assessment to be made: ‘The element of guess-work and the almost unavoidable inaccuracy in a properly made best of judgment assessment, as the cases have . .
CitedMomin and others v HM Revenue and Customs ChD 15-Jun-2007
The appellants challenged an assessment to income tax, saying that they had not been supported by a bona fide discovery of any loss of tax, and was otherwise unsupported by evidence.
Held: ‘The appellants have over a period of many years . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Taxes Management

Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.267648