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Unit of study_

LAWS6177: Tax Treaties

Semester 1, 2020 [Normal evening] - Castlereagh St, Sydney

This unit is designed to study the policy, detailed rules and practical application of Australia's international tax treaties against the background of the OECD Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital. Upon successful completion of this unit a student should have an advanced understanding of the policies underlying the Australian tax treaty position in relation to the taxation of various kinds of income, as well as a detailed knowledge of the law applicable to interpretation of Australia's treaties. The unit includes a study of: principles of tax treaties; interpretation of tax treaties; and selected articles of the OECD Model and Australian tax treaties.

Unit details and rules

Unit code LAWS6177
Academic unit Law
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

It is assumed that students undertaking this unit have an understanding of Australian income taxation law commensurate with that which would be obtained from completing undergraduate study in Australian taxation law or five years working with Australian tax law in a law or accounting practice in an industry role or in the Australian Taxation Office. For students who do not have such knowledge or work experience they first should undertake LAWS6825 Introduction to Australian Business Tax before enrolling in this unit. The completion of LAWS6209 Australian International Taxation will provide students; without such knowledge or work experience; with additional knowledge and skills that will assist in successfully completing this unit.

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Richard Vann,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Small test hurdle task In-class assessment
Open-book test
30% Week 06
Due date: 01 Apr 2020 at 13:08
1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Final exam hurdle task 3,000 word take-home exam
Online take-home exam.
70% Week 10
Due date: 01 May 2020 at 21:00
2.5 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
hurdle task = hurdle task ?

Assessment summary

Assessments will be entirely online. The class quiz will be on 8 April. The quiz will be provided by Canvas from 9am to 9pm and once opened you will have 90 minutes from the time you start to upload your answer which must not exceed 1500 words in total including everything. The exam similarly will available online from 9am to 9pm on 8 May and you will have 150 minutes from the time you start to upload your answer with a word limit of 3000 words in total including everything. In both cases files must be provided in word format.

Assessment criteria


The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

  • Completely answers the question.
  • Contains striking originality of approach or analysis.
  • Demonstrates exhaustive or innovative research (where independent research required).
  • Exceptionally well written, structured and expressed.
  • Is otherwise exceptional in some way.


75 - 84

  • Completely answers the question.
  • Achieves a critical and evaluative approach to the issues.
  • Content and structure is well organised in support of the argument.
  • Demonstrates extensive research and analysis to support a well-documented argument.
  • Generally well expressed and free from errors.
  • Has a clear structure and is well articulated.


65 - 74

  • Covers main issues fairly well in answering the question.
  • Contains no significant errors.
  • Demonstrates an attempted critical approach to the issues.
  • Demonstrates reasonably sound research and analysis in addressing the key issues.
  • Has a clear structure and reasonably clear expression.


50 - 64

  • Identifies the key issues, but does not follow through with a reasoned argument.
  • Contains some significant errors.
  • Displays satisfactory engagement with the key issues.
  • Offers descriptive summary of material relevant to the question.
  • Superficial use of material, and may display a tendency to paraphrase.
  • Demonstrates little evidence of in-depth research or analysis.
  • Adequate expression.
  • Demonstrates the minimum level of competence and satisfies the requirements to proceed to higher-level studies.


0 - 49

  • Does not answer the question.
  • Contains significant or numerous errors.
  • Few or no identifiable arguments.
  • Content that is inappropriate or irrelevant.
  • Lack of research or analysis.
  • Difficult or impossible to understand through poor grammar, expression or structure.
  • Overall, does not demonstrate the minimum level of competence in the assessment.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

The late submission of a piece of assessment, which has not been granted an extension, will attract a penalty of 10% of the total marks available for the piece of assessment per calendar day or part thereof. Late penalties may be waived by the coordinator in this unit of study.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Ongoing Policy, history and context of the OECD and UN Models and the MLI; Implementation and interpretation of tax treaties Lecture (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Taxes covered, Residence, Permanent establishment. Lecture (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Permanent establishment (cont); Australian treaty policy and practice (Australian Treasury) Lecture (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Business profits and associated enterprises; International transport, property, capital gains; Dividends, interest and royalties Lecture (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Dividends, interest and royalties (cont); Employment; Relief of double taxation; Tax treaties and tax avoidance Lecture (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: Please refer to inforamtion on Canvas.

Word count penalty: A piece of assessment which exceeds the prescribed word limit will attract a penalty of 10% of the total marks available for the piece of assessment for every 100 words, or part thereof. The total word count for essay and other written assessments will exclude bibliography; footnote numbers; footnote citation; cover page and include body text; headings and sub-headings; quotations; anything other than numbers and citations in footnotes.

Referencing: The Sydney Law School expects you to use the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (4th edition, 2018) for your footnoting style, although you should confirm this with your lecturer, and a link to the library website where this is set out comprehensively is available at

With the move to online delivery the Law School attendance requirement no longer applies. Students should refer to Canvas for details of class engagement in individual units of study.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

OECD Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital (2017 Condensed Version). This is available from OECD iLibrary via Library databases

UN Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries. The 2017 version is available from the UN website

International Tax Agreements Act 1953 (Agreements Act). Extracts from this Act and overseas legislation about implementing tax treaties are provided in a separate handout available on the unit of study website.

Australia’s tax treaties with China, Germany, Japan, UK and US (including protocol). The Japan and UK treaties were amended by the MLI as at 1 January 2019, but the amendments are only currently in effect for the purposes of withholding tax. Synthesised versions of the treaties as affected by the MLI are expected to be published in the near future. A side-by-side comparison of the treaties (not including MLI amendments) is available as a separate handout on the unit of study website and will be regularly used during the seminars. The prescribed treaties are required reading for each problem. Occasionally the problems indicate that specific provisions of the prescribed treaties are required reading for problems where the relevance of the provisions is not obvious.

Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI) and its Explanatory Statement as well as Australia’s notifications and reservations 

Other required reading is indicated in the reading lists by ASTERISKS. The required reading material largely consists of reports and other materials published by the OECD and the UN as well as case law and is generally available electronically.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. understand the policy underlying the legal rules on taxation covered in this unit of study
  • LO2. have a knowledge of the current legal rules on taxation covered in this unit of study
  • LO3. have the ability to interpret other legal rules on taxation applicable to the area covered by the unit of study, whether current or future
  • LO4. apply the legal rules on taxation covered by this unit of study to practical problems

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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