Skip to main content
Unit of study_

LAWS6177: Tax Treaties

Semester 1b, 2022 [Block mode] - Remote

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
Assignment Essay (40%)
Essay question
0% Mid-semester break
Due date: 22 Apr 2022 at 16:00
3000 words / 10 days
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Final exam (Take-home short release) Type D final exam Final exam (60%)
Final exam (3000wd)
0% Week 13
Due date: 23 May 2022 at 14:00
2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Assignment Optional capstone essay (60%)
Capstone essay in lieu of exam
0% Week 13
Due date: 23 May 2022 at 17:00
7500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Proposal for optional capstone essay
Proposal for Capstone essay, non-weighted
0% Week 13
Due date: 19 Apr 2022 at 17:00
200 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Type D final exam = Type D final exam ?

Assessment summary

Essay (40%) – Each participant is required to submit an essay, worth 40%. The essay will consist of a written answer covering material from Topics 1-5 and raise policy and technical issues concerning recent or proposed amendments to the OECD Model. The essay will cover all four learning outcomes - the nature of the material automatically involves learning LO1 and LO3 (Policy and alternatives to current rules) and will ask if and how the proposed rules will work in one or more practical situations compared to current rules (LO2 and LO4). Essay topic will be released at 9:00am on Tuesday 12 April 2022 and it is due by 4:00pm on Friday 22 April 2022, Sydney Australia time. The maximum length of the assignment is 3000 words. The outcome of a successful special consideration application is extension of time.

Final exam (60%) – The final exam (60%) will be released at 2:00pm on Monday 23 May 2022 and is due by 4:30pm on the same day, Sydney Australia time. The total duration of the final exam is 2 hours and 30 minutes (including 30 minutes reading time). The exam will be in the form of a mixture of problem style and/or essay style questions.  There is a strict word limit of 3000 words for this exam. Any words in excess of 3000 will not be read or marked. All materials and topics from the unit are examinable. Late submissions are not permitted. The outcome of a successful special consideration application is a replacement exam. The replacement exam may be delivered via an alternative assessment, such as a viva voce (oral exam), that has been designed to meet the same learning outcomes as the original exam. The format of the alternative assessment will be determined by the unit coordinator.

Capstone essay (60%) (optional, in lieu of exam, with permission)

LLM students who are undertaking this unit towards the end of their degree, and need a capstone experience to complete their degree, must apply to the unit coordinator to undertake the assessment option of a Capstone Essay.

The Capstone Essay will replace the final exam and be worth 60% of your marks for the unit. The Capstone Essay must be 7,500 words and is due at 5:00pm on Monday 23 May 2022, Sydney Australia time

Students wishing to take up this option are required to submit a 200-word topic proposal by email to Professor Richard Vann by 5:00pm on Tuesday 19 April 2022, Sydney Australia time.  After obtaining the approval from Professor Vann, students should complete the Capstone Essay form and upload the approval email.

Your essay topic should respond to the material covered in the present unit. However, at the same time, in order to serve as a capstone for your LLM, it should build upon the learning that has taken place during your LLM studies more generally.

The outcome of a successful special consideration application is extension of time.

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:

For Assignment (40%) and Capstone Essay (60%): 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. For final exam (60%): Please refer to Assessment Summary.

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 Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Implementation and interpretation of tax treaties (Article 3) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Taxes covered (Article 2) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Residence (Articles 1, 4) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Permanent establishment (Article 5) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Business profits and associated enterprises (Articles 7, 9) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
International transport, property, capital gains (Articles 6, 8, 13) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Dividends, interest and royalties (Articles 10, 11, 12) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Enterprise and employment services (Articles 5, 12, 14, 15) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Relief of double taxation (Articles 21, 23) Seminar (2.25 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Tax treaties and tax avoidance (Article 29) Seminar (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: All students are required to attend 70% of classes (or as otherwise specified by the Unit Coordinator) to satisfy the pass requirements for each unit of study. Attendance requirements may be satisfied by online attendance as specified by the Unit Coordinator. Failure to meet this requirement may result in a student being precluded from sitting the final assessment.

Word count penalty: Any words in excess of prescrubed word limit will not be read or marked. 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

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 on 1 January 2019. A side-by-side comparison of the treaties 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. identify and critically assess the policies underlying the legal rules on taxation covered in this unit of study
  • LO2. interpret the current legal rules on taxation covered in this unit of study and justify your analysis
  • LO3. evaluate and suggest alternatives to the current legal rules on taxation covered in this unit of study
  • LO4. apply the current 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.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.