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Unit of study_

LAWS6177: Tax Treaties

Intensive April, 2024 [Block mode] - Camperdown/Darlington, 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. Further information about this unit is available in the Sydney Law School timetable, unit of study outline and academic staff profile

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 Michael Dirkis,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Supervised exam
Final exam (60%)
On-Campus, handwritten exam
60% May exam week 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Participation Structured class participation (10%)
Leading class discussion
10% Ongoing Ongoing
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Small test In-class test (30%)
Hand written in-class test
30% Week -02
Due date: 22 Mar 2024 at 14:00
1 hour
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment (Optional) Capstone outline (0%)
500-word topic proposal by email to the unit coordinator
0% Week -02
Due date: 08 Mar 2024 at 17:00

Closing date: 22 Mar 2024
500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Assignment (Optional) Capstone essay (60%)
(Optional) Capstone essay (60%)
0% Week 09
Due date: 13 May 2024 at 17:00

Closing date: 27 May 2024
7000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

Structured class participation (10%) – Students will lead the class discussion for one session. This will be allocated on Day 1 and are required to lead the class discussion under the lecturer's questioning. They will be assessed against Class Participation Assessment Rubric.
Students who are unable to make their allocated class must apply for Special Consideration. A failure to lead the class discussion in the allocated class will result in 0/10 for this assessment and may lead to an Absent Fail grade.

The outcome of a successful special consideration application is an alternative assessment, such as a viva voca (oral test), that has been designed to meet the same learning outcomes. 

In-class test (30%) – The test will begin at 2.00pm on 22 March 2024 Sydney, Australia time. It will be an open book test (hard copy/printed materials only, no electronic devices) in the form of problem style questions. It is a handwritten pen and paper test. You will have 1 hour of writing time plus 15 minutes of reading time to prepare your responses. The outcome of a successful special consideration application is a replacement test. The replacement test may be delivered via an alternative assessment, such as a viva voce (oral test), that has been designed to meet the same learning outcomes as the original test. The format of the alternative assessment will be determined by the unit coordinator.

Final exam (60%) – The Final Exam will be held on-campus and supervised. It will be an open book exam (hard copy/printed materials only, no electronic devices) in the form of problem style questions. It is a handwritten pen and paper test. You will have 2 hours of writing time plus 30 minutes of reading time to prepare your responses. The outcome of a successful special consideration application is a replacement test that may be delivered via an alternative assessment, such as a viva voce (oral test), that has been designed to meet the same learning outcomes as the original test. The format of the alternative assessment will be determined by the unit coordinator.

This final exam will be taking place during the May exam week commencing Monday 13 May 2024 Sydney, Australia time. The exam timetable will be released by the Exams Office in due course. For further information, please refer to the Exam Timetable:

(Optional) Capstone Proposal and Essay: - 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. 

Students wishing to take up this option are required to submit a 500-word topic proposal by email to the unit coordinator by 5.00pm on 8 March 2024 Sydney, Australia time. A copy of the approval email must be kept and included with the submission.  

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 Capstone Essay will replace the final exam which is worth 60% of your marks for the unit. The Capstone Essay must be 7000 words and is due at 5.00pm on 13 May 2024 Sydney, Australia time.

An oral defence of the Capstone will be held within two weeks of submission. The final mark will be determined taking into account both the written material and the oral defence.  

The total word count for the Capstone essay will include all headings, footnotes and any bibliography etc. No penalty will apply if you exceed the word limit but any words beyond this limit will NOT be read or marked.

Use of editors or proof-readers: The use of automated writing tools in respect of the capstone (including translation software, grammar checkers, reference generators and artificial intelligence) is NOT permitted.

Special consideration: Successful grants of Special Consideration may involve alternative tasks, as appropriate.  

Assessment requirements to pass a unit of study: A student must make a genuine attempt at all assessment tasks set out in this Unit of Study in order to obtain a Pass mark and grade (or above); otherwise an Absent Fail grade will be recorded as the student’s result for this Unit of Study. 

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2021 (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:

Test and exam: Late penalties do not apply to exams and tests and any late submission will not be accepted. Capstone essay: Late submission without an approved extension, will attract a penalty of 10% of the total marks available for the piece of assessment per 24 hours or part thereof, after the due time on the due date. For example, a submission after the due time but before the same time the following day will attract a 10% penalty.

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.

Support for students

The Support for Students Policy 2023 reflects the University’s commitment to supporting students in their academic journey and making the University safe for students. It is important that you read and understand this policy so that you are familiar with the range of support services available to you and understand how to engage with them.

The University uses email as its primary source of communication with students who need support under the Support for Students Policy 2023. Make sure you check your University email regularly and respond to any communications received from the University.

Learning resources and detailed information about weekly assessment and learning activities can be accessed via Canvas. It is essential that you visit your unit of study Canvas site to ensure you are up to date with all of your tasks.

If you are having difficulties completing your studies, or are feeling unsure about your progress, we are here to help. You can access the support services offered by the University at any time:

Support and Services (including health and wellbeing services, financial support and learning support)
Course planning and administration
Meet with an Academic Adviser

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Policy, history and context of the OECD and UN Models Seminar (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Taxes covered and definitions, particularly resident and permanent establishment Seminar (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Business and investment income Seminar (6 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 02 Services related income Seminar (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Relief of double taxation, fiscally transparent entities, saving clause, administrative cooperation, treaty abuse Seminar (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: All students are required to attend at least 70% of classes to satisfy the pass requirements for each unit of study. Failure to meet this requirement may result in a student being precluded from sitting the final assessment. 

For units offered in Intensive mode, participation in all scheduled sessions may be expected by a Unit Coordinator in order to satisfy the requirements of the unit. 

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 Referencing and Citation Styles: AGLC4  

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

  1. C. John Taylor, et al, Australian International Income Taxation: Policy, Principles and Practice (1st ed, 2021) Thomson Reuters, Sydney, (available as an eBook), Ch 6, pp 339-491
  2. OECD Model Tax Convention on Income and on Capital (2017 Condensed Version) (OECD Model). This is available from OECD iLibrary via Library databases
  3. UN Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries (UN Model). The 2022 version is available from the UN website 
  4. International Tax Agreements Act 1953 (Agreements Act). Extracts from this Act are provided in a separate handout available on the unit of study website.
  5. Australia’s tax treaties with China, Germany, Japan, UK and US (including protocol). The China, Japan and UK treaties have been amended by the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI). A side-by-side comparison of the treaties is available as a separate handout on the unit of study website. 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.

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. Critically analyse the detailed rules and underlying policies applied to tax treaties.
  • LO2. Create and substantiate/justify analyses of the current legal rules on taxation
  • LO3. Evaluate the efficacy of current taxation rules and propose viable alternatives.
  • LO4. Apply legal rules on taxation to resolve complex legal and taxation scenarios.

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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