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Court declares no trust in $14 million stamp duty dispute

Chris Peadon of New Chambers led by David Thomas SC and instructed by Marsdens Law Firm acted for the successful taxpayer in a long running stamp duty dispute concerning a suite of project development and financing documents for the construction of the suburb of Leppington in Sydney.

The issue was whether one of the suite of documents, namely the Development Rights Agreement, evidenced a declaration of trust over land owned by the taxpayer with a value of $140 million.

The DRA contained a provision where the taxpayer (as landowner) “acknowledged and agreed that [the related entity carrying out the development] has a beneficial and equitable interest in the [land]” and the “Gross Proceeds” of the development project.

Numerous of the transaction documents also contained disclaimers of any equitable or fiduciary or trust relationship.

In February 2017 the Chief Commissioner issued an assessment in excess of $25 million. The assessment was reduced at objection to around $14 million. The assessment was appealed to the NSW Supreme Court in 2021.

Now some 6 years after the initial assessment  Justice Williams of the NSW Supreme Court has found that it should be revoked and that no duty is payable: see Leppington Pastoral Co Pty Ltd v Chief Commissioner of State Revenue [2023] NSWSC 463.

Chris Peadon practices principally in tax law. He is acknowledged as a leading member of the Tax Bar. He advises on both state and Commonwealth taxes.

His recent cases include appearing for taxpayers in the SingTel transfer pricing Full Federal Court appeal, for Lakes Oil NL in an R&D case, and Aurizon in its successful application for declarations concerning $2.4 billion of “share capital”.

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