Below is a listing of appeals heard by the Supreme Court of South Australia in relation to payroll tax matters since May 1980.
Date of Decision
16 October 2019
The appeal against a decision of a Judge (The Honourable Justice Blue) of the Supreme Court dismissing an appeal against the disallowance of an objection which refused to recognise South Australian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated (“Business SA”) as exempt from payroll tax under the charitable purpose exemption in section 48 of the Payroll Tax Act 2009 and declined to order a refund of payroll tax paid was unanimously dismissed.
In dismissing Business SA’s appeal, The Honourable Chief Justice Kourakis, The Honourable Justice Stanley and The Honourable Justice Parker of The Full Court of The Supreme Court of South Australia held:
The meaning of the term “trade and commerce” is extremely broad, and its participants include businesses, workers, consumers and governments. The interests of businesses, workers and consumers will not always coincide. The interests of business are not entirely synonymous with the advancement of trade and commerce. Blue J did not err by drawing a false dichotomy between the advancements of the interests of business and the advancement of trade and commerce. The first and second fundamental errors alleged by Business SA are not made out.
Where an institution carries on many diverse activities, it will often be necessary at a preliminary stage of the analysis for a judge to divide the functions or activities into discrete but coherent groups. The approach taken by Blue J was both appropriate and necessary because Business SA carried out a very diverse range of activities. After Blue J determined whether or not the activity carried on by each functional grouping had a charitable purpose, Blue J proceeded to consider the situation on an overall or holistic basis. The third fundamental error alleged by Business SA is not made out.
The ultimate questions to be decided by the Court were, first, what are the primary or principle purposes of the appellant and, secondly, are those purposes charitable. The first question was a matter of fact to be decided after a careful assessment of the evidence. The second question was a matter of law to be decided by the Court.
What the President and Chief Executive Officer of Business SA thought about the second question was irrelevant. Even if the evidence of the President/Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer was admissible in relation to the first question, what they considered to be the primary or principle purposes of Business SA could carry very little weight in comparison to the large volume of documentary evidence concerning the activities of Business SA and the statements it made about its purposes. Blue J did not err in declining to admit the evidence of those witnesses concerning the purposes for which Business SA carried out its activities.
The facts identified by Blue J provided compelling grounds to distinguish Re Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia Inc v Commissioner of State Revenue (2012) 89 ATR 797. Blue J did not err in distinguishing that case.
Business is only one of several groups that participate in trade and commerce. A function of or activity that promotes the interests of business may not necessarily advance trade and commerce. The authorities demonstrate the need to avoid conflating the charitable purpose of promoting trade and commerce with the purpose of advancing the interests of business. Blue J was correct to distinguish the charitable purpose of advancing trade and commerce from a purpose of promoting the interests of business.
Business SA’s contention that business should be recognised as falling within the fourth Pemsel class is rejected. Its acceptance would effectively abandon the clear distinction drawn in the authorities between the advancement of the personal and private interests of business and the public benefit of the promotion of trade and commerce.
PAYROLL TAX – Payroll Tax Act 2009 - exemption for charities – charitable purposes – other purposes beneficial to public – non-charitable purposes – economic and commercial purposes
The appeal against the decision of the Minister for Finance to disallow the objection by the South Australian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated (“Business SA”) to a decision made by the Commissioner of State Taxation was dismissed.
In dismissing Business SA’s appeal, the Honourable Justice Blue held:
To be a charitable purpose within the meaning of Section 48 of the Payroll Tax Act 2009 (the “PTA”) and under the general law, a purpose must be to provide a public benefit as opposed to a private advantage or benefit and it must fall within a recognised category of charitable purpose by reference to principle and authority.
For the purpose of Section 48 of the PTA, the purpose of an institution governed by a board of directors is to be ascertained by reference to the institution’s objects, the institution’s activities, the institution’s communications to members and what is said and done at board meetings. The subjective internal state of mind of individual directors not communicated to the board is irrelevant.
To comprise a dominant purpose within the meaning of Section 48 of the PTA, the purpose must be the ruling, prevailing or most influential purpose. A charitable institution can have a non-charitable purpose provided that it is incidental to the charitable purpose. It can have a non-charitable purpose independent of its charitable purpose, but it must be so minor that the charitable purpose remains the ruling, prevailing or most influential purpose.
Business SA has failed to prove that, on a stand-alone basis, its policy advocacy, member services or commercial services activities are undertaken for the purpose of advancing trade and commerce in South Australia.
Business SA has proved that, on a stand-alone basis, its dominant purpose in undertaking its subsidised programs and apprenticeship activities is to advance trade and commerce in South Australia.
On a holistic assessment, Business SA has not proved that its dominant purpose is to advance trade and commerce in South Australia.
For the purpose of Sub-Section 48(2) of the PTA, the reference to “work of a kind ordinarily performed” is a reference to work of a kind ordinarily performed by charitable institutions having the same charitable purpose as the institution characterised at the appropriate level of generality or specificity.
If Business SA had proved that its dominant purpose is to advance trade and commerce in South Australia, it is likely that it would also have established that all wages were paid to persons engaged exclusively in and for performing work of a kind ordinarily performed in connection with its charitable purpose. However, it is not necessary or appropriate to decide that question on a hypothetical basis.
PAYROLL TAX – Payroll Tax Act 2009 - exemption for charities – charitable purposes – other purposes beneficial to public – non-charitable purposes – economic and commercial purposes – work of a kind ordinarily performed
Appeal dismissed - Appeal is a de novo hearing - Legal test under Section 18I(1) of the Pay-roll Tax Act 1971 (SA) involves the satisfaction of two broad tests before appellant can be severed from group - Both tests must be satisfied in relation to each business carried out by each member of the group - There is no satisfaction that the business carried on by the appellant is not substantially connected with the businesses carried on by the other four group members - Not necessary to consider the independence test.
PAYROLL TAX - Grouping - Discretion to de-group members of a payroll tax group – Section 18I(1) of the Pay-roll Tax Act 1971 (SA) - Carried on substantially independently of - Not substantially connected with.
Appeal allowed – The taxpayers constituted a group under section 18c(a) of the Pay-roll Tax Act 1971 - Section 18C(b) also operated to constitute the taxpayers as a group - Section 18I directs attention in particular to the ownership and control of the two businesses and to the nature of the businesses, which is taken to be a reference to the activities comprising the businesses. The interrelation of business activities, and participation by a person in a position of influence in one business, in the management and decision making of the other business were considered to be relevant matters - Neither practice company should be excluded from the group.
PAYROLL TAX - Pay-roll Tax Act 1971 - Arrangements affecting liability to tax - Grouping provisions - Group of companies and businesses - Common control - Exclusion from group - Whether supplying labour to company in group - Whether performing duties solely for or in connection with a business carried on by practice company - Whether substantially independent of and not substantially connected with other businesses - Exclusion.
The Commissioner erred, that the appeal should be allowed and that the assessment or assessments should be revoked.
PAYROLL TAX - Pay-roll Tax Act 1971 - Wages - Payment of money to a superannuation fund - Setting apart of money as a superannuation fund - Amounts credited by the trustee of a superannuation fund to the accounts of members of the fund.
Appeal allowed - Assessments of the Commissioner of State Taxation restored - Respondent had level of control of that of employer, agreement created by respondent could not designate the type of relationship - The interviewers were employees and therefore the payments made to them are wages.
Appeal dismissed - The critical question in the case is whether the change in the basis of remuneration, which occurred on 1st February 1971, and the consequential changes in the appellant’s methods of operation also changed the status of the salesmen from that of 'employee' to 'independent contractor'.
PAYROLL TAX – Pay-roll Tax Act 1971 - Wages paid to an employee - Whether land salesmen were employees or independent contractors.
Appeal dismissed - Repromed cannot satisfy the requirement that the institution is not conducted for individual profit or gain, therefore not a public benevolent institution.
PAYROLL TAX - Pay-roll Tax Act 1971 - Employer is a provider of health services - Appeal from refusal of Treasurer to allow exemption - Whether employer is "public benevolent institution" - Whether employer provides health services "otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain" - Whether exempt.