LAWCOMM 779 - Tax Avoidance

This course is held in semester 2 and is worth 15 points.

Course prescription

This course offers an advanced study of all aspects of the general anti-avoidance provision (GAAR) contained in the Income Tax Act 2007. It provides a detailed analysis of the structure, function and application of the general anti-avoidance provision and its relationship to the “black-letter” tax law. Comparisons with the statutory and common law responses to tax avoidance in other jurisdictions, including Australia, Canada, the UK and US, provide a deeper understanding of the policy behind New Zealand’s general anti-avoidance provision.

Programme and course advice

Prerequisite: Selected Applicants with BCom, BCom(hons), LLB, LLB(hons) or similar.

Goals of the course

The paper is an advanced course studying New Zealand’s GAAR. The objectives of the course are to provide students with both a theoretical background and high level of technical knowledge of the scope and application of the most significant aspects of the law and practice of this extremely controversial provision under the Income Tax Act 2007. Where appropriate, a comparison is made with the regimes of our major trading partners, in order to provide a deeper understanding of the policy behind New Zealand’s regime.

The course provides students with an opportunity to increase their research, writing and group presentation skills. The final exam (which is by way of answering a case study) requires students to apply all aspects of avoidance jurisprudence which they have mastered during the course. Emphasis is therefore placed on good analytical skills and presentation of researched, comprehensive and well-reasoned solutions. In addition the course gives the student the opportunity to participate in a group discussion and legal moot which is conducted in a supportive and entertaining environment.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course it is expected that the student will be able to:

  1. Identify and comprehend the major aspects of the GAAR in the Income Tax Act 2007
  2. Analyse the policy and principles underlying this regime
  3. Analyse the application of the GAAR regime to business transactions for the purposes of providing advice and administering the tax system
  4. Demonstrate by synthesis enhanced research, writing and presentation skills

Learning and teaching

Tax avoidance is a mix of lecturing and research and a seminar-based course.

The course will be taught on an intensive basis over 3 days each on:

  • Thurs – Sat, 5th to 7th of September 2019

Times for the sessions each day will be detailed with a course contents schedule but broadly is 9am to 5pm. It is likely that the finishing time for Saturday is earlier than 5pm.

Teaching staff

Professor Julie Cassidy

Office: room 682, OGGB
Tel: 09 923 3918

James Coleman

Tel: 04 473 4511

There may also be a number of guest lecturers presenting throughout the course.

Inquiries on the course should be directed to:

Professional Teaching Fellow
Barnard Hutchinson
Office: room 533: building 810 Faculty of Law
Tel: 9237037

Learning resources

There is no prescribed text but it is essential that students have a copy of the Income Tax Act 2007. A recommended text is the book Tax Avoidance Law in New Zealand by James Coleman (CCH in the latest edition). In preparation of their papers, students will be expected to be able to make use of the appropriate library and internet resources, including but not limited to:

  • New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australian and other case law;
  • Academic journals (held in the Auckland University collections or on Lexis/Nexis);
  • New Zealand Government materials, including:

1. All published New Zealand IRD material
2. New Zealand Government Discussion Documents
3. New Zealand Consultative Committee Documents
4. Statutory material both current and historical

  • Tax treatises

There are a variety of on-line resources available that will assist students in this course. Davis Law Library staff are available to assist students in accessing all on-line materials available.

A course book will be available on line (Canvas) prior to the course. Please endeavour to have read as much as you can.


The final grade for the course is made up by the following:

  • Attendance and Participation in seminars 20%
  • Final take-home exam 80%

Due to the technical nature of the Income Tax Act 2007, the course assessments test research and analytical skills. Each piece of written work requires students to demonstrate knowledge of a number of different regimes of the Act, thereby testing their depth of knowledge and understanding of the underlying policy.

Plussage does not apply.

Attendance and participation

Attendance and participation are worth 20% of the final grade. Allocating marks to class participation reflects the desire to encourage feedback and discussion within the course. Although the course will be taught predominantly in a lecture format, the small size of the class (no more than 20 students) encourages interaction and student participation.

Final exam

At the completion of the course, all students will be required to complete a take-home exam worth 40% of their final grade. The final exam will be the same for all students and will raise a number of issues and topics covered during the course. Students will have two-three weeks to complete the final exam paper.