South Australia v Commonwealth (“First Uniform Tax case”) [1942] HCA 14 | 23 July 1942

ON 23 JULY 1942, the High Court of Australia delivered South Australia v Commonwealth (“First Uniform Tax case”) [1942] HCA 14; (1942) 65 CLR 373 (23 July 1942).

The Commonwealth passed four Acts

  • Income Tax Act 1942, which imposed income tax as high as 90 percent, leaving no room for additional state income tax.
  • States Grants Act 1942, allowing grants to states who did not impose income tax.
  • Section 221 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1942, requiring Commonwealth taxes to be paid before state taxes.
  • the Income Tax (Wartime Arrangements) Act 1942, requiring the states to transfer to the Commonwealth all tax collection officers, offices, equipment and records.

The effect of the four acts was to put an end to the end of state income taxes.

The Act was challenged in the High Court by South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. The Court dismissed the actions, holding that the four pieces of legislation were valid.

The solicitor for the Commonwealth was Fred Whitlam, the father of the Honourable Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC, Prime Minister of Australia from 1972 to 1975.


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