Decision Impact Statement
Condell v Commissioner of Taxation
 FCACC 44
2007 ATC 4404
66 ATR 100
Venue: Full Federal Court
Venue Reference No: QUD 349 of 2006
Judgment date: 28 March 2007
Appeals on foot:
Applicant withdrew special leave application on 31 October 2007
Administrative Treatment (Implication on current Public Rulings and Determinations)
TR 2003/8: Income Tax: distribution of property by companies to shareholders - amount to be included in assessable income
in-specie distribution of shares
whether paid wholly out of profits derived
This document is not a public ruling, but provides a statement of the Commissioner's position in relation to the decision and how the law will be administered as a consequence of the decision. Any proposals for changes in the law are matters for government and it is not appropriate for the Commissioner to comment.
HP paid a dividend by way of an in specie distribution of shares in its subsidiary to its shareholders. The Full Court found that the dividend was paid wholly out of profits although the market value of the shares (approx $29 billion) exceeded the amount debited to HP's books of account (US$4.2 billion).
Favourable. Appeal dismissed by majority (Kenny and Allsop JJ) with Gyles J dissenting
Brief Summary of Facts
1. Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) was incorporated in the United States. The respondent was a shareholder.
2. On 2 March 1999, HP announced its intention to effect a demerger of its test and measurement semiconductor products, chemical analysis and healthcare solutions businesses ("discontinued operations").
3. On 12 August 1999, HP entered into a Master Separation & Distribution Agreement ("Separation Agreement") with Agilent Technologies Inc (Agilent), then a wholly owned subsidiary of HP.
4. On 1 November 1999, pursuant to the Separation Agreement HP transferred assets and liabilities of the discontinued operations to Agilent.
5. On 18 November 1999, Agilent launched an initial public offering of 15.9% of its common stock (the "IPO"). Thereafter HP's shares in Agilent represented approximately 84.1% of Agilent's common stock. Pursuant to the Separation Agreement, Agilent transferred the net proceeds of the IPO to HP by way of a dividend distribution.
6. On 7 April 2000, HP declared a stock dividend of substantially all of its shares in Agilent. The dividend was distributed on 2 June 2000 to HP shareholders on record as of 2 May 2000. 1327 shares in Agilent were distributed as a dividend by HP to the respondent. The market value of the respondent's shares, as at 2 June 2000, was $168,961, based on a market price for Agilent shares of US$77.0068 per share and an exchange rate of US$0.6048.
7. The market value of the total distribution was approximately $29 billion which HP accounted for by eliminating the net assets of the discontinued operations and reducing retained earnings by $4.2 billion.
Issues decided by the Court
The issue before the Court was whether the dividend, paid by HP to its shareholders by way of a distribution of in-specie shares in its subsidiary, Agilent, was paid wholly out of profits derived by HP in circumstances where the market value of the distribution greatly exceeded the amount debited to retained earnings.
The majority held the distribution was paid wholly out of profits. The correct perspective to determine the source of the distribution is from the point of view of HP: Slater Holdings . The source identified by HP was its retained earnings account. The "discrepancy [between the market value of the shares and the amount debited to the retained earnings account] did not represent any inadequacy, error or lack of truth and fairness in the accounts. Rather, the shares in Agilent and the assets that were transferred to Agilent had been carried in Hewlett Packard's accounts at less than current market value. That wholly unremarkable state of affairs did not alter the fact that from the point of view of Hewlett-Packard the distribution of the shares had its source in retained earnings. ... The shares were distributed out of a profit account. That was the complete explanation given by Hewlett-Packard for the distribution of the shares and the extent of the adjustment in the accounts does not, in our view, require a further explanation of the source of that additional value to understand what, from the company's perspective, is the source of the distribution of the shares."
Tax Office view of Decision
The majority judgment aligns with the Commissioner's view, explained in TR 2003/8, that the money value of property paid to a resident shareholder by way of a dividend will be included in the shareholder's assessable income if it is sourced out of profits derived by the company. For these purposes there need not be a correspondence between the amount debited to the company's books of accounts and the value of the distribution in the hands of the shareholder. Where a company properly keeps its accounts on a basis that does not record its assets at current market value, there will often be a discrepancy between the amount debited to the account of profits and the value of the assets distributed. It will not be necessary for the additional value of the assets accounting for that discrepancy to be recognised in the accounts as a profit and debited on the distribution for the distribution of the assets to be seen as sourced entirely in profits. That is to say, where distributed assets representing profits are identified by the company as a distribution of profits the requirements of section 44 are satisfied, and it is not necessary for the company to take the further step of identifying the value of the assets as the amount of the profit distributed.
Different considerations may arise where the company's accounts are not kept properly.
The decision does not deal with the case where a distribution of assets is debited to an account of share capital and the value of the assets distributed exceeds the amount debited to share capital. The Commissioner considers that in such a case there will generally be a distribution out of profits; the provisions of subsection 44(1B) may also be relevant.
Implications on current Public Rulings & Determinations
Decision confirmed correctness of TR 2003/8 and ATO ID 2002/639
Implications on Law Administration Practice Statements
Implications on Law Administration Practice Statements
We invite you to advise us if you feel this decision has consequences we have not identified, or if a precedential decision such as a Public Ruling or an ATO ID requires reconsideration or amendment. Please forward your comments to the contact officer by the due date.
| Date Issued:
||20 March 2008
| Due Date:
|| 15 May 2008
| Contact officer:
| Email address:
||(02) 6216 1242
||(02) 6216 1247
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