Long term tax avoidance justifies disbarment
Davison v Council of the New South Wales Bar Association (2007) 69 ATC 402
This was an appeal by a former barrister who had been disbarred because he was considered to be unfit to practice. That decision reflected findings that the barrister had been guilty of:
(a) long standing (over 16 years) non compliance with legal and civic obligations to pay taxes in a timely fashion;
(b) failing to pay taxes on judgment and on notices issued by the ATO;
(c) arranging his affairs so that his income from legal practice and assets acquire from it were placed outside the reach of the ATO of the trustees in his bankruptcy; and
(d) using money that would have been available to meet tax debts to fund an extravagant lifestyle.
The appellant argued essentially that because he had never been convicted of an offence he ought not to be disbarred.
The NSW Court of Appeal held that fitness to practice is determined by the minimum standards demanded of the special position of trust a barrister holds in the system of administration of justice. Convictions and dishonesty were only one path to disbarment. The personal circumstances which might have militated against a prosecution did not excuse the barrister's long term serious misconduct.