Australia: Commissioner of Taxation v Park: Garnishee powers and registered mortgages in Australia

Last Updated: 14 January 2013
Article by Michael Gill

The Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia has handed down the appeal decision in Commissioner of Taxation v Park [2012] FCAFC 122, a case that raised some eyebrows because the court found a garnishee notice issued by the Commissioner of Taxation pursuant to section 260-5 of Schedule 1 of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth) had priority over the rights of a mortgagee to the proceeds of sale from the secured property.

The central question, however is this: does the decision mark a considerable change in the law, or does the case turn on its specific facts?

The facts

The taxpayer was the registered owner of real property located in Queensland, over which two mortgages were registered. The taxpayer was indebted to the Commonwealth for unpaid tax and interest in an amount of approximately AU$75,508.64.

A contract for the sale of the property was entered into by the taxpayer for an amount of AU$1,675 million (insufficient to satisfy the amounts owed to both the first and second mortgagees). Prior to the sale settling, the Commissioner served a garnishee notice on the purchasers and their solicitors, requiring the amount of the tax debt to be paid to the Commissioner.

At settlement of the sale, the first mortgagee provided a release of its mortgage and was paid in full. The second mortgagee provided a release of mortgage on the basis that:

  • The amount claimed by the Commissioner was paid into its lawyer's trust account pending determination of the Commissioner's entitlement; and
  • It received the balance of the proceeds of sale, in partial satisfaction of its second mortgage debt.

Thereafter, the taxpayer became a bankrupt and the second mortgagee assigned its interest in the amount claimed by the Commissioner to the trustee in bankruptcy.

The Court's decision

The Commissioner argued that the moneys paid by the purchasers were owed at all times to the taxpayer and were, therefore, payable to the Commissioner in accordance with the garnishee notice.

The majority of the Full Court of the Federal Court held that the second mortgagee's mortgage was over the freehold interest in the property only and did not extend to an equitable charge over the proceeds of sale. Accordingly, because the Commissioner's notice required the purchasers to settle, in part, the amount owed to the taxpayer by way of payment to the Commonwealth against the taxpayer's debt, the Commissioner was entitled to the moneys held in court.

The Court came to this conclusion on the basis that the purchasers owed money to the taxpayer, not the second mortgagee. The Court noted that the purchasers may not have owed the taxpayer such moneys until she was able to convey unencumbered title to the purchasers, but that "there was never a point at which, in the words of Connolly J [in Tricontinental Corporation Ltd v Commissioner of Taxation [1988] 1 Qd R 474], the amount to be received from the purchasers was 'no longer in reality owing to the taxpayer but to the [mortgagee]'".

It is clear that the position would have been different had the second mortgagee refused to provide a release of its mortgage and exercised powers as mortgagee; in that case, the moneys would have been payable by the purchasers to the mortgagee rather than to the taxpayer. In those circumstances, the Commissioner's notice would not have been able to attach to the moneys. In providing a release of mortgage, the second mortgagee effectively compromised its claim.

The result in practice

The Court found that once a registered mortgage is released, the Commissioner's notice will attach to the moneys payable to the taxpayer and, accordingly, the Commissioner will be entitled to moneys to discharge the tax debt in priority to the mortgagee.

The decision appears to give priority to the Commissioner's garnishee notice over mortgagees, but, in reality, this case turned on its specific facts: in particular, the fact that the second mortgagee provided a release of its mortgage, thereby enabling moneys to be paid by the purchasers to the taxpayer.

This decision, however, does create a risk for secured parties. Until the position is clarified by the Court, when dealing with securities in Australia, particularly when you have concerns about the security provider's solvency, when you are aware of an outstanding taxation liability or when a garnishee notice has been issued, it is important that you seek advice from an Australian practitioner before the security is released. There are a number of alternatives, such as exercising powers as mortgagee, available to secured parties to avoid the potential consequences of a case like this one.

This article was first published in Global Insight, our e-newsletter which includes news, views and analysis from our Global Restructuring Group, Please click here to view the latest issue of Global Insight.

© DLA Piper

This publication is intended as a general overview and discussion of the subjects dealt with. It is not intended to be, and should not used as, a substitute for taking legal advice in any specific situation. DLA Piper Australia will accept no responsibility for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this publication.

DLA Piper Australia is part of DLA Piper, a global law firm, operating through various separate and distinct legal entities. For further information, please refer to

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.