Dr Sonali Walpola

Sonali Walpola


Research School of Accounting

Senior Lecturer
Phone number
+61 2 612 58059
Room 3.21, CBE Bld (26C)
Research areas

Tax law and policy, Tax-motivated profit shifting, Contract and commercial law, The emergence of Australian common law.


Sonali Walpola is a Lecturer of Commercial Law and Tax Law. Sonali researches in the areas of taxation law and policy, the common law's historical and contemporary mechanisms for enforcing promises, and the High Court of Australia's role in the development of an Australian common law. Sonali’s work has been published in esteemed journals including Oxford University Commonwealth Law JournalAustralian Tax Forum and Federal Law Review. Her Australian Tax Forum piece identifies anomalies and unnecessary complexity in legislation governing the capital gains taxation of trusts, providing recommendations for how the regime could be re-designed. As such, it is highly relevant to regulators. Sonali’s Federal Law Review paper examines how Australia's declining political, economic and social ties with Britain have led to the incremental development of an independent Australian common law, and her article in Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal reveals an ideological shift in the High Court of Australia’s attitude to changing the common law in the period 1987 to 2016. As lead academic of the Federal Government-funded ANU Tax Clinic, Sonali is responsible for governance of the clinic and, ultimately, ensuring it remains a compliant and effective part of the broader National Tax Clinics program. Sonali is also the Co-Editor of Austaxpolicy, a forum for the debate and analysis of pressing domestic and international tax policy issues.

View ORCID profile

Research publications

Refereed Publications:

S. Walpola, ‘A Critical Examination of the Tax-motivated Use of Discretionary Trusts – Evidence, Identifying Tax Avoidance, and the Efficacy of Legislative Tools’ (2022) forthcoming in a Special Issue of Australian Tax Review (ranked A in the ABDC rankings). 

S Walpola, 'After the Australia Acts: the High Court's Attitude to Changing the Common Law (1987-2016)' (2021) 21(1) Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal 31-72 (ranked A* in the ABDC rankings).

S Walpola, 'The Taxation of Capital Gains in Trusts after Bamford: A critical evaluation of the streaming regime in Subdivision 115-C ITAA97' (2020) 35(3) Australian Tax Forum 314-350 (ranked A* in the ABDC rankings).  

S Walpola, 'The Qualification to the Birthright Doctrine and Beyond: the Judicial Attitude to Adapting the Common Law to Australian Conditions' (2020) 94 Australian Law Journal 294-308 (ranked A in the ABDC rankings). 

S Walpola, 'The Development of the High Court's Willingness to Overrule Common Law Precedent' (2017) 45(2) Federal Law Review 291-312 (ranked A* in the ABDC rankings).  

Other Publications: 

S. Walpola, ‘Trusts and Tax Avoidance – Extension of Funding for ATO Taskforce’ published in April 2022 as part of the 2022 Budget Forum of Austaxpolicy. Available at: https://www.austaxpolicy.com/budget-forum-2022-trusts-and-tax-avoidance-extension-of-funding-for-ato-taskforce/

S. Walpola and T. Wang, ‘Australia’s Planned Patent Box: A Means of Stimulating Innovation?’ published in May 2021 as part of the 2021 Budget Forum of Austaxpolicy. Available at: https://www.austaxpolicy.com/budget-forum-2021-australias-planned-patent-box-a-means-of-stimulating-innovation/

S Walpola, ‘The Taxation of Capital Gains in Trusts after Bamford: A Critical Evaluation of Subdivision 115C ITAA97’ published in February 2021 (this piece provides a brief, accessible overview of my article in Australian Tax Forum listed above). Available at: 


Impact: in 2021, this was the third most accessed of 80 TTPI articles published in 2021.

S Walpola and Y Ping, ‘Progressivity and the Personal Income Tax Plan’ published in October 2020 as part of the 2020 Budget Forum of Austaxpolicy. Available at: https://www.austaxpolicy.com/budget-forum-2020-progressivity-and-the-personal-income-tax-plan/

Impact: in 2020, this was the third most accessed of 98 TTPI articles published in 2020, and the only article in the 2020 Budget Forum that was in the ‘Top 10 [most accessed] articles of 2020’.

S Walpola and Y Ping, (17 April 2019) [Budget Forum 2019] Tax Offsets and Equity in the Scheme for Taxing Resident Individuals, Austaxpolicy: Tax and Transfer Policy Blog, Available from: https://www.austaxpolicy.com/budget-forum-2019-tax-offsets-equity-scheme-taxing-resident-individuals/

Impact: In 2019, this was the 3rd most accessed article of 92 TTPI articles published in 2019 and was the #1 most accessed article from TTPI’s 2019 Budget Forum (out of 12 articles).

Dr Sonali Walpola, Parliamentary Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics concerning the proposal to deny tax deductions for the costs of holding vacant land as contained in the Treasury Laws Amendment (2019 Tax Integrity and Other Measures Bill No.1) 2019.  

Impact: Representing ANU Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, my invited submission was cited and referred to in the Senate Economics Legislation Committee Report on the Bill published online in September 2019. https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/TaxIntegrityBill/Report


Research grants and awards

2018 CBE Teaching Excellence Award

Research engagement and outreach

Engagement/outreach relationships:

Academic supervisor of the ANU Tax Clinic

This clinic has been set up to provide a resource that educates and supports the lower socio economic population with their income tax matters.

Co-editor, Austaxpolicy – 2018-ongoing.



Taxation Law graduate and undergraduate courses

Commercial Law (graduate course)