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

Selected Publications:

S Walpola, 'After the Australia Acts: the High Court's Attitude to Changing the Common Law (1987-2016)' (2020) Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal (forthcoming).

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

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.  

S Walpola, 'The Taxation of Capital Gains in Trusts after Bamford: A critical evaluation of the streaming regime in Subdivision 115-C ITAA97' (2020) Australian Tax Forum (forthcoming).

Other Publications/Engagement:

Walpola, Sonali  & Ping, Yuan, (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:

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) funds the ANU Tax Clinic, as part of the National Tax Clinics Program - 2019 – ongoing.

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)