Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Journal** entries

View Legal blog - Journal** entries by Matthew Burgess

Recent posts have considered various aspects of the leading cases where two parties owe mutual liabilities or obligations, and the ability to set off the liabilities against each other through a book entry.

It is however important to note that generally, journal entries of themselves have no legal effect.

Arguably the leading case in this regard is Manzi v Smith [1975] HCA 35.

The key quote out of this decision is as follows -
‘We were referred to cases in which a payment of money was held to have been made by means of entries in books of account. But in those cases the entries represented the agreement of the appropriate parties….

These decisions, quite clearly, are not authority for the proposition for which they were advanced, namely, that a payment of money was made by the making by the company of a journal entry in the books of account without reference to, or without the agreement of, the persons said to be the recipients of the money. The company's assertions in its books of account did not establish the indebtedness of the appellants or any payment of money in discharge of that indebtedness.’
The Tax Office similarly has confirmed that while book entries record transactions having legal consequences, they do not of themselves constitute transactions. In other words, a unilateral action by one of the parties, such as a mere entry in its books of account, does not change the liabilities between the parties.

This means that in any transaction it is important that there is a valid binding agreement (or agreements) supporting the existence of the arrangements to which any journal entries purportedly relate.

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** For the trainspotters, the title of today's post is riffed from the Johnny Cash song 'The singing star’s queen'.

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