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Who Represents Who

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Top tax law firmLiedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick is ‘professional and friendly’ and provides ‘valuable, well-argued and nuanced advice’. It is highly recommended in complex tax disputes, and has substantial experience in litigation before the tax authorities, Belgian courts and the European Court of Justice. Its expertise in real estate-related tax is well known, and it is also heavily involved in the financial sector, where it acts for a range of banks, insurance companies and investment companies; Laurence Pinte, who is ‘very good in negotiations with tax authorities’, is a key contact in the financial services industry. Also recommended are the ‘pragmatic’ Pierre Desenfans, ‘respected tax lawyer’ Daniel Garabedian, practice head Jean-Michel Degée, Henk Verstraete and Simone Nudelholc. Counsel An Weyn was a new arrival in 2018 from Tiberghien.

The ‘efficient’ tax team at Linklatersprovides very valuable advice and responds rapidly to requests’. It maintains a balance between three core areas of work: transactional, tax advisory and tax and VAT litigation, where it works closely with the firm’s litigation and arbitration practice. Among its transactional highlights was its advice to Delhaize on the complex tax aspects of the transaction which saw it merging with and into Ahold; the deal was structured as a cross-border merger under EU Directive 2005/56/EC, which had until that point not been tested in the Belgian market for listed companies. Henk Vanhulle leads the team; other key names include Nicolas Lippens, Guido De Wit and managing associate Caroline Borgers.

A highly regarded firm for tax in the Benelux region, Loyens & Loeff’s sizeable team saw a number of changes, with the promotion of Nicolas Bertrand to equity partner in January 2017 and the retirement of Enrico Schoonvliet and of counsel Camille Lebègue. Notwithstanding the changes, the firm remains a go-to practice for complex tax issues, and is regularly instructed by clients to assist in tax audits, negotiations with the authorities and tax litigation. Saskia Lust co-heads the firm’s family-owned business and private wealth team alongside Bertrand, and Natalie Reypens heads the transfer pricing team. Christian Chéruy is another well-renowned member of the team; he focuses on international and domestic corporate tax and litigation.

A ‘top-tier law firm in tax’, Tiberghien is ‘a reference in the market’. The boutique firm is ‘very knowledgeable in international tax law issues’ and ‘always delivers’. Counting over 80 lawyers, it has the size and scope to handle the gamut of tax issues, and it also cooperates closely with international tax law firms. The team’s diverse client portfolio includes well-established international companies, start-ups, family-owned businesses, private equity firms and financial services providers. Practice head Koen Morbée, Bernard Peeters and Gerd Goyvaerts receive strong praise. At the counsel level Robin Minjauw is recommended, as is Griet Vanden Abeele, who has ‘excellent technical expertise coupled with an outstanding ability to understand the client’s needs’. An Weyn joined Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick as counsel in 2018.

Allen & Overy LLP leverages its substantial corporate and M&A practice to handle complex transactional tax issues, though much of its work is standalone and driven by the tax team itself. With a strong financial services following, it is well known for financial tax work. Following the team’s advice to Ahold on its cross-border merger with Delhaize, it subsequently advised on complex tax issues following the merger. Practice head Patrick Smet ‘is a star individual in his field’. Senior associate Isabelle Panis is another key contact.

Baker McKenzie CVBA/SCRL is a popular choice among leading multinational and Belgian companies for assistance in domestic and international tax planning and litigation. Transfer pricing is also a particular strength. The firm hired VAT specialist and counsel Olivier Van Baelen from Dumon Sablon & Vanheeswijck and senior associate Julie Permeke from Stibbe. Alain Huyghe leads the team.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has a diverse and active tax practice which leverages the reputation of highly regarded practice head Axel Haelterman. It made several new hires, including Nikolaas Van Robbroeck from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Laurent Voisot from Linklaters and tax consultant Alessandra Salà, who previously headed the tax and compliance teams at a private equity firm. Former senior associate Emilie Maes joined EY Law.

Laga has an active tax practice, and benefits from the firm’s cost-sharing agreement with Deloitte. In a recent case, Annick Visschers and Filip Smet brought a case before the Constitutional Court on behalf of a UK-based company concerning the VAT-exemption of online gambling and cash games, with additional issues surrounding constitutional law. The team works closely with the private client practitioners at its associated firm, including Mathieu Ex, who is ‘a very professional, knowledgeable, skilled and thorough tax adviser’.

Bloom Law Firm’s team, which operates from its offices in Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Leuven, has expertise in cross-border tax issues and VAT, and handles a range of tax litigation and structuring. Clients include multinationals, high-net-worth individuals and governments. Michel Maus, Mark Delanote and Denis-Emmanuel Philippe are experts in the field.

The ‘very competent tax team’ at Clifford Chance is integrated within the firm’s broader corporate and finance departments, and has a strong emphasis on real estate tax work. In a recent highlight, a cross-practice team acted for AEW Europe on the acquisition of Cornaline House, owner of the Louise Center. Practice head Alexandre Ooms is highly regarded.

Eubelius excels in real estate and M&A-related tax matters, and has carved out a particular niche in advising BE-REITs on legal and tax issues. Tax litigation also features. Wouter Claes is recommended.

Goossens Meessen Wasserman has experience advising on the tax aspects of M&A and real estate transactions and also handles litigation concerning corporate taxes and accountants’ professional liability. Clients include national and international companies in the financial services, energy and private equity sectors. David Wasserman is active in contentious and non-contentious tax and white-collar criminal cases.

Jones Dayprovides modern in-house senior counsel with effective and pragmatic solutions’. The team also receives plaudits for its ‘very fast response times’ and the ‘personal involvement of the partner’. EU tax law is a forte, though its tax practice extends far beyond this, and the team regularly handles the tax aspects of large corporate transactions. Howard Liebman is recommended.

The sizeable tax practice at Law Square acts for a largely multinational client base that turns to the team early on in tax controversies. The group also has significant expertise in tax policy matters, an area in which it advises government agencies, NGOs, professional bodies and trade associations. Ine Lejeune, Jurgen Gevers, Philippe Renier and Véronique De Brabanter are key figures.

Stibbe provides ‘very quick answers’, ‘practical ideas’ and ‘out-of-the-box solutions’. Among the team’s areas of specialism are VAT, R&D tax incentives, PPPs and state aid issues concerning special tax regimes. Wim Panis and senior associate Giovanni Smet are also recommended. Xavier Gillot left the firm.

Argo Law acts for a range of clients on domestic and cross-border tax issues, but is best known for its private client practice, which is ‘is very dedicated, providing in-depth advice and prompt action’. Alain Nijs and Hannes Casier have ‘a very high level of technical knowledge with a good sense for what would work for the client’. Corporate tax practice head Philippe Rens is noted for his ‘tremendous business insight’.

Bird & Bird is particularly strong in IP-related tax matters, and its international office network makes it well-suited to assist its multinational clients with a range of tax questions. Brent Springael heads the practice.

CMS has experience in the gamut of taxation matters, covering direct and indirect tax. It regularly advises its multinational clients on the tax aspects of real estate and corporate transactions. Olivier Querinjean and real estate tax expert Didier Grégoire are the names to note.

The ‘responsive’ team at DLA Piper provides ‘to-the-point’ advice. Practice head Ortwin Carron is noted for his ‘ability to understand and respond to clients’ needs in an efficient and no-fuss manner’; he advised Pfizer on the tax aspects relevant to the simplification of the legal structure in which it owns and uses a large office building in Brussels.

Olivier Bertin leads the ‘efficient’ team at Daldewolf, which is well versed in contentious and non-contentious taxation. The firm is particularly recommended for VAT matters, where it is highlighted for its ‘great flexibility, fabulous technical analysis and pragmatic risk assessment’. Senior associate Yaël Spiegl is also noted.

Tax controversy is a mainstay at HVG advocaten-avocats, though tax advisory work also features. It clients operate in various sectors, including energy, TMT and life sciences. The firm also benefits from its multi-disciplinary cooperation with EY Law. A team led by practice head Leen Ketels acted for Uber in a tax audit concerning all possible fields of taxation.

The lawyers at Lauriuswork as a team to offer the best solution’ and ‘provide highly technical advice in a pragmatic manner’. It has a broad client portfolio, though it has a particular emphasis on family-owned enterprises. Strong praise is levelled at practice head Philippe Hinnekens, who is ‘an expert in his domain and a true gentleman’.

Transfer pricing is an area of strength at Mayer Brown; department head Astrid Pieron is a key contact in this field. The team works with its longstanding clients but also picked up several new client wins including ING and Santo Domingo Group. Charles-Albert Helleputte is another key contact.

Monard Law’s practice spans tax advice, litigation – including criminal tax proceedings – and estate planning. Hilde Van den Keybus is a key name for inheritance tax and other issues. Christiaan Barbier specialises in administrative and legal proceedings in all fields of taxation.

Ken Lioen joined NautaDutilh in August 2017 from EY Law and now heads the tax practice, following the departure of Pascal Faes in April of that year to Antaxius Advocaten. The team regularly assists its clients with tax issues arising in the context of corporate and finance transactions.

Osborne Clarke has developed a strong tax practice since launching in the Brussels market in 2013. As a lean team, its tax lawyers ‘seem to better know their clients and to better understand their needs’; they provide transactional tax support and also provide tax advisory services. Laurent Donnay de Casteau is recommended.

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Legal Developments in Belgium for Tax

  • Supplementary company schemes on working incapacity benefits

    To make sure that the employer contributions remain tax-deductible as professional expenses, the supplementary company schemes on working incapacity benefits should no later than on 30 September 2012 explicitly mention that such schemes are aimed at compensating a loss of income.
    - Claeys & Engels, member of Ius Laboris

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