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Colombia

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Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Tax
  2. Leading lawyers

Leading lawyers

  1. 1

Respected by clients and peers alike, Lewin & Wills, Abogados has 35 years in the sector and is a founding member of the Latin American Tax & Legal Network (LATAXNET). The 12-strong team, including three partners, advises on the full spectrum of tax specializations, including transfer pricing, tax controversy, municipal and local taxation, estate and tax planning, domestic and cross-border tax structuring, arbitration and tax-related litigation. Clients applaud the ‘professionalism and sophistication’ of its services, reporting lawyer’s ‘permanent availability for consultation’ at ‘short notice’ and ‘great understanding of clients needs’. Recent mandates include advising BP on tax and M&A matters in relation to its exit from its Colombian E&P business. Founding partner and departmental head Alfredo Lewin is widely acknowledged as a ‘leading tax litigator’. Also recommended is tax planning and restructuring specialist Adrian Rodríguez, who led the advice to BP. Other clients include Carbones del Cerrejón, Talismán Energy, Banco de la República and Pacific Rubiales.

Its ‘main strengths are creativity and reliability’, say clients of Posse Herrera Ruiz’s tax practice, one of the largest in the country. The 23-strong team offers advice on tax and customs with a corporate approach, investment tax planning (particularly in cross-border transactions and wealth management), general consultancy, transfer pricing and tax-related litigation. Recent work includes advising Colombian fertiliser company Abocol on all tax aspects of the $425m sale of its operations in Latin America; Cencosud on the reorganization of the Colombian operations acquired from Carrefour; and Anadarko Petroleum on the tax structuring of off shore drilling projects. Other matters included assisting Terpel on the reorganization of its corporate group structure and tax advice on the company’s oil distribution operation. Founding partner and ‘outstanding’ practitioner Juan Guillermo Ruiz is departmental head and leads the tax planning and international commerce practice group. Other key figures include young partner Felipe Aroca who has a strong contentious tax practice, particularly in relation to transfer pricing; and corporate and tax planning specialist Ana Lucía Barrientos, who heads up the firm’s Medellín office. Other representative clients include Cerro Matoso, Terpel, Corpbanca, Bancolombia, Nokia and Citibank.

Baker & McKenzie S.A.S. has ‘an excellent working group’ that is noted for ‘its commitment to clients and complete advice’. The local 15-strong team has been particularly active in pre- and post-transactional tax matters and structuring of late. Recent matters include advising on the structuring and all other relevant tax aspects of Telefónica's acquisition of Colombia Telecomunicaciones (‘Telecom’); Total E&P Colombie on the sale of its stake in Ocensa to Advent International; and Southern Cross on a tax efficient structure for its acquisition of San Antontio Internacional (Colombia). It also advised GMAC Financiera, on the acquisition of its parent company, Ally Financial, by General Motors. Hugely experienced departmental head Jaime Vargas is ‘creative and committed’, has ‘good knowledge and is very up-to-date’; he also has experience of working in other jurisdictions. The team also boasts an impressive tier of senior associates, including Jaime Girón (‘an excellent litigator who has clear concepts’), and former Deloitte’s tax manager Ciro Meza - (‘a lawyer with a clear understanding of matters, who knows how to deliver and has excellent client service’).

A notable actor in the tax arena, Brigard & Urrutiahas in-depth knowledge of Colombian law’ and is ‘very good, practical and clever at finding creative solutions to non-standard situations’. The 13-strong practice group (including an accountant and an economist) has developed a notable client roster, particularly in the infrastructure, energy and natural resources, private equity and real estate sectors, and advises across the entire spectrum of tax matters, including transfer pricing, with a high degree of specialisation. Recent matters include advising Terranum on the design and implementation of a new tax efficient international finance structure for its Colombian real estate projects, as well as ongoing tax planning matters; Citibank on a COP$4.4bn tax litigation and conciliation process with the national tax office; and Houthoff Buruma/Petrobras on the tax implications of the sale of onshore and offshore assets consequent upon a worldwide reorganization. President of the Colombian branch of IFA for 2013-14, department head José Andrés Romero is hugely experienced, particularly in transactional tax structuring and planning matters; he is praised as ‘having great legal agility and opportuneness’. Close support comes from tax practice associate director Lucas Moreno and senior associates Andrés Hernández and Paula Camacho, all of whom have extensive experience. Partner Carlos Fradique is also active in the practice. Other clients include Sony, Banco Itaú, Canal Fox, Trafigura and Petrobras.

TAXAND-alliance member, Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta’s seven-strong department (including two partners and an accountant), has an excellent reputation, particularly for its transaction-related planning advice and contentious tax practice. It undertakes permanent general advisory work, tax-related litigation (before both judicial and administrative authorities), tax planning (M&A and financing), and for transfer pricing matters works closely with a specialist economic boutique. Recent headline matters include advising Mercantil Colpatria on the pre-closing reorganization and subsequent sale of a 51% stake in the insurance companies of the Colpatria group, advice that was integral to the sale. In other matters it advised EPM on tax due diligence and structuring in relation to its merger with Millicom’s Spanish subsidiary; and Bavaria, Avianca and others, on equity tax and in relation to legal stability contracts. The team has also assisted clients in primarily administrative contentious tax matters. Undoubtedly one of the market’s leading tax figures, departmental head Mauricio Piñeros has over 25 years' experience in the sector. He has particular expertise in all transactional and investment related tax matters and is also very active in the estate planning sub-sector. His fellow partner, Álvaro Andrés Díaz has over 15 years' experience and is a hugely knowledgeable tax litigator; his expertise in contentious matters ranges from VAT and income tax to customs litigation. Both are thoroughly recommended.

Very responsive and with great knowledge of the market and tax regulations’, prietocarrizosaprovides excellent advice’ and holds a well-earned place in the tax sector. Its ‘business-oriented’ tax department deals with tax planning and corporate structuring issues in relation to transactional activity, particularly in the oil and gas, mining, infrastructure and transport sectors. It also designs complex cross-border products and tax structures for private equity investors. The nine-strong team recently advised Trafigura on tax matters relating to the financial structure of the company’s Colombian subsidiaries; Leonisa, on its reorganization and a tax planning structure; Goldman Sachs, also on the tax reorganisation of its companies in Colombia; and Cititrust on the tax structure for its exchange traded fund (ETF) ‘MILA 40’, designed to incorporate an index reflecting the Latin American Integrated Market (MILA). On the contentious side, the team also advised Citibank on several litigations before the local tax authorities. The practice is led by ‘excellent tax advisor and M&A’ specialist Martín Acero who is highlighted for his ‘clear grasp of the tax implications of any given option and all-round general business savvy’. Current President of the Tax Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce, ‘strongly recommended’ senior associate Carolina Rozo focuses upon tax planning and structuring, and corporate reorganizations. Other clients include Radio Cadena Nacional, Pacific Infrastructure, and Scotiabank.

CompetitiveCárdenas & Cárdenas Abogados has a small, talented and efficient tax department. It handles the full range of tax work including day-to-day tax advice, transaction-related tax planning and structuring, and litigation related to tax issues. Recent matters include successful tax litigation on behalf of Glencore, Microsoft (Colombia), Fiduciara Alianza and others; and advice to Vidrio Andino on the tax efficient structuring of contracts for the development of a plant within a free trade zone. Other matters include employee stock options, corporate restructuring, and transactional tax matters relating to purchases, mergers and spin-offs. Much appreciated by his clients, deeply experienced departmental head Camilo Cortés has over 25 years’ experience of tax matters, particularly in relation to the oil and gas and mining sectors, and also in relation to incentive schemes. Key support comes from ‘knowledgeable’ senior associate Carmen Sanabria. Other clients include Microsoft Colombia, Rio Tinto, Glencore, and Kellogg’s.

Godoy & Hoyos Abogados is best known for its strength in tax litigation where it has a very impressive track record and acts on behalf of major clients such as Pacific Rubiales. It is also increasing its profile in transactional tax planning (and associated structuring and reorganizations); tax policy (where clients include the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism); and in relation to the financial and insurance, and oil and gas sectors. The firm has an increased profile in international tax matters in the wake of its alliance with global tax firm Ryan. Recent matters for the nine-strong team include advising Pacific Rubiales on the sale of its 5% equity interest in Ocensa; Key Energy Services on the modification of the VAT regime applied to the company; and Alfagres on the constitution of a corporate group and related restructuring. In other work the team represented Alterra et al (another nine reinsurance groups) on the establishment of a norm incorporating such companies within the scope of regulations concerning permanent establishments. Practice director Juan Pablo Godoy ‘is very solid on the legal side which allows the application of structured and sustainable solutions’. He has particular expertise in relation to the oil and gas sector. His fellow name partner, the ‘excellent’ and ‘expert’ Catalina Hoyos is described as ‘one the best lawyers in the country’.

Quiñones Cruz is a dedicated tax boutique covering all aspects of tax advice and litigation, domestic and international tax planning, M&A-related matters, and arbitration proceedings. It also advises public bodies on policy and constitutional tax law consultations. Without doubt, however, its sweet spot is contentious work where the firm has once again been particularly active. Recent representations include Citibank in genuine material factor (GMF) litigation; Banco Santander in relation to the valuation of financial transactions; Emgesa regarding special contributions; and Cultivos Buenavista on transfer pricing determinations, all against the national tax administration. It also advised LG against local tax authorities in relation to tax jurisdictional matters concerning retail services. Other matters include advising Comcel/Claro on local business tax matters concerning mobile phone services; and undertaking a major transfer pricing dispute. Founding partners Lucy Cruz and Antonio Quiñones are both ‘stand out figures’ who provide ‘great, independent advice’; their services are described as ‘extraordinary’. Cruz is praised for her ‘market-leading’ litigation skills across both the public and private sectors; while Quiñones works primarily on tax planning and structures and has expertise in tax re-engineering. Litigation specialist Diego Quiñones and transfer pricing and international taxation-focused Natalia Quiñones are also both strongly recommended. Clients include Citibank, Banco de la República, Prodeco and Chevron Texaco.

Cahn-Speyer, Paredes & Asociados is a very active and well-reputed tax boutique. Particularly renowned for contentious tax matters, practice head Paul Cahn-Speyer handles issue ranging from international taxation to trade and commerce and also has specialist niche expertise in sanctions relating to non-compliance with tax liabilities. The firm deals with inbound and outbound investment, restructuring agreements and tax-related litigation. ‘Excellent’ senior associate Claudia Rodríguez has over 20 years’ experience and is recommended.

Undertaking some corporate and investment work, Mauricio A. Plazas Vega Abogados & Asociados is principally regarded as a tax-focused firm. It offers general advisory and consultancy services, advises on tax-planning, and represents clients in contentious tax matters where it has particular expertise in related areas such as constitutional and community law. A former president of the Latin American Tax Law Institute, Mauricio Plazas is a leading expert on value-added tax (IVA); he directs a 13-strong team.

With a qualified team, Rodríguez Azuero Abogados provides corporate tax consultancy services on tax planning for cross-border operations, tax-related litigation, tax due diligence and compliance, and also handles foreign exchange matters, as well as handling estate planning for families and individuals. The team is led by Juan Camilo Rodríguez and in recent work advised PaysOnline.net on tax matters in relation to its expansion of operations in Latin America. Other clients include Empresa Virgilio Barco and Premium Capital Appreciation Fund.

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