The Legal 500

Colombia > Tax

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Leading lawyers

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Lewin & Wills, Abogados is ‘one of the most visible players in the sector’, and is a member of the Latin American Tax & Legal Network (LATAXNET). Clients praise the practice for its ‘professionalism and sophistication’, ‘high-level service’ and ‘constant availability’. The 12-lawyer team assists a varied list of local and international corporations and governmental and multilateral organisations on the full gamut of tax matters, covering transfer pricing, tax controversy, municipal and local taxation, estate and tax planning, domestic and cross-border tax structuring, and arbitration and litigation. Highly rated practice heads Alfredo Lewin, Adrián Rodríguez and Laureano Gómez have deep knowledge of the area. Clients include ExxonMobil, Carbones del Cerrejón, UNE EPM, Pacific Rubiales and Hewlett-Packard.

Posse Herrera Ruiz is ‘an outstanding firm in tax matters’, with ‘a tax practice similar to a Big Four firm when it comes to meeting clients’ needs, communication, technical knowledge and support’. The 25-lawyer team is one of the largest in the country, and advises corporate clients on the full spectrum of tax matters including transactional issues, transfer pricing, general consultancy, litigation, and wealth management and planning. Practice head Juan Guillermo Ruiz led a team advising Anadarko on the tax and customs implications of the structuring and development of its offshore oil operations in Colombia. Partner-in-charge at the firm's Barranquilla office, Felipe Aroca is representing a high-profile corporation in $400m litigation with the tax authorities, with the case currently on appeal following a favourable first instance judgment. The team also advised Omimex on tax issues regarding the sale of its Latin American fertiliser operation to Norway’s Yara International. Senior associate Ana Luciá Barrientos, based in Medellín, is also recommended. Clients include Shell, BHP Billiton, AngloGold Ashanti, and Citibank.

Hailed as ‘efficient and committed to clients’, Baker & McKenzie S.A.S. has a ‘respected and friendly practice’. It assists key private equity funds in relation to M&A deals, and has been particularly active advising clients in the oil-and-gas and mining industries. The 11-strong team is co-led by Jaime Girón, who is experienced in litigation, and Ciro Meza, a former tax manager at Deloitte and ‘a great professional’. Jaime Trujillo is also a key figure. The firm acted for Terranum on the tax due diligence and planning regarding its acquisition of Decameron Hoteles and subsequent post-closing reorganisation. The group also provided tax and exchange advice to Petróleos Sudamericanos in relation to a loan from an international financial institution.

Brigard & Urrutia is ‘a powerhouse in the tax sector’, and is commended for its ‘clever, innovative approach to non-standard situations’, ‘fast response times’ and ‘wide business and industry knowledge’, representing ‘extremely high value for money’. The 17-lawyer group advises across the entire spectrum of tax matters, assisting clients in sectors such as infrastructure, energy and natural resources, private equity and real estate. The team advised a large oil company on the tax aspects of its corporate restructuring and on the acquisition of an oil-related transportation business (part of its expansion strategy and business consolidation in the country), a matter valued at around $500m. It provides ongoing planning and structuring advice to Terranum regarding its real estate development projects in Colombia, and also acts for Algarra and Bogotá Elektrika. Head of department José Andrés Romero, Carlos Fradique-Méndez and Lucas Moreno, who was recently made partner, are all recommended.

Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta is the Colombian member of the international tax alliance TAXAND. The five-strong practice has a strong reputation for its transaction-related expertise, and is praised for its ‘excellent service and appropriate and fast responses’. The group covers general advisory work, administrative and judicial proceedings, and transactional tax planning, assisting clients in sectors such as electricity, gas, mining, utilities, infrastructure, finance, media, security and pharmaceuticals. It advised Mercantil Colpatria on the pre-closing reorganisation and subsequent $350m sale of a 51% stake in the insurance companies of the Colpatria Group; and also acted for EPM on the tax due diligence and structuring of its merger with Millicom’s Spanish subsidiary. Other clients include Bavaria, Ecopetrol, Advent International, Avianca and Aerogal-Lacsa. The department is jointly led by Mauricio Piñeros, who has worked in the sector for more than 25 years and has significant expertise in investment-related matters and estate planning; and Alvaro Andrés Diáz, who specialises in tax litigation and transfer pricing. Senior associates Ignacio Vélez and Carolina Bobillier are also recommended.

Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uria’s ‘business-oriented’ group deals with tax planning and corporate structuring issues regarding transactions, particularly in the oil-and-gas, mining, infrastructure and transport sectors, and designs and implements complex tax platforms and cross-border products for equity investors. The ten-strong team is led by Martín Acero, who is ‘very knowledgeable and an excellent lawyer in tax and M&A matters’. Recently appointed partner Carolina Rozo has vast experience in tax planning and structuring, and corporate reorganisations. The firm advised real estate investment firm Avenida Capital on the devising and structuring of two private funds in Colombia, a mandate requiring the execution of a specific financial strategy and a tax-efficient structure for participants and investors. The team also designed a tax and financial structure for Pacific Stratus Energy’s gas exploitation business (involving several jurisdictions); and successfully represented Fiduciaria De Occidente in proceedings regarding the treatment of the turnover tax of trust administrators. Clients include Bolsa de Valores de Colombia, DirecTV, and L’Oréal Colombia.

Cárdenas & Cárdenas Abogados’ small but ‘very capable team’ assists clients on the full gamut of tax issues, ranging from day-to-day advisory matters to transactions, tax planning and structuring, and litigation. The team works closely with the firm’s corporate and finance departments, and was recently instructed by America Energy Fund to structure a tax-efficient platform for the reorganisation of its investments in the country. It also successfully acted for Spring Mobile Solutions in tax rebate matters before the Colombian tax authorities, as well as providing general advice on income tax and VAT matters relating to its international transactions. Camilo Cortés leads the team, which includes recently appointed partners Carmen Sanabria and Ernesto López.

Godoy & Hoyos Abogados, which maintains a strategic alliance with global tax firm Ryan, is a significant player in the tax market particularly on the litigation side, where it has an impressive track record acting for major corporations such as Pacific Rubiales. The nine-strong team covers tax planning, foreign trade, litigation and due diligence, and is increasingly active in international matters. It is praised for its ability to ‘suggest courses of action and defend them’; and its lawyers ‘do not limit themselves to presenting options available to clients: they understand clients’ needs and, based on them, are able to make sensible suggestions’. The firm acted for Occidental de Colombia (Oxycol) in a $30m tax rebate claim; is acting for a high-profile corporation in proceedings regarding income tax; and is advising retailers Almacenes Éxito and Casino Group on the design and implementation of a tax and foreign trade platform for the operations of online retailer Cdiscount in Colombia. The team is led by Catalina Hoyos, who is a ‘results-driven lawyer with excellent communication skills’.

Specialist tax boutique Quiñones Cruz is valued for its ‘independent advice – especially advice relating to finance sector issues’. It covers the full range of advisory and contentious matters, including litigation, domestic and international tax planning, transaction-related matters and arbitration, and assists a number of public bodies on tax and constitutional issues. The practice excels on the contentious side where it has earned an ‘outstanding reputation’; its recent work highlights include successfully acting for Citibank in ‘genuine material factor’ litigation against the tax authority, acting for Banco Santander in $16m income tax proceedings, and representing Emgesa in administrative proceedings relating to special contributions. Other clients include Sacsa and the Colombian Confederation of Chambers of Commerce (Confecamaras). Founding partners Lucy Cruz and Antonio Quiñones are ‘outstanding practitioners’, and Diego Quiñones and Natalia Quiñones are also recommended.

Cahn-Speyer, Paredes & Asociados is a tax boutique with over 30 years’ experience, and is particularly recommended for its contentious practice. Headed by the ‘respected’ Paul Cahn-Speyer, whose expertise includes sanctions imposed for non-compliance with tax obligations, it also acts in areas such as international taxation, inbound and outbound investment, restructuring agreements and transfer pricing. The ‘excellent’ Claudia Rodríguez is also recommended.

Garrigues’ presence in the Colombian market was reinforced by the arrival of Fernando Zarama (a former head of the Colombian tax and customs authority), and Camilo Zarama; both are former partners of recognised tax boutique Zarama & Asociados. Another arrival was ‘experienced’ associate César Cermeño, a former senior manager at Ernst & Young and Deloitte. The team advised the sellers of Hoteles Decameron Colombia on a tax-efficient structure regarding assets of the company not included in the sale, in a complex matter valued at $500m. It also acted for Codere in a $2m rebate claim before the highest administrative court in the country, involving tax payments made under legislation which was declared unconstitutional. Other clients include Altra Investments, CODAD, and OHL Concesiones.

Mauricio A. Plazas Vega Abogados & Asociados has made a name for itself as a tax-focused boutique, handling general tax matters, consultancy, tax planning and litigation, where it has particular expertise in areas such as constitutional and community law cases. A ‘leading expert in the area’, Mauricio Plazas is a former president of the Latin American Tax Law Institute and has worked closely with the Andean Community (CAN).

Norton Rose Fulbright’s tax practice focuses on the development of efficient national and international tax structures for local and international clients, covering cross-border transactions, tax planning, and litigation, and it has been involved in some notable mandates. The now five-strong team benefits from the firm’s international network and experience, and is led by the ‘highly qualified’ Sebastián Rodríguez. Clients include Pacific Rubiales, Bridgestone, IAMGOLD, and YPF.

Pinilla, González & Prieto’s four-strong team has particular strength in the construction, pharmaceutical, education and communication sectors. It is led by Camilo Caycedo, who is a specialist in tax and customs law. Recent work includes advising Agropecuaria 2G on tax planning matters relating to its real estate properties (with a matter value of around $160m); and representing property developer Amarilo in proceedings relating to tax rebates for undue property tax payments before the Municipality of Soacha (south of Bogotá) – the combined value of the claims is approximately $50m. Other clients include Entorno Urbano, Coopserfun, Universidad de la Sabana, and Cámara Colombiana de la Construcción (Camacol).

Rodríguez – Azuero Abogados’ team assists corporate clients in areas such as cross-border tax planning, litigation and due diligence, and also handles foreign exchange matters and estate planning for families and individuals. It is currently providing ongoing tax advice to an online payment service provider in the context of its international expansion process; and is providing tax planning and project financing advice in relation to the construction of a $40m biodiesel plant. Clients include Empresa Virgilio Barco, Oportunidad Colombia, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The team is led by Juan Camilo Rodríguez.

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