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Who Represents Who

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Baker McKenzie fields a large, dedicated team, which handles VAT and indirect tax structuring and complex litigation. It is ‘particularly strong at communicating - both internally and externally’ and rivals even Big 4 tax competition. Led by the ‘knowledgeable and approachable’ Mark Agnew, the VAT department is instructed by a litany of household-name clients in the financial services, e-commerce, global telecoms and travel sectors. In addition to providing ongoing VAT legal-assistance to a varied client base, in 2016, the team handled multiple global VAT restructurings and advised a financial services company on the tax implications of the UK’s impending exit from the EU. David Jamieson has vast experience in contentious VAT matters and his recent clients have included Coinstar and Marriott. Mark Delaney heads the wider tax team, and Ross Denton and Jennifer Revis are contacts in the customs and trade arm of the indirect tax group. A long-time tax adviser at the firm, Eliška Komínková, joined the London team from the firm’s Prague office in 2016, and the department also brought on three new associates.

The tax team at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP distinguishes itself through its mandates across the entirety of indirect taxation and by its place at the legal-vanguard of tax legislation, including the UK’s proposed tobacco levy and sugar tax. In the non-contentious space, the department specialises in transactions that are particularly demanding for indirect tax, such as real estate and funds-related deals and corporate migration, but also provides stand-alone advice in anticipation of new legislation. Such transactional work includes assisting Qatari Diar with the real estate tax aspects of its tripartite rental property joint venture, which aims to develop and manage a portfolio of 4,000 homes. Neil Warriner specialises in real estate tax and Isaac Zailer heads the global tax group. The department also has a formidable contentious offering spearheaded by Heather Gething, who has vast experience of VAT litigation and has been representing the British Aggregates Association in an appeal of the EU Commission’s decision regarding the Aggregates Levy, originally planned for introduction in 2002. Additional clients include TSB Bank, Telefonica Europe and PacifiCorp.

Specialising in VAT and SDLT, the indirect tax group at Ashurst is ‘always very responsive, and has good, in-depth knowledge of commercial and legal tax issues’. Simon Swann has extensive experience of real estate taxation and is ‘a great sounding board for complex problems’. In 2016, he advised Transport for London (TfL) subsidiary Rail for London on the SDLT implications of the devolution of London’s rail franchises to TfL. Paul Miller and the ‘knowledgeable and approachable’ senior associate Tim Gummer are assisting a major London real estate development client with ongoing VAT and SDLT issues arising from a multibillion-pound regeneration project. Additionally, the group provides ongoing strategic advice to such clients as Royal Mail Group, BAE Systems and Diageo Pension Funds. It also has a very active and specialised VAT disputes practice, which is involved in tax tribunal appeals and HMRC disputes, and represents clients such as Hastings Insurance Services, Bookit Limited and Gala Coral. Nicholas Gardner and Alexander Cox are also key contacts in the department.

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP is well-known for its expertise in real estate, and the tax team has particular experience of real estate VAT, in addition to customs duties, insurance premium tax (IPT) and other national and international VAT issues. Aside from its real estate capabilities, it handles a range of strategic planning, business transfers and compliance advice to clients in the consumer goods, retail, not-for-profit and financial services sectors, regularly finding itself across the table from the Big 4 accountancy firms. Alan Sinyor is a full-time specialist in VAT and indirect tax; in 2016, he was involved in capital markets and project financing transactions, SDLT and real estate deals, contentious VAT cases and also provided strategic advice regarding VAT and IPT issues. Elizabeth Bradley heads the firm’s global tax group and Paul Shaw specialises in real estate taxation and investment funds structuring.

Clifford Chance’s indirect tax group covers VAT advice, but also has wider specialisms in real estate tax and sovereign wealth indirect taxation. The VAT and indirect tax department is headed by David Saleh, who recently assisted Hammerson, in its role as partner of a redevelopment joint venture, with a novel reorganisation of the existing leasehold structure of the Brent Cross Shopping Centre; the development is a stepping-stone to the larger £4.5bn regeneration of the Cricklewood area in north London. He also acted for London and Quadrant on its £505m acquisition of Gallagher Estates - the largest land acquisition by any housing association in the UK. Indeed, the team is advising developer clients in connection with several multibillion-pound, mixed-use real estate development and regenerations. Director of VAT Simon Corzberg provides strategic, stand-alone VAT advice to investment groups and leasing platforms. IRUS and AXA are key clients. The practice also handles VAT and indirect tax disputes, though tax litigator Liesl Fichardt left for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP in 2017.

In the opinion of a client, DLA Piper is ‘similar in quality to Magic Circle firms’. It focuses on stand-alone consultancy work, in addition to maintaining an active transactional practice. The firm makes good use of its international network and has thus seen an increase of instructions from corporates seeking to expand their EU presence. ‘A pleasure to work with’, Richard Woolich heads the department and provided UK tax advice to Aareal Bank in relation to the refinancing and restructuring of Invesco Fund’s EU property portfolio, managing international tax advice in four European jurisdictions as part of this transaction. On the advisory side, he provides compliance and structuring advice to leading banks, global entertainments companies and multinational retailers. Neville Wright has been particularly active in real estate and energy infrastructure-related taxation, and has recently been instructed by clients such as Hastings Fund and Deutsche Fonds Holding. The team also has experience in working alongside the firm’s disputes resolution department. Ben Brown joined the team from Allen & Overy LLP in 2017.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP’s contentious tax team handles a wide-range of complex VAT cases. The ‘commercially awareGiles Salmond specialises in indirect taxation and tax disputes and has been instructed in a number of VAT recovery claims and tax tribunal appeals in 2016-2017. Of note, he is representing Hilton Hotels in a multimillion-pound HMRC dispute regarding the recoverability of UK VAT by a US group. In a matter it won from another firm, the team was instructed by Lookers in VAT claim regarding compound interest payable on over-payments of VAT of historical bonuses. On the non-contentious side, Salmond acted for the Government Property Unit in relation to the VAT aspects of its take-over of a building in Canary Wharf, which required intensive negotiations with HMRC and the property vendor, Barclays. Additional clients include JSM Construction, N Brown Group, Threadneedle Investments and M G Rover Group. Stephen Yates joined the department from PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal LLP in 2017.

Hogan Lovells International LLP’s tax group is ‘simply excellent’ and ‘keen to ensure that its service matches client expectations’. The team was strengthened considerably in 2016 by the addition of Elliot Weston - a real estate tax specialist, who joined the firm from Gowling WLG. Its recent transactional work has included advising UBS on the VAT treatment of the sale of its Swiss and Luxembourgish fund administration business to Northern Trust, with which it maintained a close business relationship. With ‘a good eye for detail’, Lee Squires heads the indirect tax practice and has advised major pension schemes on VAT treatment and is also involved in several significant VAT disputes. Indeed, the team has a particularly strong contentious offering and in 2016 Ruth Grant began representing British American Tobacco in tax tribunal litigation regarding HMRC’s imposition of tax penalties for the client’s alleged failure to sufficiently prevent tobacco smuggling into the UK. Rupert Shiers is rated for his ‘client management skills’ and Karen Hughes leads the wider global tax department.

In addition to handling the indirect tax aspects of a wide range of corporate and finance transactions, the practice at Norton Rose Fulbright also has expertise in insurance premium tax (IPT) and is regularly involved in high-value VAT disputes. Chris Bates leads the firm’s European VAT group and has advised asset managers and pension schemes on several potential recovery claims resulting from UK tax treatment. Angela Savin has an active contentious and non-contentious practice and provides ongoing SDLT advice to Commerz Real Investmentgesellschaft concerning the expansion of the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush. She also provides ongoing IPT advice to British Business Bank. Dominic Stuttaford heads the firm’s tax department and is involved in multiple high-value tax disputes for clients such as BMW and HSBC. Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, Vodacom Group and Barclays also instruct the team.

With vast expertise in VAT and indirect tax disputes, Pinsent Masons LLP is ‘rightly regarded as a go-to firm for VAT litigation’. ‘A born-litigator and a mastermind of VAT defence-litigation’, Stuart Walsh is representing Lowcosttravelgroup and AIAL in relation to HMRC’s appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union after losing a case in the British Supreme Court regarding the levy of additional VAT across the travel booking industry. The specialised litigation team has also represented Cantor Fitzgerald in a dispute with HMRC regarding the VAT treatment of carbon credits issued under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Jason Collins and Ian Hyde are ‘stand-out’ lawyers in the practice group.Steven Porter was promoted to partner in 2016. The practice also provides transactional and stand-alone indirect tax advice and VAT assessment challenges to clients in the motor and insurance sectors. Additional clients for which the team has handled tax litigation include Avon Cosmetics.

Simmons & Simmons handles transactional, advisory and contentious indirect tax matters covering VAT, SDRT and SDLT, among others. On the contentious side, the team is particularly active in real estate, capital markets and funds transactions and is instructed by such clients as The British Land Company. In one particularly notable deal, department head Nick Cronkshaw advised APG Rechtenbeheer on the complex VAT and SDLT aspects of its £1.4bn three-way development joint venture with Delancey and Qatari Diar. Similarly, Cronkshaw has acted alongside newly promoted partner Hatice Ismail for Deka Immobilien in relation to its £164m purchase of a landmark office development in Manchester. Nick Skerrett leads the contentious side of the practice and is representing Veolia in judicially reviewing, in an industry test case, HMRC’s refusal to repay particular portions of landfill tax. Key contacts also include Mark Sheiham, who handles the tax treatment of structured finance transactions, and Martin Shah. Avenue Capital and Vodafone Group Services are other clients.

Traditionally thought of as a fraud and business crime firm, Bark&co has placed a considerable amount of focus in its tax litigation offering, with particular emphasis on VAT and excise issues. Acting primarily for individual clients, department head Giles Bark-Jones has been involved in civil matters and criminal tax fraud cases, and is also instructed by corporate clients in tribunal cases against HMRC. Laura Mackain-Bremner has been especially active in the area of contentious tax and fraud and Alex Nelson (a solicitor with four decades of experience) joined the team from Malletts Solicitors in 2016.

Following the three-way merger with Nabarro and Olswang, CMS brought in a number of partners with experience in the tax aspects of real estate transactions.Graham Chase, Stephen Hignett and Cliona Kirby joined the firm from Olswang; Kirby acted for DV4 Limited in relation to the VAT and SDLT issues arising from the merger of the East Village and Elephant & Castle redevelopment sites into new partnership structures. Similarly, Nick Burt and Phil Anderson have extensive experience of high-value property transactions and joined from Nabarro in the merger.

The team at Mayer Brown International LLP has expertise in the indirect tax issues arising out of real estate transactions. In addition, the department has experience of IPT matters, transfer pricing and tax disputes. Sandy Bhogal heads the practice group and advised The British Land Company on the £1.15bn sale of The Leadenhall Building to a Hong Kong-listed property developer. He is also acting for The Silvertown Partnership in relation to the £3.5bn redevelopment of Silvertown Quays in London. HIG Capital, AEW Europe and Gaw Capital Partners are among the department’s representative clients.

Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP has ‘exceptional experience’ of direct and indirect tax litigation and investigations. The team acts for corporates and individual clients, and is particularly strong at handling parallel civil and criminal investigations. Specialising in white-collar crime, special counsel Monty Raphael QC successfully represented a company director in a tax fraud case and has provided strategic disclosure advice to corporates in the midst of, or at risk of, HMRC investigations. Neil Swift, another criminal law expert, has advised multiple high-profile clients engaged in tax investigations. Corporate clients have included hedge funds, real estate companies and accountancy firms. Senior associate Rachel Cook is another key contact.

A dedicated business tax advisory service, Rosetta Tax LLP has an active indirect tax practice covering transactional support, stand-alone consultancy work and disputes. Department head Linda Adelson has extensive experience of UK and EU VAT and indirect tax law and has particular expertise in financial services and insurance-related VAT issues. She has previously been a partner at a City law firm and also headed the VAT department at a high street banking group; she currently serves as head of Citigroup’s EMEA VAT group, on a part-time basis. In 2016, the tax group provided strategic VAT advice to private equity firms and payment companies, advised a joint developer in relation to a UK property development and handled a VAT dispute in the tax tribunal. Peter Mason was called to the Bar and Nick McChesney left for an accountancy firm.

Stephenson Harwood has ‘a responsive and pro-active’ indirect tax group, which has experience of the indirect tax aspects of large transactions as well as contentious tax issues. Department head Hugo Jenney is ‘a real problem solver’ and has been advising Transport for London on the full range of tax issues in connection with the Crossrail development. The team handles real estate and project development transactions, but is also instructed by retailers, equipment leasing groups and shipping companies, including CMA CGM. Additionally, Jenney has represented the taxpayer in disputes against HMRC and also advises clients in relation to Revenue enquiries. Maryanna Sharrock and John Meehan are other key contacts.

Prompt and highly focused’, Wedlake Bell LLP has a ‘deep experience’ of SDLT and VAT property transactional issues. Indeed, the firm provides ‘more pointed, complex advice than the Big 4 firms’, according to one source, and is regularly instructed by clients in the education, insurance and real estate sectors. Michael Ridsdale heads the department and has been involved in numerous headline property transactions in 2016-2017; he has also been particularly active in thought leadership in the tax space. Martin Scammell is another contact in the group and key clients include University of Oxford, The British Land Company, Prudential Assurance and Centrica.

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