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Who Represents Who

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Baker McKenzie's impressive standalone VAT practice is led by Mark Delaney and leverages the firm's global reach to handle multi-jurisdictional VAT projects. Major contentious investigations and disputes are a core area of expertise, while on the non-contentious end, it is often called upon to advise on the design and implementation of VAT-efficient tax structures. Mark Agnew brings 'a unique perspective and commercial mindset' to problems, for which he provides 'practical solutions'. Promoted to partner in June 2018, tax litigator David Jamieson specialises in VAT and indirect tax disputes with the UK authorities. He has appeared as lead advocate at both the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal, as well as the supreme court. The group is representing Marriott at the Upper Tribunal in a groundbreaking case regarding the VAT consequences of customer loyalty programs, having acted for the client on the same matter in the French courts. Ross Denton and Jennifer Revis (who was promoted to partner in July 2017) are key contentious practitioners, both with expertise in indirect tax matters.

Clifford Chance's 'top-class' team advises corporates and government agencies on the spectrum of VAT and indirect tax matters, and often works alongside the firm's transactional practice on major cross-border deals. Clients include banks, financial investors (including sovereign wealth funds) and corporate enterprises. The group is led by David Saleh, known for his 'technical ability' and 'commercial objectivity', whose specialisms include real estate tax, restructurings, M&A, joint ventures and tax disputes.  Recent highlights included representing Project Blue before the Supreme Court in relation to a £50m SDLT dispute with HMRC. Clients include Canary Wharf, Legan & General, Reuters and numerous REITs. 

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP's standalone team is led by commercial tax specialist Isaac Zailer  and draws on the overall strength of the firm's tax group to lead on major transactional, advisory and contentious VAT and indirect tax issues. On the transactional front, the group handles real estate mandates, fund formation, corporate migration and indirect tax solutions. In relation to advisory work, it has significant expertise in the aggregates levy, landfill and tonnage tax and often provides submissions to government and industry bodies on the legality of proposed new indirect taxes. The tax investigations and disputes team, led by Heather Gething (who sits as a judge in the First-tier Tax Tribunal), has significant experience handling VAT disputes in the Court of Justice of the European Union. Gething is currently advising Uber London on its defence of a claim brought in the High Court by Jolyon Maugham QC concerning the client's VAT invoicing procedures. Howard Murray advised TSB Bank and Banco de Sabadell on an inter-group IT migration which had significant VAT implications. William Arrenberg advsed Lendlease on the structuring of a transaction pertaining to the development of The Timberyard Deptford to endure that zero rating was available on all aspects of the project. Neil Warriner is recommended for real estate tax.

Ashurst's team, led by the 'fabulous' Simon Swann, comprises 'true indirect tax experts' who are particularly noted for their strengths in VAT and SDLT matters. The team regularly assists with the structuring of joint ventures, developments and financing, and also handles the full spectrum of VAT disputes before UK tax courts and contentious matters that arise out of real estate transactions. Highlights for Nicholas Gardner included advising Lendlease on the VAT and SDLT aspects of a number of development projects around North London as part of the client's joint venture with the London Borough of Haringey. He also acted for Hastings Insurance Services on its appeal to the First Tier Tax Tribunal regarding the VAT treatment of insurance-related services. 'Technically strong' Paul Miller is representing Ocean finance in relation to a Court of Appeal hearing being brought by HMRC concerning the scope of VAT abuse and the extent to which it is limited to wholly artificial transactions. Senior associate Tim Gummer is another key contact.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP stands out for its significant expertise in real estate VAT, although it also advises clients in a range of sectors, including financial services, retail, not-for-profit and consumer goods. The key contacts in the team are global head of tax, Elizabeth Bradley, who leads on multi-jurisdictional transactions, and 'VAT genius' Alan Sinyor, whose 'creativity and intelligence' are noted. Sinyor is advising a major transport infrastructure company on major historic landfill tax issue; in a separate matter, he is advising multiple developers on the VAT and SDLT aspects of their investments. Kate Ison is recommended for contentious tax issues and is currently handling a number of VAT-related cases before the First-Tier Tribunal.

DLA Piper's indirect tax practice has developed a specialism in standalone post-BEPS advisory work (for which it leverages the firm's presence across the EU and globally) in addition to handling a steady diet of transactional matters. Richard Woolich leads the team and focuses on financial services, gambling, real estate VAT and cross-border goods and services, while the indirect tax disputes team is led by Geoffrey Tack. Highlights for the group included advising on the indirect tax aspects of the refinancing of the Gherkin building; and, in a separate matter, advising DTZ Investments in relation to the establishment of a fund to invest in French real estate, which involved  significant UK cross-border VAT issues. Ben Brown joined the team from Allen & Overy LLP in July 2017.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP's VAT group is noted for its 'good business acumen' in disputes and advisory matters. The practice is jointly headed by David Jervis and recovery claims expert Giles Salmond, and includes contentious tax specialist Stephen Yates. The team acted for Lookers, which is pursuing a claim against HMRC for compound interest payable on VAT over-payments in relation to historic car dealership bonuses. In another standout recovery claim, it continues to represent MG Rover Group in a case which was successful before the First-tier Tribunal and is now before the Upper Tribunal. On the non-contentious side, Camilla Spielman and John Buckeridge advised the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) on the application of VAT on services used by the LGPS Fund, securing a VAT exemption.

Norton Rose Fulbright's VAT team handles a mixture of standalone matters in addition to providing transactional advice. The group is led by Dominic Stuttaford who specialises in the tax aspects of corporate finance transactions and is representing BMW in a complex litigation regarding VAT grouping rules, a matter that will decide which entity is entitled to claim a refund of VAT where there have been changes to the composition of the group over time. Senior consultant Chris Bates heads the European VAT group and has extensive experience as an accredited mediator. Real estate and funds expert Angela Savin is 'a brilliant litigator' who is advising Commerz Real Investmentgesellschaft on SDLT positions regarding the expansion of Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush.

Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP stands out for its exemplary ability to handle indirect tax investigations and claims, including VAT and customs duties issues. The group is often instructed on complex cases with international elements, such as making representations to HMRC in connection with offshore tax structures and advising on overseas tax law in the context of an extradition. Monty Raphael QC draws on his white collar criminal defence background, and specialises in the forensic aspects of indirect tax. Neil Swift handles a number of high-value cases involving VAT fraud and is currently representing a high-profile business person who was arrested as part of an HMRC and NCA investigation into allegations that he evaded £21m in VAT through a complex of offshore structures. The team welcomed Nick Vamos from the Crown Prosecution Service in September 2017, while Dr Anna Bradshaw was promoted to partner in November 2017. Keith Oliver and practice head Michael O’Kane are also recommended.

Providing clients with 'excellent service', Pinsent Masons LLP is most noted for its contentious VAT work, on which Stuart Walsh and Jason Collins take the lead. Walsh continues to act for RBS Group in two disputes arising from missing traders in its supply chains defaulting on VAT due to HMRC. He is also representing Cantor Fitzgerald in a dispute with HMRC concerning VAT on certain purchases of emissions allowances issued under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme. Several practitioners in the London office have particular jurisdictional expertise, including Ian Hyde, who leads on the new VAT environment in the Gulf states, and dual Dutch and English qualified Maryse Heijnen. 

Simmons & Simmons' expertise covers the full spectrum of indirect tax matters, including VAT, SDLT, SDRT, insurance and premium tax and environmental taxes. The department is led by Darren Oswick who is noted for his expertise in asset management and investment funds related matters. Highlights for Nick Cronkshaw included advising Deka Immobilien on the VAT and SDLT aspects of its £435m acquisition from Great Portland Estates of a mixed-use development at Rathbone Square. Martin Shah continues to advise British Land on a range of tax and structuring matters pertaining to VAT and SDLT, including in relation to the disposal of seven superstores from its joint venture with Sainsbury's. 'Shrewd operator' Nick Skerrett leads on contentious matters.

Tax fraud cases are Bark&co's core competency and its team has particular expertise in cases involving VAT and excise issues. Founding partner Giles Bark-Jones leads the group and in addition to his criminal fraud practice, he is often instructed on civil litigation and contentious tax issues. In a major victory, he secured an acquittal for his client who had been charged with conspiracy to defraud the Revenue as a result of Operation Amazon; a case that  arose out of a tax relief scheme for environmentally friendly technologies. Senior solicitor Fiona Gavriel successfully defended the director of major independent brewery who was facing three charges concerning the non-payment of tax by the company. Senior associate Alex Nelson is another key name.

CMS's key competencies lie in real estate, healthcare and technology related indirect tax issues. The team sits within the broader tax department, which in turn draws on the firm's broader European presence, giving it an advantage on cross-border tax issues. Stephen Hignett and Aaron Fairhurst jointly head the VAT group, which includes non-contentious tax expert Clíona Kirby and Nick Burt, who focuses on tax planning and structuring for corporates engaged in M&A. Other names in the practice include  Lauren Adler and Phil Anderson .

Hogan Lovells International LLP's indirect tax department is representing Citibank in its appeal against an HMRC assessment requiring the company to meet the cost of a VAT fraud committed by other parties. It is also advising eBay, following press coverage of the evasion of VAT by its service-users, on UK legislation and its attendance at a Public Accounts Committee hearing. Other clients include British American Tobacco and Mercedes Benz Financial Services. Key individuals include 'very experienced senior partner' and global co-head of tax Karen Hughes , 'measured and deeply technical' Rupert Shiers and Elliot Weston, who specialises in SDLT issues. Lee Squires left the department in June 2018.

James Hill and Ben Fryer lead Mayer Brown International LLP's indirect tax group, which provides tax planning and structuring advice in connection with a variety of investments both domestically and cross-border. The group also advises clients on projects, planning and stucturing, with a particular focus on cross-border VAT for financial services clients, insurance premium tax and real estate tax matters. Highlights including advising LKK HEalth Products Group on the indirect tax aspects of its acquisition of the Walkie Talkie. Sandy Bhogal joined Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in April 2018.

'Superb' boutique tax firm Rosetta Tax LLP provides VAT and indirect advice to law firms and professional advisers and corporates. It also has an active disputes practice and handles transactional matters. The key contact is Linda Adelson, who has 'VAT in her DNA' and significant in-house experience having been head of VAT for both Lloyds Banking Group and Legal & General. Her focus is financial services and insurance-related VAT, but also has expertise in real estate tax and experience in advising clients on the VAT treatment of various grant funding arrangements.

Stephenson Harwood's indirect tax team is integral to the firm's wider transactional practice, and predominantly handles VAT, SDLT and stamp duty matters that arise out of real estate, leasing, asset finance and transportation. The firm has also developed a niche in bespoke VAT and customs duty advice concerning shipping, aviation and fine art. Hugo Jenney leads the team and has expertise in tonnage tax and air passenger duty. In addition to transactional and advisory work, 'very good' Maryanna Sharrock is also experienced in VAT disputes. John Meehan and senior associate Kate Worthington provided sector-specific VAT advice to HC-One in relation to its £300m acquisition of care homes from Bupa.

Wedlake Bell LLP's Michael Ridsdale has 'a high level of expertise' in VAT, SDLT and other indirect taxes, for which he is 'quick to identify issues' and 'develop practical solutions'. The predominant focus of the department is transactional and tax consultancy advice, although it also represents taxpayers in disputes with HMRC. In 2017, the group was instructed on major property transactions and development projects, as well as insurance-related tax work. Consultant Martin Scammell is another key contact, with vast expertise in real estate and construction VAT.

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