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Gowling WLG’s ‘first-rate and user-friendly team’ handles an impressive variety of work, from servicing the firm’s substantial real estate practice, to providing standalone tax structuring advice for inward investment. In one example of the latter, the team is advising a group of Lebanese investors on the establishment of a UK SPV for the purposes of operating a high-end restaurant. Practice head Lee Nuttall and director Chris Nyland are ‘both very brainy’ and represented Empiric Student Properties in the SDLT and VAT aspects of its £20m multiple-site purchase of student accommodation. In another significant real estate mandate, the team acted for the London Borough of Barnet in relation to the tax structuring of a joint venture to facilitate the wholesale mixed-use redevelopment of Brent Cross, Barnet, including the redevelopment of the Brent Cross Shopping Centre. On the corporate side, director Zoe Fatchen has wide-ranging experience of M&A and restructuring and assisted Nuttall in advising Huhtamaki on the £80m acquisition of two entities, one based in Northern Ireland the other in Poland. Neil Pearson left for Mills & Reeve LLP.

Parisi Tax LLP Birmingham is ‘unsurpassed as a boutique practice’, according to one client, and is singled out for being ‘adept at routine advisory work as well as dealing with the most sensitive and strategically important matters’. The firm is regularly instructed to advise on the tax aspects transactions, with recent examples including ‘pragmatic and commercial adviser’ Lisa Stevenson acting for Glide Utilities on the sale of the company to CableCom, and Elizabeth Morgan advising the management team of Founded Partners on the staged sale of its shares to Iris Worldwide. Another area of expertise is Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), with the ‘technically excellent and natural problem-solver’ Becky Rees the name to note in this regard; Rees is currently advising Playfair Capital on several investments into EIS companies. On the property tax side, the ‘outstanding’ Jennie Newton has been providing support to a number of law firms and, in one example of work, provided SDLT and VAT advice on the sale of a shopping centre. Solicitor Jamie Chambers joined from Shoosmiths LLP, while Veronica McMahon departed for an in-house role.

Advice is always comprehensive’ at Browne Jacobson LLP, where the practice handles corporate tax, property tax and employee share incentives for both the public and private sector. The ‘sharp-thinkingAndrew Noble, who is dual qualified as a solicitor and chartered tax adviser, acted for Belvoir Lettings on the tax aspects of its acquisition of Northwood GB, and also advised the London Borough of Enfield on property tax issues (including VAT, SDLT and corporation tax) relating to the regeneration and development of a former industrial estate in North London. In other examples of the practice’s impressive scope, Noble represented Santander in tax issues arising from its funding package for the placing and admission to AIM of Autins Group, and also assisted VerdErg with EIS tax planning for a proposed new investment.

At DLA Piper UK LLP, Mark Burgess - who is singled out for his ‘very keen business acumen and outstanding technical advice’ - focuses on real estate transactions and structuring, and acts for a range of sovereign wealth funds, high-net-worth individuals and real estate entities such as Blackstone. In the student accommodation and residential development space – which is a particular specialism – Burgess’ work included acting for Threesixty Developments in the £430m sale of 15 student accommodation and two private rented sector assets located across England, Wales and Scotland, and assisting New Waverley Advisers in relation to phase one of a major mixed-use development in Edinburgh. The other name to note is senior associate Nicholas Hinton, who deals with all areas of corporate and business tax; Hinton acted for Dignity on updates to their share plans, as well as the introduction of a new form of incentive arrangement. The team also handled a high volume of insolvency-related tax advice and, in one example, continued to act for PricewaterhouseCoopers, as administrators of the Caparo Industries Group, on the ongoing administration of 16 companies within the group.

DWF’s ‘proactive and practical team’ is led by Jon Stevens, whose ‘wide legal knowledge is enhanced by his thoughtful approach’. Stevens focuses on real estate tax and corporate tax, including SDLT and VAT on development and construction, and was once again active in these areas. He also acted for CentralNic Group in the cross-border acquisition of the Instra Group, and advised on a number of sale and leaseback transactions for Whitbread Group, including the forward funding and development of the hub, a Premier Inn-branded 389-bedroom hotel at King’s Cross, London. In another highlight, Stevens has been assisting AIM-listed Constellation Healthcare Technologies with tax advice relating to the $300m recommended takeover of the company by its CEO and CC Capital. The practice also has contentious capabilities and represents clients in relation to HMRC enquiries.

At Gateley Plc, head of practice James Gopsill specialises in the taxation of real estate investment, real estate development and urban regeneration; recent highlights for Gopsill include advising on the tax aspects of Mountpark USAA’s acquisition of a development site at Manchester City Airport, and also providing tax advice to Taylor Wimpey and Redrow in relation to the development of 1,450 new homes together with a primary school, commercial area and health centre at Wrexham Road Chester. On the corporate tax side, ‘very practical’ senior associate Martin Jahreiss focuses on company tax planning, corporate acquisitions and disposals, reconstructions, MBOs and MBIs. In 2016, Jahreiss advised on a number of private equity transactions, including acting for the management team of Wavenet in the £35m MBO backed by Beech Tree Private Equity, and representing Palatine Private Equity in its investment in Westleigh. The team also has experience in handling share-based employee incentivisation.

The team at Higgs & Sonsreally know its stuff’ and, in 2016, provided tax advice on numerous corporate acquisitions, including advising the shareholders of DM Midlands in connection with the sale of the entire issued share capital of the company to DM Midlands (Holdings), and acting for the shareholders of Wavenet in connection with £35m MBO of the company backed by Beech Tree Private Equity. The practice is also proficient in employee management incentive schemes and was active in this space for various companies ahead of share sales and corporate reorganisations. Practice head Susheel Gupta is supported by chartered tax adviser Adam Rollason and solicitor Johnathan Hunter.

Mills & Reeve LLP’s team was enhanced by the hire of Neil Pearson from Gowling WLG, who now jointly heads the department with Kevin Lowe. Pearson specialises in social investment, venture capital schemes and employee share ownership, and was highly active in these spaces for clients such as Maven Capital Partners UK and Funding Circle. In one example of work, he provided tax advice to Livingbridge VC, in relation to both new investments by the company and restructuring its existing portfolio. Lowe focuses on high-value M&A transactions, with a particular emphasis on VAT issues encountered by transactions in the health and education sectors. In 2016, he assisted with a number of deals in the hospitality and leisure sector, including acting for Boparan Restaurants Holdings in the purchase of the entire issued share capital of Giraffe Concepts in an auction bid process from Tesco. The practice is also noted for its tax expertise in the sports sector, where clients include the Professional Footballers Association.

At Shoosmiths LLP, Kate Featherstone advises on all aspects of corporate and business tax and has significant experience in private equity transactions, mergers and acquisitions, restructurings and reorganisations. In one example of work, she provided tax advice to the shareholders of GBR Phoenix Beard Holdings in the sale of their shares to Savills. Other clients of the practice are Mercedes-Benz, GAME and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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