Tax in Colombia
The practice group at Baker McKenzie S.A.S. is ‘very responsive’ and ‘provides an exceptional service’, principally to multinational companies in Colombia and - via the firm’s office network - elsewhere in Latin America; it is particularly known for the design of optimal transfer-pricing policies between related parties in different jurisdictions. The firm is also known for its involvement in the oil-and-gas industry, including tax advice on M&A transactions and tax structuring issues. Leading lawyer Ciro Meza, who is well regarded by peers and clients alike, heads the 13-strong practice group, with ‘top-notch, upcoming expert’ Rodrigo Castillo leading the wealth management area. Recent headline mandates included acting as lead counsel to Brookfield Infrastructure Group on its $560m acquisition of a controlling stake in Gas Natural (a transaction that required three public auction phases and a tender offer), and successfully representing AES Chivor & Co in a suit against a DIAN resolution concerning the refund of stamp duty contributions. Other mandates included advising Altra Investments on the sale of plastic-packaging solutions provider Proenfar (and all its Latin-American subsidiaries in Mexico, Argentina and Peru) to Weener Plastics. Senior associates Carlos Gómez and Daniel Botero (whose practice is primarily finance focused) and associate Daniela Lievano-Uribe are also noted. Clients include ExxonMobil, Chevron, Airbnb, Amazon, Noble Energy, PepsiCo and Google.
Providing ‘a thoroughly comprehensive service’, Brigard Urrutia’s tax department is often involved in ground-breaking transactions with a cross-border component, and the team is particularly well reputed for its handling of transfer pricing defence. Lucas Moreno now heads the team following the departure of José Andrés Romero to the Colombia’s tax and customs authority, the DIAN. Customs and international trade practice head José Francisco Mafla and newly promoted partners Catalina Jaramillo and Andrés Hernández (who is recommended for his ‘responsiveness, soft skills and flexibility’) are also key members of the department. The team recently advised Dolphin Drilling Group on tax planning in relation to operating in an offshore free trade zone and transfer pricing analysis, among other matters. Other work saw it advise Fábrica Nacional de Autopartes (FANALCA) on structuring the tax-treatment aspects of its successful bid for a $700m public tender for the provision and maintenance of the bus fleet of Bogotá’s rapid transit system. Other highlights included advising Netflix regarding VAT tax obligations for foreign service providers. Other clients include Bancolombia, Isagen, BlackRock Citibank, Terranum and Grupo Argos.
With extensive experience in tax planning for M&A operations and in tax litigation, Gómez-Pinzón Abogados (GPA) offers a ‘high added-value’ service. Mauricio Piñeros heads the ten-strong practice, with Álvaro Andrés Díaz (who focuses on litigation and transfer pricing), Ignacio Vélez and senior associate Carolina Bobillier also pivotal members of the practice. Recent matters saw the team advise Bavaria on a tax proceeding relating to equity tax and legal stability contracts, a significant matter since it signalled the beginning of tax disputes concerning the application of the country’s 2011 legal stability law to tax matters. The team also advised Mall Plaza Colombia on the restructuring of its real estate assets and on their transference to a private equity fund. Other mandates included assisting Grupo Aval with designing the structure and implementing the reorganisation of the loyalty programme covering all the banks under the client’s control – Banco de Bogota, Banco AV Villas and Banco de Occidente. Other clients include Almacenes Éxito, Ecopetrol, Metro de Bogotá, Booking.com International and Valorem.
The service at Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría is ‘excellent’ since the 15 lawyers who compose the team are ‘always available to address any issue in a timely and professional manner’. Well-regarded office managing partner Martín Acero and Carolina Rozo co-head the practice group, of which senior associate Diego Velandia is also a key member; however, former senior associate María Alejandra Buitrago joined DLA Piper Martinez Beltrán. Recent mandates saw the team advise Banco Colpatria on the design of the international corporate, tax and foreign-exchange structure to acquire Citibank Colombia’s private banking, private clients and consumer operations businesses. Other matters included designing a legal and tax structure to permit the rendering of different services between Drypers Andina, a company incorporated in a (Colombian) free trade zone, and Protisa Colombia, which is incorporated within national customs territory. The team also developed a tax structure on behalf of Inmobiliaria Bondue to facilitate its entry into a joint-investment project with Canadian company Avicanna for the production of “sun grown” cannabis. Other clients include Mexico Infrastructure Partners, Aesco, Visa, Citibank and Proquinal.
Clients describe Posse Herrera Ruiz’s tax practitioners as ‘experts in their field – practical and analytical’. Led by the noted Juan Guillermo Ruiz (‘deeply experienced’ and ‘a brilliant attorney’), the 26-strong practice is one of the largest in the country and includes four partners. Juan David Velasco, Juan Camilo de Bedout and senior associate Jaime Gómez are also key figures. Recent headline work saw the practice advise Grupo Sura on the corporate restructuring of its foreign subsidiaries in (among other locations) Chile, Spain, and Curaçao in the wake of business acquisitions. The team also advised Gas Natural Fenosa on the structuring of the sale of its distribution company in Colombia to Brookfield. Other highlights included advising Interconexión Eléctrica Colombia Panamá on the analysis and restructuring of the electric interconnection project intended to link South and Central America’s energy markets, which will permit Colombia to export power to the isthmus. Other clients include Termotasajero, Australis Partners, United Health Group, Cerro Matoso and Avintia.
Cahn-Speyer, Paredes & Asociados
Well-reputed litigator Paul Cahn-Speyer leads tax boutique Cahn-Speyer, Paredes & Asociados, which primarily advises on transfer-pricing matters and restructuring and investments, as well as litigation. The practice is also experienced in international taxation, trade and commerce, and sanctions imposed for non-compliance.
Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas offers ‘rapidity and precision’ and ‘each adviser is a specialist in their field’; as a result, clients feel ‘very supported’. The practice handles the full spectrum of tax work and is particularly reputed for its litigation team. With over 25 years’ experience, the ‘outstanding’ Camilo Cortés heads a five-strong practice group tht also includes experienced figures Carmen Sanabria and Ernesto López. Recent mandates included advising Tyndall Group on the tax structure for the sale of shares to Primax Corporation and the Romero Group. The team also successfully filed a remedy against the penalties imposed by the tax authority due to an inaccuracy in transfer pricing information on behalf of Sociedad de Comercialización Internacional Compras Americas. Other highlights included advising Strabag on the tax due diligence process for the Autopista Río Magdalena infrastructure project. Other clients include Inversiones William Zuca, Avicanna, TV Azteca, Clorox de Colombia and Terrafertil Colombia.
Tax has long been Garrigues’ core practice and the firm has come to be known internationally for its involvement in high-profile tax disputes and transactional tax planning, as well as for advising on tax policy reform projects. In the Bogotá office, the profusely praised Camilo Zarama heads a team that ‘stands out for its creative and complete approach’. Counsel César Cermeño heads the tax litigation sub-department and is regarded as ‘a reference in the field’ by clients and peers alike. The practice group can also count on of counsel Fernando Zarama, who has over 30 years’ experience, and recommended principal associate Laura Galeano. Recent mandates included advising Quironsalud on the tax planning for an investment structure used to acquire Clinica Medellín, including definition of the tax structure and identification of possible tax liabilities, and Australis on the tax planning for the acquisition of 50% of Alianza Fiduciaria and Alianza Valores from Advent International, which involved analyses of both the local tax implications and of those in Chile and Spain. On the contentious side, the litigation team filed a nullity lawsuit on behalf of Asociación de Transporte Aéreo de Colombia against a stamp tax that the Department of La Guajira imposed on planes, passengers and items flying from its airports. Other mandates included representing Esenttia in an $8m lawsuit against the Tax and Customs Administration related to the rejection of expenses incurred due to the maintenance of machinery that constitutes a fixed asset of the company. Clients include KOPPS (an AB InBev subsidiary), British American Tobacco, Whirlpool and Australis Partners.
Lewin & Wills, Abogados
Highly specialised tax boutique Lewin & Wills, Abogados dedicates itself exclusively to taxation, estate planning, foreign exchange and investment, international trade and investment protection, and associated corporate law and transactional matters. The firm is also recognised for undertaking litigation and arbitration - at both national and international levels - regarding tax, foreign exchange and international trade issues. Alfredo Lewin and Adrián Rodríguez are the key names for all tax matters bar estate-and-tax planning for individuals and family-owned businesses, which are handled by Emilio Wills and Laureano Gómez. The team also includes public accountants. Past clients include ExxonMobil, Carbones del Cerrejón, and Pacific Exploration and Production (formerly Pacific Rubiales).
Specialist boutique Quiñones Cruz has a long-standing reputation for its activity in the sector; the firm handles the full array of tax law, as well as acting in associated litigation and administrative proceedings. Lucy Cruz, Antonio Quiñones and Diego Quiñones head the eight-strong practice, whose recent mandates include successfully acting for Ocensa in a dispute concerning the annulment of an administrative act issued by the tax administration, which levied a special contribution for public procurement contracts; the case was of fundamental importance to public companies, those with mixed capital, and those operating in public procurement. In other 2018 work highlights, the team filed a public action seeking the annulment of various parts of the statute containing the Tax Code of the Municipality of La Calera (one of Bogotá’s most important suburbs), the property-tax provisions of which were impacting real estate development in the municipality. Other clients include Seguros del Estado, Ecopetrol, Citigroup and AB lnBev.
DLA Piper Martinez Beltrán’s tax department strengthened its ranks with the June 2018 hire of Andrés González, previously at Lewin & Wills, Abogados, to lead the practice. ‘Widely known and respected’ by the tax authorities, González ‘stands out for his capacity and command’ and ‘excellent response times’. Managing director Camilo Martínez (who is highlighted for his handling of transactional and contentious matters) and senior associate Maria Alejandra Buitrago (who joined from *Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría) are also key members of the team. Current work includes advising Uber on tax planning strategies and business models that could be implemented in other jurisdictions. The practice also advised Pivot Investment Partners on the structuring of a search fund and on its acquisition of a company in the food and beverage sector. Other 2018 mandates included representing a leading oil-and-gas company in a tax litigation case related to the application of territorial taxes. Clients include Trafigura, Sony, Carvajal, Fortive, Biomax, Canadian Solar and Grupo Valorem.
Led by Catalina Hoyos and Juan Pablo Godoy, Godoy & Hoyos Abogados SAS’ ten-strong team is currently advising consortium Desarrollo Vial al Mar (comprised by Sacyr Concesiones Colombia, Strabag Colombia and Concay) on the structuring of the tax model for the concession contract Mar 1. The firm also acted successfully for Aldea Proyectos (which is carrying out a $300m urban renovation project in Bogotá) before the Constitutional Court, whose decision confirmed the illegality of denying tax benefits established by previous legislation, particularly where such benefits had been awarded in exchange for relevant investments. Other clients include Interconexión Eléctrica, Empresas Públicas de Medellín, Vitol, Grupo Sura and Prodeco.
Mauricio A. Plazas Vega Abogados & Asociados
Recognised for its vast experience in local taxation related to land and property, Pinilla González & Prieto Abogados’ ‘diverse and accomplished’ team is ‘always up to date with new legislation’ and provides specialist advice on the tax aspects of real estate project development. Following the departure of Camilo Cayedo, the practice is now led by María Helena Padilla, who arrived from DIRECTV Latin America, where she had oversight of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, in May 2019. The team recently advised Belenus on tax planning to neutralise the impact of gift taxes arising from the sale of seven properties in a mandate valued at over $5m. The practice also successfully represented Apiros in a dispute before the tax authorities related to the refund of construction tax payments. Other highlights included advising Constructora Prodesa in determining the real estate tax of all properties owned by the company so as to optimise payment. Clients include Cimento Inmuebles Comerciales, Akila, Generarco and Jardines del Apogeo.
With offices in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla, Araújo Ibarra is the top brand name in international trade and customs matters. In 2018 it opened an ‘excellent’ tax unit directed by Héctor Falla, who is recommended for his ‘knowledge’, ‘understanding of business’ and ‘timely responsiveness’. The five-strong practice advises on national, local and international taxation, including the interpretation of double taxation agreements, as well as tax litigation and representation (including tax compensation and refunds requests), and the filing of unconstitutionality actions against tax regulations. Recent work saw the team successfully act for Drypers Andina in a refund request regarding a tax payment; additionally, it advised the company (and Protisa Colombia) on the tax structuring of the companies’ commercial discounts policy. Other 2018 mandates included representing Termoelectrica El Morro 2 in two tax litigation cases before the national tax administration. Constructura San Silvestre is also a client.
Contexto Legal Abogados
Contexto Legal Abogados’ ‘high-quality’ seven-strong practice is co-led by Federico Escobar and Carlos Andrés González. The Medellín-based firm handles the full-range of tax services and clients praise the team’s disposition, availability and the quality of its timely answers. Recent work included designing the tax structure for the sale of part of a company’s operations to an international investor. The team is also designing and structuring the initiation of Everfit’s commercial activities in the US. Other mandates include permanent consultation for Socoda and NGO Insight Crime. Muma, Tann Colombiana, Inversiones Tinkko, International Flavors and Fragances, and Consumer Goods Forum are also on the practice’s client roster.
‘Efficient and displaying good strategies’, Holland & Knight’s department provides advice on a wide range of transactional tax matters, as well as remedial advice in litigation proceedings. The five-strong team, led by the well-regarded Juan Carlos Valencia, ‘has extensive knowledge’ and ‘a close relationship with the regulator, which allows it to resolve doubts effectively’. Recent work saw the practice assist Ventura Capital with its corporate reorganisation; the team also provides the client with permanent corporate and tax advice for all entities in which the company holds equity.
Boutique firm Osman & Rodriguez Abogados provides local and foreign companies across all industries, with tax consultancy services regarding national and subnational taxes, tax planning, cross-border transactions, estate planning, tax treaty network matters, due diligence, litigation and refunds. Pedro Pablo Osman heads the practice, which also specialises in international trade and customs matters. Recent mandates saw the team give tax and legal advice to a leading micro-finance entity in relation to its restructuring, and assist a construction sector company with the incorporation of a real estate investment structure located both in Colombia and abroad. Other 2018 highlights included the restructuring of a group of companies involved in the real estate and agricultural sectors. Cliets include Gunvor Colombia, DSV Air & Sea, Evolution Fitness Corporation and RB Deco, a subsidiary of Roche Bobois.
Parra Rodríguez Abogados
Arguably best known for its expertise in the airline industry, Parra Rodríguez Abogados’ tax practice stands out for the ‘integrity, dedication and quality of the work’ and for ‘assistance provided in a timely and efficient manner’. The five-strong team is led by name partner Álvaro Parra (a noted figure in the aviation industry), and María Margarita Parra; Augusto Figueroa is also a key member of the team and the three partners can each count on over 30 years’ sector experience. 2018 highlights included representing a client in litigation against the tax authority for the return of sums collected, and tax advice to an international automotive manufacturer regarding its Colombian operations and the tax implications of utilising Colombia’s free trade zone regime.
Founded in November 2016, boutique firm SanintRivas is recommended by clients and peers alike. It is led by Laura Sanint, formerly a senior associate at Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría, and Daniela Rivas, who has over a decade’s experience in house - notably at Avianca and BTG Pactual - as well as at the country’s tax authority; the pair are ‘highly specialised lawyers who provide great value to M&A deals by giving very accurate advice on the tax effects of each acquisition structure’. The team is particularly experienced in dealing with transfer pricing and regularly advises Comercializadora Internacional de Bananeros Unidos de Santa Marta (BANASAN) on corporate tax and transfer pricing in the jurisdictions of Spain, Ireland, Uruguay and Panama. Other highlight work included advising Inversiones y Construcciones Incol on a trust agreement to develop a housing project in Engativá, Bogotá, since the tax benefits applicable to this kind of agreement were modified by Law 1819, enacted in 2016. Clients include Agropecuaria Bambusa, Belatrix Colombia, Hotel Quadrifolio Holding, Companía Cafetera La Meseta and Dreamer Hostels.
CMS Rodríguez-Azuero’s three-strong tax department is now led by Natalia Guerrero, who joined the firm from oil-and-gas company Frontera Energy, and offers comprehensive advice on all tax issues. The firm acted for Frontera Energy on several matters, including litigation against the tax authority for the recovery of income tax deductions. The team also advised Xertica subsidiary Eforcers on a threefold transaction to integrate and expand the client's business across Latin America; the mandate entailed tax structuring of the transaction to allow efficient movement of assets within all merging participants, and also to allow investment from an international private equity fund. Practice clients include NGE Contracting, NetGo, Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá and Cámara Colombiana de Comercio Electrónico.
Lloreda Camacho & Co. advises clients from across the pharmaceutical, oil-and-gas, mining and retail sectors on financial processes and operations, including treasury, corporate finance, M&A, cross-border transactions, and project development. Ignacio Santamaría heads the six-strong team, which recently advised Roche’s Colombian affiliate on analysing the alternatives for the implementation of a new business unit. Formerly the in-house tax lawyer at national oil-and-gas entity Ecopetrol, David García is also a key practice figure, with sources talking of ‘an exceptional lawyer’, whose ‘knowledge stands out’. Other highlights included assisting GlaxoSmithKline with the distribution of equity accounts to its shareholders, and advising ESAB–West Arco with its corporate reorganisation, which required a reduction of its real estate property holdings. Clients include Goodyear, Boehringer Ingelheim, Johnson & Johnson and Coca Cola.
Boutique firm Rodríguez Bravo Abogados S.A.S. was founded in 2016 by the former head of Norton Rose Fulbright’s tax department, Sebastián Rodriguez, who is particularly recommended for his knowledge of international tax. The four-strong team attracts praise for its ‘efficiency’ and for providing ‘exceptional and outstanding services’. The firm’s recent highlights included designing the tax planning for the sale of insurance adjusters and advisers FGR Colombia and SIS de Colombia to Charles Taylor. Other mandates included tax planning in connection with the acquisition of Velsa. The team also regularly provides tax services to Flormorado, Proagro, Croc, Koradi and Corporacion Punto Azul, among others.