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  1. Tax and trusts
  2. Leading individuals

Leading individuals

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'Trailblazers in relation to Hong Kong tax matters', and also able to leverage a huge global tax team to resource multi-jurisdictional matters, Baker McKenzie has the 'economies of scale' and the expertise to handle a tremendous volume and variety of contentious and non-contentious matters. Richard Weisman acts for ultra-high-net-worth Asia-based families on international tax and wealth planning matters, as well as providing the tax structuring on M&A and other corporate transactions. Alongside Pierre Chan, Weisman provided the Hong Kong tax input in relation to LGT Group Foundation's $20bn acquisition of ABN AMRO's Asia and Middle East private banking business. As well as providing tax-related wealth management expertise and general tax advisory work, team head Steven Sieker has an excellent reputation for handling contentious tax matters; he recently negotiated a multimillion-dollar settlement claim with the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department on behalf of a major global retailer relating to a claim for offshore profits. Senior associate Carrie Lui has a particularly strong reputation advising on the tax aspects of major restructuring and M&A projects.

With four partners based in Hong Kong, and able to leverage the expertise of lawyers based in mainland China and across the firm's global offices, DLA Piper has the critical mass and breadth of expertise to handle the full spectrum of non-contentious and contentious tax matters affecting multinationals, including as it relates to M&A tax structuring and transfer pricing. It also provides private clients with estate planning and general tax and trust advice. The head of the Hong Kong tax team, Anderson Lam has extensive experience in advising local and international clients on structuring their business operations in a legally compliant and tax-efficient manner. Alongside Doris Ho, Lam recently provided regional tax structuring coordination across five Asia-Pacific jurisdictions, including Hong Kong and Japan, for a global financial services entity's global reorganisation. Daniel Chan is the overall head of the firm's Asia tax offering, and focuses on providing advice to multinationals on investment and taxation matters in Greater China. The team is rounded out by Patrice Marceau, who has a focus on private client and wealth management tax matters.

Recently strengthened by a number of high-profile additions, including the arrival in November 2017 of Laurence Ho from Withers, and in May 2018 of Kevin Lee from Zhong Lun Law Firm, Stephenson Harwood is widely regarded as having the 'strongest private wealth-focused team in Asia'. With experts providing tax and trusts advice across different topics and jurisdictions, clients appreciate the firm's ability to provide 'a one-stop-shop service to wealthy individuals in the region'. The 'resourceful and practical' Lee is 'commercially aware'; his 'natural sense of curiosity' ensures he provides 'very strong service' to clients on Hong Kong and Canadian tax and private wealth issues. Able to 'explain very complex matters in an understandable way', Ho excels at advising high-net-wealth clients and families with connections to the US and bolsters an already strong team in that regard, given the credentials of the 'very approachable' Erik Wallace, who has 'a comprehensive grasp of US tax law and is always on top of the constant changes'. 'Experienced across all areas of Hong Kong and international trusts, estate planning, and charities', Silvia On provides 'intelligent and highly professional' guidance to high-net-wealth clients on their succession and estate planning needs. Consultant Peter Hodson excels at trusts matters and is 'able to compare the legal considerations for trust issues in cross-border situations, concerning many Asian jurisdictions and the main trust centres'. Team head Ian Devereux has 'vast experience' and impresses clients with his 'in-depth knowledge' and ability to 'identify and mitigate the risks and issues'.

'One the best firms in Hong Kong for dealing with all kinds of tax, trusts and probate work', Clifford Chance is best-known for its tax litigation offering, which provides 'a systematic analysis of the legal aspects of a case, as well as of its practical and commercial implications'. 'Very knowledgeable about Hong Kong tax law', Elaine Chen has 'a great deal of experience in dealing with officers of the Hong Kong Inland Revenue department and courts'. Brian Gilchrist heads the office's overall litigation department and has vast tax litigation expertise; he provides 'incredibly practical advice and knows how to handle difficult scenarios'. Consultant Alex Wong is 'a top-class lawyer' and 'excellent team player' who regularly advises taxpayers on their disputes with the Inland Revenue with an emphasis on profits tax-related issues.

Despite a number of recent personnel changes, including the departure of  Laurence Ho to Stephenson Harwood in October 2017, Withers maintains 'an excellent reputation for handling a wide range of private client advisory work, including succession planning, family and matrimonial matters, tax planning and governance'. Able to tap into the expertise of practitioners across the firm's global network, including in North America, Europe and Asia, the team can provide global solutions to cross-border issues. The 'very responsive and sharp' Timothy Burns is particularly noted for his ability to advise high-net-worth individuals, family offices and fund principals on US tax and cross-border issues. The 'very well-respected and experienced' Mimi Hutton  is also 'very strong on US tax law issues', and as part of her broad-ranging practice regularly advises on international probate matters where the estate owns US assets or has US beneficiaries. 'Responsive' team head Katie Graves provides 'in-depth knowledge' across a range of tax, trust and estate planning for international families. Wei Zhang handles sophisticated tax and wealth planning matters for high-net-worth individuals and their families in a cross-border context, as well as in US domestic planning matters. At associate level, Deirdre Fu is praised for her 'very thorough research' and 'willingness to go the extra mile' for clients seeking trusts and other succession planning arrangements.

Herbert Smith Freehills' two-partner wealth planning department provides 'practical suggestions as to the application of the law' across a range of non-contentious and contentious tax and trusts matters. Recently promoted to partner, the 'responsive and helpful' Joanna Caen has a burgeoning reputation in the market and is skilled at structuring for family purposes, as well as acting for individuals and organisations in respect of charitable and not-for-profit structures. Appreciated by clients for his 'outstanding technical knowledge and keen understanding of trust law', Richard Norridge 'does a good job of balancing technical knowledge with pragmatism', particularly in relation to trust disputes.

Although the firm suffered a significant setback with the departure in May 2018 of Kevin Lee to Stephenson Harwood, Zhong Lun Law Firm still maintains a 'strong' two-partner team that is able to provide advice to high-net-worth individuals, institutional trustees and private banks across a range of private client work, including trust and estate planning, multi-jurisdictional wills advice, matrimonial services and succession planning. The 'pragmatic and experienced' Clifford Ng has an excellent reputation for acting for PRC and Hong Kong private clients and corporates on a range of matters including advice on tax and trusts structuring, as well as general succession planning. Peter Chen handles both contentious and non-contentious tax advice, and adds particular value by dint of his accreditation as a certified public accountant as well as being a dual-qualified US and Hong Kong practitioner.

At Deacons, UK- and Hong Kong-qualified counsel Stefano Mariani has expertise across a range of Hong Kong and international tax and trusts law on behalf of a varied mix of listed companies, high-net-worth individuals, family offices and executives. Mariani is best-known for his litigation prowess, having been a barrister in the UK, and is representing a global financial institution in a closely watched case that will determine the stamp duty implications of mergers in Hong Kong. Mariani also regularly works alongside the office's corporate team to provide the tax structuring concomitant with M&A and restructuring activity handled by the firm.

Although it is active across a range of tax and trusts matters, Squire Patton Boggs' two-partner team is best-known for its work on behalf of private clients, corporates and family offices with a US nexus. The 'excellent' James Tsang excels at structuring US investments in Hong Kong and China, and handles US income and estate tax planning for high-net-worth individuals and family groups. Bringing together her fund, trust and tax skills, Patricia Woo delivers a compelling offering to global ultra-high-net-worth families seeking to minimise their tax burdens and effectively manage their wealth through complex trusts structures.

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