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Firms To Watch: Customs and excise

Ernst & Young LLP acts for a range of high-profile clients on customs and excise disputes and compliance matters. Julian Balson, who joined in January 2020 from Bird & Bird LLP, heads the practice and is recommended for tax investigations and court tribunal proceedings.

Customs and excise in London

Baker McKenzie

The customs and excise department at Baker McKenzie draws on strength from its international trade, WTO and tax practices to provide holistic advice to high-profile public and private sector clients. The group, which is strong in both contentious and non-contentious matters, has considerable experience of representing companies in customs and excise investigations and procedures brought by HMRC and other international authorities. Jennifer Revis heads the team in London, as well as acting as co-head of the firm’s EMEA customs group, and is recommended for regulatory matters pertaining to international trade, including import and export matters, and customs valuations and investigations. Ben Smith is a name for export controls, sanctions and anti-bribery and anti-money laundering matters, while Jessica Mutton, who was promoted to of counsel in January 2023, handles compliance, advice around regulatory developments, and Brexit-related matters.

Practice head(s):

Jennifer Revis

Other key lawyers:

Ben Smith; Jessica Mutton


‘A huge amount of specialist knowledge – both technical and practical, which is very helpful when looking at how to apply customs law within a business.’

‘Very supportive and collaborative with challenges from tax authorities.’

‘Excellent customer service and a team who are lovely to work with.’

Key clients

Harley Davidson

Take Two Interactive Software

Bird & Bird LLP

Bird & Bird LLP offers advice around both contentious and non-contentious customs and excise matters, with a strong track record in handling tax disputes before HMRC for large domestic and international clients. From pre-emptive compliance, to investigations, civil litigation and defending criminal prosecutions, the practice offers broad expertise and is particularly well versed in cases pertaining to ‘sin’ taxes – those relating to alcohol, tobacco and gambling. Andy Brown heads the team with 25 years’ experience and has considerable experience of tax avoidance, evasion, allegations of fraud and disputes. Senior associate Chris Young advises on direct and indirect tax issues, and acts for clients in civil and criminal litigation, and the group was recently bolstered by the arrival of associates Jennifer Southern, who joined from an in-house role at HMRC in June 2022, and Caitriona Moran, who joined from William Fry LLP in September of the same year.

Practice head(s):

Andy Brown

Other key lawyers:

Chris Young; Jennifer Southern; Caitriona Moran


‘Hardworking team with strong customs and excise technical knowledge and experience.’

‘Chris Young – hard-working and excellent customs expertise’

‘They deal with queries swiftly and competently.’

Key clients

B&M Retail



Push Energy

CVR Global Offshore Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised B&M Retail on its appeals against multi-million pound excise duty assessments and related penalties.
  • Advised a leading steel stockholder in bringing tribunal proceedings and a judicial review against HMRC’s imposition of safeguarding duty and VAT on imports of steel products into the UK.
  • Advised Push Energy on its appeal against HMRC’s assessments of anti-dumping duty, countervailing duties and import VAT in respect of imports of solar panels into the UK from China.

DLA Piper

John Forrest heads the team at DLA Piper and is a key name for international trade issues, including engaging with authorities, multi-jurisdictional investigations, supply chain issues, compliance and regulatory matters. The practice is well placed to handle cross-border customs and excise matters by virtue of its large international network and Forrest is supported by Richard Woolich, who is a name for cross-border VAT and Brexit-related matters, and Stuart Walsh, who deals with excise duty and tax disputes. Paul Hardy was promoted to partner in May 2022, and Chloe Barker in May 2023; Hardy is a European Commission alumnus, who is recommended for Brexit and trade matters, while Barker is a key name for compliance issues.

Practice head(s):

John Forrest

Other key lawyers:

Paul Hardy; Chloe Barker; Stuart Walsh; Richard Woolich


‘The team at DLA are very knowledgeable on customs issues. They turn around work very efficiently with clear and concise advise that is helpful and provide the opportunity to discuss any complex explanations that is invaluable at times. They are able to pick up really difficult complex manufacturing procedures, to apply the customs law.’ 

‘I have really appreciated working with Paul Hardy. He has done an excellent job of managing our matters, is very responsive and always gets me what I need. I particularly value his expertise in the area of customs and his management of the relationship and fee quotes.’

‘Paul Hardy is a very approachable, thorough in his work and always extremely helpful and the rest of his team. Paul goes above and beyond with his customers to ensure they understand the requirements and it always friendly in his approach.’

‘We have used DLA’s UK office to support in a few different matters. They are very good at making sure to get the appropriate people in place to answer questions. Given the uncertain nature of HMRC post-Brexit, we have relied on them and their expertise with the customs authority and backchannels to gain additional information. They have done an excellent job at answering specific questions, researching current state of the law and timeframes and advising us on what additional information was needed to make certain legal points.’

‘Exceptionally helpful over our difficulties with sanctions. They have given practical and commercially executable advice in a timely manner and helped to navigate the complexities of multiple conflicting issues.’

Key clients

Lime Technology Ltd

The Norton Motorcycle Co. Ltd

Decathlon UK Ltd

Tokyo Electron Europe Ltd

Doctors United for Ukraine



TATA Steel

Harman International Industries Ltd

Graphic Packaging International, Inc

Mix Telematics Ltd

Livingstone International, Inc

Work highlights

  • Provision of international trade and customs related advice to Tata Steel on the impacts of the new UK-EU TCA on its manufacturing operations and supply chains, as well as a number of wider UK and EU free trade agreements.
  • Advice to Lime on the import of electric bicycles from the EU into the UK, focused on the origin of the bicycles under EU and UK rules of origin, the tariff impact under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and on the applicability of UK anti-dumping duties transitional from the EU.
  • Advised Unilever on the impact of any anti-dumping duties on its business and its strategic approach to a European Commission investigation considering the potential imposition of anti-dumping duties on imports of certain types of fatty acids.


PwC LLP acts for top multinational clients in a broad range of sectors on both contentious and non-contentious customs and excise matters under the leadership of David Anderson and non-lawyer tax director Caroline Brooks. It is well versed in multi-jurisdictional customs and excise investigations, and litigation, with a focus on heavily regulated sectors, such as energy, waste construction and transport. Anderson has 20 years’ experience in indirect tax and has represented clients in all levels of the Courts, including the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU); he is supported by indirect tax disputes specialist Victor Cramer, who joined as director from Stewarts Law LLP in February 2023; Jayne Harrold left for an in-house role at Evelyn Partners in November 2022.

Practice head(s):

David Anderson; Caroline Brooks

Other key lawyers:

Prinal Nathwani; Holly Grantham


‘PwC has a large team of able people who are well led and motivated.’

‘David Anderson is very personable and helpful.’

‘David Anderson’s instructions are clear and appropriate.’

‘David gets the best out of the whole team.’

Work highlights

  • Supported Procter & Gamble International Operations with challenging an application by HMRC to appeal a First-tier Tribunal decision on the customs classification of our client’s products.


RPC acts for a range of clients, from SMEs to PLCs, on regulatory and compliance matters, as well as contentious issues, such as civil and criminal HMRC investigations, and litigation. Adam Craggs heads the practice with over 30 years’ experience in both direct and indirect tax dispute resolution mandates, including customs and excise disputes and is supported by Michelle Sloane, who has represented clients before the Tax Tribunals, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and CJEU; she acts for corporates and high-net-worth individuals. Robert Waterson is another contact for tax disputes, including those with multi-jurisdictional aspects, and the team was recently bolstered at the junior level with the arrival of Liam McKay, who joined as senior associate from HMRC Solicitor’s Office in May 2022.

Practice head(s):

Adam Craggs

Other key lawyers:

Michelle Sloane; Robert Waterson; Liam McKay


‘An outstanding team with a deep knowledge of customs and excise’

‘Robert Waterson – a superb strategist with excellent client skills and remarkable attention to detail.’

‘Michelle Sloane – one of the few lawyers who can truly claim specialist expertise in customs and excise matters, she is a fount of knowledge’

Key clients

Frasers Group PLC (Sports Direct)

Universal Cycles Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advising a PLC on a high-value excise duty dispute concerning alcohol exports.
  • Representing Universal Cycles in a high-value dispute regarding Anti-Dumping Duty, Customs Duty and VAT.
  • Advising members of the Bonded Warehousekeepers Association on customs and excise duty issues.