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Widely recognised as a leader in this practice area’, Herbert Smith Freehills LLPconsistently provides comprehensive, first-rate advice on highly complex tax litigation matters’. Led by the ‘tremendously experienced’ Heather Gething, the department is regularly involved in high-value and politically salient tax cases. Indeed, in 2016, Gething and Rupert Lewis acted for Bernard Charles Ecclestone in High Court litigation regarding a £1bn tax assessment by HMRC. Also of note, the tax group acted for Telefonica Europe and Telefonica UK on a judicial review of HMRC’s decision to change the way in which the client would be taxed on network services for customers roaming outside of the EU. Gething also represented PacifiCorp in a High Court claim regarding the recovery of SDRT after the statutory time limits for tax reclamation. On the investigations side, Gething assisted Palatium Investment Management with a HMRC investigation into the realisation of taxable gains in connection with the disposal of certain bonds; this matter proceeded to litigation and will be heard before the Court of Appeal. Senior associate Michael Hunt, who is ‘an astounding talent for tax analysis’, and consultant Ross Fraser are also recommended. Additional key clients include UBS Wealth, Bank of Ireland and Centrica.

Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP is considered by some as the ‘pre-eminent firm for tax litigation in London, and, indeed, in the UK more generally’. The group is made-up of ‘phenomenal’ silks, experienced partners and forensic accountants, who have experience of UK and EU tax litigation and particular strength in corporation tax group litigation orders. The ‘technically superbSimon Whitehead and Paul Farmer, who is ‘an expert on European tax law’, acted for British American Tobacco in the long-running test case for the FII Group Litigation, which challenged the UK’s dividend tax and advance corporation tax on UK-headquartered multinationals which source profits abroad; the firm’s own Graham Aaronson QC and Tom Beazley QC handled the advocacy in the case. The team is regularly involved in topical and politically-charged tax-related cases and has been instructed by such public figures as David Cameron. Joint founding partner Michael Andersoncombines technical acumen and commercial understanding’ and Daniel Margolin QC is another key contact in the tax litigation group. In 2016, the firm welcomed Ray McCann from New Quadrant Partners LLP and also added three chartered accountants to the forensics team. Other significant clients include Marks & Spencer, Prudential Assurance, Europcar and InterContinental Hotels Group.

Pinsent Masons LLP has ‘profound depth of knowledge and unrivalled experience, whether the dispute requires detailed advice on aspects of the tax law or involves major litigation involving tens of millions of pounds’. The team is truly ‘first-class’ and continues to be involved in market-first tax cases. Joint department head Jason Collins is highly regarded in the practice area and is representing BT Pension Scheme on appeal in test case for over 100 of the UK’s largest employers; the case considers the client’s recovery of £2bn of tax credits concerning investments it made into certain UK companies and is the first UK tax case to be heard by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) since the Brexit referendum. The ‘profoundly experiencedIan Hyde is representing Avon Cosmetics in one of the last cases to be referred to the CJEU before the referendum, which concerns VAT levied in relation to one of the client’s brands. Steven Porter was recently made partner and is leading a series of judicial review challenges brought by taxpayers against HMRC regarding payment notices for the clients’ involvement in tax avoidance schemes. Clara Boyd and the ‘tactically savvyStuart Walsh are also key contacts. The department is especially strong in the financial services and energy and infrastructure sectors, which has attracted clients such as Credit Suisse and British Coal.

Slaughter and May’s contentious tax practice works in parallel with the firm’s top-ranked non-contentious tax team to advise clients, irrespective of sector, from the early stages of a tax investigation through to appeals. Steve Edge recently represented Deutsche Bank in the Supreme Court in a case concerning the turning of cash bonuses into a non-monetary form, which could later be turned into money. Sarah Lee helps lead the contentious tax offering and is acting for Mercuria Energy Europe in a High Court case concerning its involvement in highly publicised "missing trader" VAT fraud in the carbon emissions market. Hays, GDF Suez Teesside and Bupa are other clients. Dominic Robertson and Mike Lane have each developed an active tax disputes practice and have been involved in a number of politically-sensitive tax investigations. Gareth Miles and William Watson are also key contacts. In 2016, Richard Jeens and Damian Taylor became partners in the disputes team and Elizabeth Barrett retired.

Though the team at Clifford Chance has undergone considerable personnel changes in 2017, the contentious tax group retained capabilities in VAT and real estate taxation disputes. Indeed, David Saleh specialises in real estate and indirect taxation and is representing Project Blue Limited in a case against HMRC regarding the largest SDLT claim ever disputed for a single property; the firm won at appeal, after which HMRC petitioned the Supreme Court and the facts are such that around 800 other cases are dependent on the outcome of this case. Simon Corzberg focuses on VAT disputes and successfully resolved a HMRC dispute for Cubico Sustainable Investments, which concerned the restriction of VAT recovery resulting from shareholder loans. In 2017, Liesl Fichardt left the firm for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, though the team also made multiple junior-level recruits.

Fieldfisher has ‘a strong tax disputes practice, covering both direct tax on the one hand and indirect tax on the other’. It has experience in a range of very high-value tax disputes and has particular specialism in tax cases with criminal and fraud aspects. Department head Hartley Foster is ‘immensely experienced and can anticipate how HMRC will react in litigation’; he is acting in a multimillion-pound MTIC fraud case and is also representing Bratt Auto Contracts and Bratt Auto Services Company in an appeal concerning the recovery of overpaid VAT after the statutory time limit had been passed. George Gillham is ‘extremely good with HMRC negotiations’ and acted in a piece of group litigation regarding the classification of mobility scooters for excise duty purposes. In addition to his civil litigation casework, he has also advised individual clients facing criminal tax issues.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP’s contentious tax practice is headed by Helen Buchanan and has a history of acting for large corporates and central and investment banks. Buchanan has and active contentious and non-contentious tax practice and has been instructed in transfer pricing and diverted profits disputes in addition to cases involving employment tax, capital gains and tax fraud; she has extensive experience in both UK and international proceedings and is also an accredited mediator. Murray Clayson specialises in international taxation transfer pricing and also handles tax disputes.

The contentious tax group at Hogan Lovells International LLP is ‘always very responsive’ and provides ‘strategic and appropriately detailed advice’. It has been strengthened by some significant lateral hires in 2016: real estate tax specialist Elliot Weston joined the team from Gowling WLG, while Graham Poole joined the firm’s London-based subsidiary team as director of economics and transfer pricing, having previously worked in HMRC’s economics department. Practice head Rupert Shiers is highly recommended and recently represented Ensco in relation to a high-value transfer pricing dispute. Lee Squires heads the VAT and indirect tax group and represented Citibank in tax tribunal litigation regarding HMRC’s requirement that the client meet the cost of a VAT fraud committed by other parties; following the team’s success at tribunal, HMRC has petitioned the Court of Appeal. In another standout case, Ruth Grant acted for British American Tobacco in tax tribunal litigation regarding the imposition of tax penalties where HMRC had determined that the company hadn’t done enough to prevent tobacco smuggling into the UK. Other notable clients include Ball UK Holdings, Paragon Offshore Group and Aspen Insurance Group.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal LLPprovides responsive and client-focused advice in highly complex tax disputes’. As part of a Big 4 network, the team is able to draw on a wide range of expertise to advise across the whole spectrum of contentious tax issues. Department head Mark Whitehouse is acting for a group of litigants including Orange Spain in restitution claims against HMRC concerning the charge of SDRT and stamp duty. David Anderson successfully defended Dollar Financial UK in the first-tier tribunal (FTT) against HMRC’s attempt to claim VAT payments for supplies that were thought to be tax exempt. The ‘indefatigable’ Peter Halford and Holly Rowland are also key contacts.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP broke into the tax litigation space this year with the hire of Liesl Fichardt, ‘a supremely experienced international tax litigator’, who previously headed the contentious tax team at Clifford Chance. The firm already had capabilities in domestic tax disputes, but has now expanded its expertise to include cross-border tax treaty litigation. Fichardt is lead international counsel to Acacia Mining Group in two related matters: first, the highest-value tax dispute pending against the Tanzania Revenue Authority, and, second, arbitration proceedings under various bilateral investment treaties; these cases raise fundamental questions as to the tax treatment of foreign-owned operations and investments in Tanzania. Additionally, Fichardt is representing Canary Wharf Group in two tax appeals involving subsidiaries of the client, which concern the congruence of the UK loan relationship regime with the UK generally accepted accounting practices; HMRC has sought to disallow tax deductions of £230m due to its interpretation of the interaction of tax policy and loan relationship rules. Anthony Sinclair and Epaminontas Triantafilou are also contacts in the practice group.

RPC’s contentious tax practice is ‘of a very high quality and covers a range of issues, from tax avoidance, to accelerated payment notices, to EU law’. It has significant capabilities in alternative dispute resolution and has made it a point to recruit practitioners with experience working for HMRC. Led by Adam Craggs, the team handles tax litigation and judicial review, and also has experience in HMRC investigations. In 2016, Craggs has handled cases involving anti-dumping duties, employee incentive schemes and the UK aggregates levy. Recently promoted to legal director, clients have said Robert Waterson is ‘performing at the level of partner’ and handles direct and indirect tax litigation. Clients of the department include major plc’s such as Sports Direct and Lookers, international operators like L’Oreal and pension groups such as Nestlé UK Pension Trust. Senior associate Michelle Sloane joined the team from The Khan Partnership LLP in 2016.

Simmons & Simmons has ‘proven itself to be consistently excellent’ and ‘compares favourably to both Big 4 firms and other law firms’. ‘Excellent tactician and strategist’ Nick Skerrett heads the practice group and is perhaps ‘the pre-eminent litigator in the indirect tax litigation market’. In the group’s recent flagship matter, Skerrett acted on behalf of 20 banks and investment managers on an Indian tax ruling concerning the Indian Income Tax Revenue’s decision to assess foreign investment funds investing in Indian securities to Indian Minimum Alternative Taxation (MAT); the team successfully intervened in the appeal of the MAT decision and is handling individual judicial review proceedings to set aside the Revenue’s assessments. He also acted in group judicial review proceedings regarding the Government’s decision to withdraw a certain exemption from the Climate Change Levy. Darren Oswick specialises in transfer pricing, corporate avoidance and other various corporate-finance taxation. Heather Rowlands is a recommended senior associate in the practice group.

A client of Weil, Gotshal & Manges (London) LLP’s tax disputes department ‘can’t recommend the group highly enough’, which is not surprising given some of its 2016-2017 successes. Jamie Maples and Oliver Walker achieved a landmark success for The Littlewoods Group regarding a long-running overpayment of VAT case, winning at first instance and appeal – decisions that will have consequences for a host of UK taxpayers, and have already spurred new litigation. In another high-profile matter, Walker and Hannah Fields-Lowes represented Ingenious Media in film investment schemes and the tax structuring thereof. The team has also been involved in large, cross-border tax disputes. Other key client of the department include Shop Direct Group, Neon Underwriting and Serpentine Trust.

Known for its ‘professionalism’, Ashurst’s tax practice has ‘a strong and increasing profile’ in the contentious tax space and ‘provides excellent support to clients and counsel, as well as informative expertise on substantive tax issues’. Department head Nicholas Gardner acted for Bookit Limited in tax tribunal litigation regarding a question of exemption from VAT. Simon Swann is ‘very savvy for real estate-related tax litigation’ and has acted for clients such as charity Longridge on the Thames. ‘An excellent communicator’, Alexander Cox has handled VAT litigation for Gala Coral in the Upper-Tier Tribunal. The group also acts for individual clients and Paul Miller is advising Paul Newey in a tax tribunal case regarding HMRC’s demand for VAT and tax penalties in relation to the client’s business, Ocean Finance. Richard Palmer is a consultant with the department and other notable clients include Hastings Insurance Services.

Some clients have rated Baker McKenzie’s tax team as ‘far stronger tax litigators than one might find at the Big 4 firms’; it also regularly competes with Magic Circle firms for tax litigation work. The department acts for a litany of household name clients, and in 2016 Mark Agnew and David Jamieson acted for Coinstar in relation to an appeal regarding the treatment of the client’s VAT. The team has been involved in a number of significant transfer pricing investigations and disputes including a £100m tribunal case in which Kate Alexander acted for Electronic Arts. Nigel Dolman heads the tax disputes team and Mark Bevington is a highly recommended tax adviser in the group. Additional clients include Marriott Inc and a number of well-known online businesses, travel companies and global telecoms providers. Mark Delaney and Jessica Eden, an accredited mediator, are other key contacts in the practice group.

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP has ‘a growing presence’ in the contentious tax space, with particular expertise in real estate taxation. Its work is not restricted to real estate tax, however; the team is involved in multiple disputes involving the taxation of equipment leasing, the recovery of overpaid VAT, customs and trade duties and the taxation of remuneration schemes. Indeed, Ron Downhill acted for Brain Disorders Research Limited Partnership in a tax avoidance case concerning whether partnerships are trading on a commercial basis. Senior associate Kate Ison is ‘quietly brilliant’ and is building a dedicated tax litigation practice, having been involved in varied high-stakes matters in 2016-2017. Andrew Tuson was promoted to partner in 2016. Alan Sinyor heads the indirect tax group, while Elizabeth Bradley leads the wider, global tax practice. Richard Harbot and Chris Bryant are also key contacts.

The contentious tax group at Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP specialises in indirect and VAT tax disputes in which it is instructed by investment banks, plc’s and government entities. Giles Salmond heads the practice group and is handling VAT recovery claims for clients such as N Brown Group and Hilton Hotels. In one particularly standout matter, he is acting for MG Rover Group in a £56m VAT claim concerning which corporates entities are allowed to retrospectively recover overpaid VAT; after success at the FTT, the case may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court. The team has also handled disputes regarding issues such as SDLT and US withholding tax. Additional key clients include Capita, the Government Property Unit, Lookers and JSM Construction.

KPMG Law’s contentious tax group is led by specialists from several areas including VAT, personal tax, customs and excise, and criminal tax investigations. The team is headed by the hugely experienced Amanda Brown, who has acted in various courts, covering issues such as landfill tax, VAT, residence disputes and group litigation. Hilary Waters specialises in indirect tax litigation, while Matthew Fleming handles customs and excise issues and Suzie Moore focuses on private client tax disputes. Past clients have included The Open University, Patersons of Greenoakhill and Volkswagen Financial Services. Robert Hartley left for Mishcon de Reya LLP in 2016.

Macfarlanes LLP runs ‘a strategic tax disputes group, which avoids getting bogged down in the technical details’ and has particular expertise in the areas of financial services, funds and trust taxation. The ‘thorough and sensible’ Gideon Sanitt heads the department and was recently promoted to partner; he is defending Royal Mail with respect to some 300 claimants having issued proceedings on the basis that the client had been required to issue VAT invoices for services that should not have been treated as VAT exempt. Sanitt and Simon Nurney are representing a global commodities trader in relation to an assertion by one African country that the client has a permanent establishment in the country and should be taxed in that jurisdiction accordingly. Senior counsel Joanna Constantis ‘never gives in or gives up’. CDC Administration is another key client.

Mishcon de Reya LLP’s tax litigation team works closely alongside the firm’s non-contentious tax group to handle a range of direct and indirect tax disputes, including judicial review. Having joined the team from KPMG Law in 2016, Robert Hartley is involved in a test case concerning the privacy of particular types of financial services entities under HMRC’s power pursuant to an untested piece of legislation. In an example of indirect tax work, Leslie Allen is representing Mercedes-Benz Financial Services UK in litigation concerning the VAT treatment of certain contracts offered by the client to its customers. Dario Garcia specialises in indirect taxes in the financial services sector and is another contact in the department. Finmeccanica Global Services, Coca-Cola and Harrier LLC are among the department’s notable clients.

The tax disputes team at Norton Rose Fulbright is anchored by the firm’s strong non-contentious tax practice and has recently been involved in a range of matters relating to taxation in the financial services, energy and infrastructure sectors. Practice head Dominic Stuttaford is acting for HSBC in multiple group litigation orders concerning the compatibility of certain EU and English laws. Angela Savin has particular expertise in real estate, funds and financial products taxation and is also representing a number of migrant-resident workers in litigation regarding the UK’s taxing rights over income arriving from the clients’ activities in the North Sea. Chris Bates is instructed by a number of financial institutions and a transport and energy group. BMW, G4S plc and Shire Pharmaceuticals Group are among the department’s representative clients.

As a litigation-only law firm, Stewarts Law LLP has been actively involved in the increasingly salient area of tax litigation. The team specialises in bringing group action cases and is acting for high-net-worth individuals in relation to their personal and business taxation issues. Department head David Pickstone is representing over 200 high-net-worths in litigation regarding the Ingenious Media film investment schemes, and the supposed tax benefits in connection with those investments. He is also acting for FCC Environment UK and FCC Recycling UK as defendant and counterclaimant in relation to its available recovery of overpaid VAT and landfill tax. Associate and barrister Lee Ellis is acting with Pickstone for Makro UK in a dispute with HMRC regarding an anti-dumping assessment. SUEZ Environment is another key client.

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