Tax litigation and investigations in London
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP fields 'a very powerful team' which benefits from the firm's global presence and wider litigation expertise to assist high-net-worth individuals, large corporates and multinationals with domestic and international tax disputes. Led by Heather Gething, a part-time judge at the first-tier tribunal, handles direct, indirect, personal, employment and commercial tax disputes, in addition to advising on tax risk and mitigation issues. Nick Clayton has developed a solid contentious VAT and indirect tax practice, and is also instructed in tax fraud matters. Michael Hunt, who was promoted to partner in May 2020, is a qualified accountant. Dawen Gao is another key name for direct and indirect tax litigation. Clayton, Hunt and Gao are all solicitor advocates; they engage in written advocacy and also advise clients on litigation strategies.
‘Very powerful team.’
‘Client choose them because of their reputation and standing.’
‘Nick Clayton is a real star. Approachable and user friendly. Great judgment and knowledge of technical issues.‘
- Advising Bernie Ecclestone in ongoing High Court proceedings against HMRC relating to a high value tax assessment.
- Advised a life insurance company on settlement of a high value tax dispute on the application of the UK life insurance tax rules
- Advising Uber on its ongoing disputes with Jolyon Maugham QC and Good Law Project in relation to the VAT treatment of Uber’s business in the UK
The team at Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP litigation boutique 'cuts through the rubbish and gets right down to the detail of issues.' It is known for handling group litigation orders (GLOs), utilising a team consisting of silks, solicitors and forensic accountants. The group specialises in challenging UK primary tax legislation in cases before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, in addition to handling high-value recovery claims by multinational companies. Co-founding partner Graham Aaronson QC is well-versed in transfer pricing, oil and gas taxation, life assurance office taxation, structured finance and EU law. Aaronson jointly leads the team with Michael Anderson, another co-founding partner with experience of criminal tax investigations. Paul Farmer is a European tax law expert and regularly appears before UK courts and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Emma Chamberlain is noted for domicile and residence disputes. Associate Shofiqur Miah is praised by a client for having 'repeatedly demonstrated his reliability, thoroughness and responsiveness'.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team cuts through the rubbish and gets right down to the detail of issues. Excellent technical knowledge for fast resolution of matters.Friendly, approachable and perfect team environment for working together.’
‘Professional, responsive, problem solvers, solution providers.’
‘Simon Whitehead has numerous years of experience to count on. He quickly understands your industry’s needs, creating the most efficient and dedicated use of resources.’
‘Shofiqur Miah has repeatedly demonstrated his reliability, thoroughness & responsiveness; this is of course in addition to his outstanding legal knowledge and skills.’
British American Tobacco
Marks & Spencer
Intercontinental Hotels Group
- Acting as lead solicitors in the FII GLO, advising 25 UK headquartered multinationals challenge the UK’s dividend taxation scheme and the imposition of advance corporation tax (‘ACT’) upon UK groups with their sources of profit abroad.
- Pursuing Closure Notice Applications in the First-tier tribunal on behalf of a group of approximately 180 taxpayers, mainly in the financial services sector, who are seeking repayment of unlawfully levied tax on foreign portfolio dividend income following the successful decision in the Supreme Court in the Prudential case.
- Advising Fidelity on a reference to the European Court (C-480/16 Fidelity Funds) from the Danish court and ongoing litigation in the Danish courts where JHA continue to act as co-counsel advising on issues of EU law.
Pinsent Masons LLP
The 'market-leading contentious tax practice' at Pinsent Masons LLP was strengthened in January 2020 by the arrival of Andrew Sackey from HMRC's fraud investigations service; he assists clients with compliance and investigations. The wider group, which is jointly led by Stuart Walsh and Jason Collins, is regularly called upon in diverted profits tax cases for multinational corporates. The financial services sector is a core area of strength for the firm, with it representing financial institutions in a wide variety of tax audits and investigations. Steven Porter, who is based in Manchester, leads the tax investigations group. Clara Boyd, who was promoted to partner in May 2019, specialises in advising corporates on indirect tax disputes with HMRC. Ian Hyde joined Osborne Clarke LLP in 2019.
‘A market-leading contentious tax practice.’
‘Jason Collins is an intellectual powerhouse, what he doesn’t know about litigating against HMRC isn’t worth knowing; Stuart Walsh knows everything there is to know about VAT disputes and he will always find a way to win.’
‘The contentious tax team at Pinsents has great strength in depth. An area of specialisation is advising large corporates on resolving disputes with HMRC in relation to VAT and excise duties.’
‘Pinsent Masons are the pre-eminent tax disputes firm – and are streets ahead of the nearest competitors. They combine profound technical tax knowledge with unsurpassed experience of litigating successfully against HMRC.‘
BT Pension Scheme
Coal Superannuation Scheme
- Acting for RBS in two disputes arising from missing traders in its carbon credit supply chains defaulting on VAT due to HMRC: (1) an £86 million VAT dispute, with the potential for a further penalty up to 100% of the VAT, which is currently before the First-tier Tribunal (Tax); and (2) a related dishonest assistance and fraudulent trading claim made against the client in the High Court by a number of liquidated companies that were the defaulting parties in the client’s supply chains. The principal creditor in the second claim is HMRC – the original value of this claim was £140m.
- Acting for British Coal as a lead claimant for the pension funds involved in this litigation which comprises over 40 of the UK’s largest companies, who are challenging a discriminatory UK WHT suffered on certain income derived from lending non-UK shares.
- Acting for the taxpayer in the Court of Appeal in HMRC v Raymond Tooth  EWCA Civ 826 in which the firm successfully argued that HMRC could not rely on extended discovery assessment time limits. HMRC have appealed the Court of Appeal judgment and it is proceeding to a hearing before the Supreme Court (anticipated in Q4/2020).
Slaughter and May
Slaughter and May's tax disputes offering is entirely integrated into the firm's wider tax department, attuning the team to the tax risks of their clients. The group has significant experience of appearing before the tax tribunals, as well as in HMRC inquiries, including matters relating to transfer pricing and international tax issues. Jointly leading the contentious practice, Richard Jeens stands out for his grasp of technical issues, often involving points of statutory interpretation, while Dominic Robertson's practice spans diverted profits tax (DPT), transfer pricing and state aid issues. Sarah Lee, who leads the firm's disputes and investigations department, is regularly instructed in tax disputes by multinational corporates. Corporate tax expert Mike Lane assists clients with DPT compliance and reputation risk mitigation strategy. Steve Edge is a veteran of tax litigation, acting in contentious transfer pricing cases and a variety of investigations.
‘One of the leading tax litigation teams in the country‘
GDF Suez Teesside
Mercuria Energy Trading Europe Limited
Mr. William Reeves
- Advising BlueCrest on conjoined appeals in relation to (i) challenges to the UK tax treatment of its management incentivisation arrangements and (ii) a high value buyout of the partnership stake of one of its founding partners.
- Advising GSK and Vodafone on the European Commission’s state aid investigation into the group financing exemption from the UK’s CFC rules.
- Acted for members of the Credit Suisse group in a dispute in which they recently received a favourable judgment from the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) following a five-day trial in October 2019.
Allen & Overy LLP's contentious tax practice spans pre-litigation advice, administrative proceedings, tax litigation and HMRC investigations. Drawing on the firm's wider expertise in the area, the group stands out for handling financial tax disputes for banks and financial institutions. It is also regularly instructed in corporate and real estate tax disputes, as well as international tax investigations. Head of UK tax Vimal Tilakapala leads the team. Charles Yorke has 'outstanding commitment and involvement in the case and an excellent grasp of the technical issues', Christopher Harrison is another financial tax expert with disputes experience, while Lydia Challen is a corporate tax expert.
‘A team of good lawyers with considerable technical expertise and good client relationships.’
‘The team is bright and exceptionally hard working, even at very short notice. They have an excellent grip of the facts and they are focused on ensuring that all aspects of the litigation runs smoothly. ‘
‘Charles Yorke has outstanding commitment and involvement in the case and an excellent grasp of the technical issues.’
- Representing Investec Bank in its dispute with HMRC before the Court of Appeal.
At Ashurst, the team often handles disputes before the tribunals, Supreme Court and European Court of Justice (CJEU). It is experienced in disputes involving VAT and direct tax, with a focus on gaming duties, business rates and landfill tax. It also handles disputes over the tax provisions in contracts, with a sector focus on financial institutions, funds, resources and infrastructure. Noted for his 'phenomenal technical knowledge', practice head Nicholas Gardner also leads on state aid issues. Paul Miller is the name to note for disputes in the financial services sector, while Alexander Cox focuses on funds and corporate tax.
‘We have always found the team to be technically very strong, creative and pragmatic in setting out options, very good at liaising with other teams at Ashurst as well as barristers, other advisors and HMRC as appropriate.’
‘Second to none for tax litigation. Incredible technical knowledge, attention to detail, and a tenacity to put forward the absolute strongest case on behalf of the client. A team that really works well together. Each member of the department is a pleasure to deal with.‘
‘Alex Cox has been our main contact at Ashurst for over 10 years and we rate him extremely highly. His technical advice is always spot on and he is commercial and pragmatic when setting out options. He is well respected by others in the industry, including senior QCs and HMRC.’
‘Nick Gardner has phenomenal technical knowledge, which makes working with him a dream. He plays a pivotal role in leading the team, and making sure that the litigation stays on track, timetables are complied with, and suitable pressure is maintained on opposing parties.‘
‘Sara Mardell is a star player in the team. She can step into the partner role whenever that it is required of her, and already has a level of ability that far surpasses that of partners in many other leading firms. Her enthusiasm for tax, and tax litigation is infectious. She is an absolute joy to work with.’
London Clubs Management
Hastings Insurance Services
Mark Shaw (as nominated member of the TAL CPT Land Development Partnership LLP)
Hotels 4 U (part of Thomas Cook)
The legacy Gala Coral companies
- Advising London Clubs Management on resisting HMRC’s application to appeal to the Supreme Court. The firm is advising on all aspects of this gaming duty case which will determine whether casinos have to account for gaming duty on free chips given to players as part of the promotional activity of the casino. The case will be a leading case on gaming duty and the fact it is being heard before the Supreme Court confirms that it is an important case which is of public importance.
- Advising Imperial Brands plc on its decision to challenge the EC’s decision that the UK CFC regime was unlawful state aid and that the UK should recover the benefit of the state aid from those groups.
- Advising Hotels 4 U on its defence of HMRC’s appeal against the First-Tier Tribunal’s decision not to treat Hotels 4 U as an intermediary for the VAT Tour Operators Margin Scheme. HMRC is seeking to distinguish this decision or a recent Supreme Court judgment (Secret Hotels 2) and to obtain a reference to the CJEU. This raises complex legal issues and some very topical questions about the ability of UK courts to refer decisions to the CJEU following Brexit.
Baker McKenzie's tax disputes department is composed of lawyers, economists and accountants specialising in corporate, indirect tax and transfer pricing cases. The group benefits from the firm's strong international presence, making cross-border tax disputes an area of particular expertise. Leading on VAT disputes, David Jamieson focuses on representing clients in the financial services, telecoms and e-commerce sectors. Jessica Eden, who heads up the corporate tax disputes group, acts for a wide variety of multinationals in controversies with HMRC. Nigel Dolman, who is an economist and partner, leads the transfer pricing disputes work and is an experienced negotiator. Also recommended is Kate Alexander, a UK and international taxation expert who focuses on defending HMRC enquiries into the taxation of financing and intangible property.
‘Baker McKenzie brings a combination of legal, economic, cross-border, and multi-venue experience and insight to help resolve disputes. We have valued Baker’s industry and knowledge in helping us effectively advocate for our positions while being pragmatic and practical.’
‘A good team of experience litigators with good judgement as to the important points and how to produce the right result for the client.’
‘David Jamieson has great commercial awareness. Always adding value.’
‘Mark Delaney, David Jamieson and Jessica Eden all have considerable experience and are adept at leading big teams including complex litigation.’
Hutchison 3G Limited
UK Power Networks
- SUCCESSFULLY CONCLUDING ONE OF THE LARGEST VAT CASES TO BE HEARD IN THE UK COURTS TO DATE FOR HUTCHISON 3G LIMITED.
- DEFENDING CLAIMS FOR CONSORTIUM RELIEF ON BEHALF OF UK POWER NETWORKS.
- REPRESENTING EUROPEAN TYRE ENTERPRISE LIMITED (KWIK FIT) GROUP IN A DISPUTE WITH HMRC OVER INTEREST DEDUCTIBILITY (UNALLOWABLE PURPOSE)
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
At Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, the contentious tax practice is a core part of the broader tax department, which is led by Elizabeth Bradley. It specialises in investigations and litigation, particularly in relation to real estate. Kate Ison is the main contact, with substantial experience of cases before the first-tier tribunal relating to direct and indirect taxes, as well as advising clients on corporate tax risk, compliance, corporate internal investigations and HMRC enquiries. Alan Sinyor has 'a vast reservoir of knowledge about VAT'. Sitting in the white-collar criminal defence department, Mukul Chawla QC is an invaluable asset for tax litigation.
‘High level of responsiveness, approachability and expertise, willingness to bring in the right expert instead of trying to sort out matter by general contact which could lead to issues with effectiveness and efficiency.‘
‘The team is well resourced, very efficient and very knowledgeable.’
‘Kate Ison is an excellent key contact since she is highly responsive and able to manage the client relationship as key contact partner to a high level of satisfaction and provides practical advice.‘
‘Alan Sinyor is has a vast reservoir of knowledge about VAT and is able to deploy it in a highly effective way in disputes with HMRC.’
Vaccine Research Limited Partnership
- Represented Hannover Leasing in an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal concerning the application of Section 75A FA 2003 (an SDLT anti-avoidance rule) to a commercial deal. The law was previously largely untested in this context and the decision has had a significant impact on real estate transactions.
- Acted for the appellants, Vaccine Research LP, in this appeal which concerns claims for research and development capital allowances and related matters. The Vaccine appeals were first heard by the First Tier Tax Tribunal and subsequently by the Upper Tribunal. However, certain consequential issues remained to be resolved, in particular whether certain guaranteed licence fees amounting to some £123 million payable over a period of years are taxable.
Clifford Chance LLP's group is praised for its 'incredible knowledge, great team work, high intelligence and hard work'. Team members regularly handle non-contentious issues, giving them insight they can use in disputes. Clients include major banks and corporates and the work often has a cross-border element, drawing on the firm's international reach. Dan Neidle is an expert in tax affecting financial institutions, and he has expertise in transfer pricing, VAT and bank levy liability disputes. David Saleh is a real estate tax specialist, although his practice encompasses other corporates and financial institutions, and he has an impressive track record in SDLT disputes. David Harkness is another name to note for UK and international disputes.
‘Incredible knowledge, great team work, high intelligence and hard work.’
‘The team has been pro-active.’
‘Dan Neidle is outstanding. he has a very fine mind and attention to detail. No stone is left unturned. he also has extremely good client care skills.’
- Acting for a leading international investment bank in a large and complex transfer pricing dispute – set to be the largest transfer pricing case ever considered by a UK court.
- Advising a leading international investment bank on criminal and civil tax investigations by a number of government authorities and regulators
- Acting for a leading international investment bank in an HMRC challenge over the VAT treatment of some of the bank’s intra-group service payments. Likely be the leading case on the VAT treatment of banks when it reaches the courts.
Fieldfisher's tax disputes and investigations department is able to leverage in-house barristers, including Philippe Freund, who is qualified in Germany, France and England, and regularly acts before the courts at all levels in domestic and international tax disputes. Associate Matthew Sharp is another practitioner of note, with experience of direct and indirect tax disputes, focusing primarily on SDLT and business rates.
‘Fieldfisher is a progressive practice with a leading tax investigation team. We have co defended with them on international cases.’
‘The firm combines excellent technical ability with good sense and a pragmatic approach to resolving disputes with HMRC.’
‘Philippe Freund is an outstanding lawyer who is extremely experienced in tax disputes of all kinds. As a barrister he knows about the court procedures.’
Invamed Group Ltd and others (Group Litigation)
Root 2 Tax Ltd
Alternative Resolution Consultancy LLP
- Successfully represented an individual against HMRC in the Court of Appeal relating to capital gains tax on primary residences.
- Successfully represented Invamed Group against HMRC in the Court of Appeal in a case relating to customs duty on mobility scooters.
- Represents Root2 Tax Ltd (Root2) (and various related companies) in relation to a structure that Root2 devised, implemented and sold to hundreds of clients. The structure concerns financial spread betting. HMRC assert that it constitutes tax avoidance and that income tax, NICs and corporation tax liabilities (of many £100 millions) arise.
Hogan Lovells International LLP is known for its strength in representing multinational companies in litigation, as well as advising on HMRC enquiries and internal investigations. The group has particular expertise in the firm's wider specialisms of the technology, insurance and real estate sectors. The UK and European tax litigation group is led by Rupert Shiers, who has a strong cross-border practice. Senior director Graham Poole leads on transfer pricing issues.
‘The Hogan Lovells team are experts in UK tax controversy who are able to take a very practical approach to resolving issues.’
‘They have first hand experience of dealing with HMRC from an insider’s perspective. They also know relevant HMRC individuals which provides added valuable insight.‘
‘Careful and confident handling of big ticket tax work.’
‘Rupert Shiers is consistently top notch.‘
‘Graham Poole is pragmatic and offers practical and valuable advice.‘
Eynsham Cricket Club
- Represented Pfizer before a tax tribunal and the European Court of Justice on the customs duty classification of therapeutic heat patches.
- Assisted Reach plc with an HMRC enquiry into the tax deductability of expenses arising from legal claims for breach of privacy by staff and others working for the client’s newspapers.
- Represented Ball Corporation in tax tribunal litigation involving whether HMRC can issue corporation tax assessments outside of the normal period.
Under the leadership of 'class-act' Gideon Sanitt, the team at Macfarlanes LLP appears before tax tribunals and civil courts in relation to direct and indirect tax disputes involving UK and EU law. Although the majority of clients are corporations, the group has a strong private client practice, where it acts for high-net-worth individuals in matters involving cross-border tax arbitrage trades and disputes involving UK and offshore trusts. The tax department often draws on the expertise of lawyers from other departments and senior counsel Joanna Constantis, who is a commercial litigator, has 'a brilliant legal brain'. Senior solicitor advocate Ben Webster is another noted tax litigator with both corporate and private client experience.
‘The most on point of the tax litigation teams we have worked with and the most engaged. Good at communicating at various levels.’
‘Very strong practice, good depth of knowledge.’
‘Gideon Sanitt is a class act. Dedicated to his clients. Supremely clever and charming to boot.’
‘Joanna Constantis has a brilliant legal brain. Her drafting goes straight into the court documents and she comes up with creative arguments which are compelling.’
CDC Administration LLP
- Successfully defended Royal Mail in a preliminary issues hearing relating to group litigation brought against it by more than 300 claimants with respect to VAT claims dating back to the 1970s.
- Successfully acted for investors in 2 Enterprise Zone developments (concerning data-centres) in consolidated Judicial Review and Tax Appeal proceedings before the Upper Tribunal.
At PwC LLP, Mark Whitehouse heads up the direct tax disputes practice, which has outstanding expertise in group litigation orders. David Anderson leads the indirect tax team, which has a particular focus on contentious VAT. The department is able to draw on the presence of in-house barristers, including Stephen Morse, who are able to appear before the courts and tribunals on matters relating to direct and indirect tax issues, transfer pricing and personal tax. It is also home to solicitors with chartered accountancy certification, such as Peter Johnson, who focuses on international corporate tax disputes.
‘An excellent team that is able to deal with any form of serious tax dispute with HMRC.’
‘A highly effective team of solicitors, in house barristers and accountants with unrivalled specialist knowledge of this sector.’
‘David Anderson is a superb litigator with a wealth of experience.‘
‘Mark Whitehouse has vast experience of dealing with and litigating against HMRC and is able to deploy it in a strategically savvy and highly effective manner.‘
The Wellcome Trust
Standard Chartered Bank
Just Eat plc
Keller Group plc
Royal Mail Group plc
Smith & Nephew plc
Reckitt Benckiser Group plc
Phoenix Life Holdings Ltd
United Biscuits (Pension Trustees) Limited
St George’s University Limited
Target Group Limited
Rank Group plc
Taylor Wimpey plc
Marks and Spencer Group plc
Dollar Financial UK Limited
- Lead solicitors for the Stamp Taxes Group Litigation Order, bringing mistake-based restitution claims against HMRC on behalf of over 20 high profile clients with total tax at stake calculated to be c.£600m.
- Represented Phoenix Life Holdings Ltd in its resounding success in a judicial review case. The case was advanced on the basis of the unlawfulness of HMRC’s decision to deny input tax recovery, and unreasonableness of HMRC’s conduct in connection with that claim. Phoenix was awarded £14m in tax and interest.
- Advised, drafted and lodged Applications to the General Court of the European Union on behalf of 20 corporate groups for annulment of the European Commission’s negative state aid decision SA.44896 State aid scheme UK CFC Group Financing Exemption.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP's department is led by 'superstar' Liesl Fichardt. It mainly focuses on assisting multinationals (often in the natural resources sector) with complex international tax disputes involving treaty arbitration. The team also handles HMRC enquiries and litigation. Epaminontas Triantafilou, who is a specialist in international arbitration, assists Fichardt with the firm's major international disputes alongside Anthony Sinclair. Senior associate Karabeth Ovenden represents high-net-worth individuals in a wide range of disputes, often with cross-border elements.
Other key lawyers:
‘The London-based tax litigation and investigations practice is absolutely superb. The Africa-based specialism is second to none.’
‘Top class knowledge of the law, 100% reliable, able to make the impossible possible.‘
‘Liesl Fleichert is a superstar. She is a pleasure to work with and a tax encyclopaedia.’
‘Liesl Fichardt is absolutely superb. A brilliant mind, totally committed and incredibly hard working, with excellent judgment and great team leadership skills.’
Barrick Gold Corporation
Anglo Gold Ashanti
The Radio Centre
- Advise Barrick Gold Corporation on the largest ever group of international tax disputes involving a large multinational and a tax authority, with aggregate tax at stake in excess of $198bn.
- Advise the entire radio industry in the UK on the tax status of radio presenters following HMRC’s rules on IR 35 and new legislation effective from April 2020. This will have a profound impact on liability for taxes by radio corporations and off payroll workers involving millions of pounds
- Advise Shanta Gold on significant VAT refund claims worth millions of pounds in precedent-setting disputes.
RPC is noted for its expertise in both civil and criminal tax disputes, including in relation to customs and excise. It also has a strong criminal investigations practice, often handling multinational tax investigations involving EU law. Judicial review is another area where the team has experience, and it is able to draw on significant public law knowledge. Team head Adam Craggs, who is an accredited mediator, specialises in tax enquiries and criminal tax investigations. Robert Waterson, who was promoted to partner in May 2019, focuses on handling cross-border tax enquiries for multinationals. Michelle Sloane stands out for HMRC-led criminal investigations and prosecutions spanning the breadth of tax. In February 2020, associate Alice Kemp joined from the Serious Fraud Office, adding to the firm's strength in criminal representations.
Other key lawyers:
‘Very knowledgeable but also very responsive and supportive which is really appreciated in a stressful situation.’
‘Very innovative and strategic team that is determined to represent the clients interests to the fullest extent – even if that requires taking a case all the way to the Supreme Court to seek to vindicate a clients rights. They are bold and are not bullied by the HMRC tactics and approach.’
‘Adam Craggs, Michelle Sloane and Alice Kemp have been excellent. You would expect a high level of technical knowledge from a firm such as RPC but the above have been very supportive and very easy to talk to.’
Frasers Group Plc (formerly Sports Direct)
Metropolitan International Schools Limited
Dialog Semiconductor Plc
Newcastle United Football Club
Coca-Cola European Partners Limited
Nestlé UK Pension Trust Ltd
Premier Foods (UK) Limited
- Representing Newcastle United Football Club in one of the most high-profile HMRC investigations in recent years.
- Representing Fraser Group in its high-profile tax enquiry in Belgium.
- Represent Coca-Cola European Partners (Great Britain) Limited in a major dispute concerning the income tax treatment of vehicles.
Simmons & Simmons
Simmons & Simmons' group is 'a real leader in tax disputes' under the stewardship of Nick Skerrett. It covers the entire spectrum of civil and criminal tax litigation and investigations. The team brings together expertise in investigations, competition and financial services regulation and stands out in cases involving mis-selling of tax schemes, Financial Services Authority investigations, international tax disputes and state aid. In addition to a notable contentious VAT practice, the group has a growing reputation for transfer pricing cases, which was bolstered by the arrival of Tomoko Ikawa from EY LLP in June 2019. Monique van Herksen splits her time between London and Amsterdam. Another name to note is Darren Oswick, who is experienced in matters involving corporate avoidance, dividend claims and employment taxes. Of counsel Heather Rowlands is experienced in judicial review proceedings and appeals to tax tribunals, among other matters.
‘A real leader in tax disputes under the stewardship of Nick Skerrett. Flexible and fast-moving and able to draw on the strengths of the wider firm when required.’
‘Simmons & Simmons attract, deservedly, some of the most high profile and complex tax cases that are currently before the UK Courts and Tribunals.Their level of success (which is incredibly high) is a reflection of their competence and professionalism.’
‘Nick Skerrett is quite simply THE solicitor to go to for VAT litigation, especially in the Financial Services sector. Unparalleled profile, industry and commercial knowledge for Financial Services businesses and their VAT affairs.’
BPP Holdings Limited
Veolia ES Landfill Limited
Development Securities plc
Willis Towers Watson
- Obtained a barring order against HMRC for BPP Holdings, preventing them from participating in the hearing for non-compliance.
- Acted for Veolia ES Landfill and Veolia Cleanaway (UK) in the Upper Tribunal for the lead claimants in the £1.6 billion ‘fluff’ litigation, which concerns whether certain waste is ‘used’ on a landfill site and therefore not subject to Landfill Tax.
- Instructed by Development Securities plc to act on the appeal of the Upper Tribunal decision in Development Securities REF to the Court of Appeal. This case will become the Court of Appeal precedent on the test to determine the important question of corporate tax residency of 100% controlled subsidiaries.
Ernst & Young LLP's tax litigation team is jointly led by direct tax expert Boaz Goren and Mitchell Moss, who specialises in indirect tax cases. The group is able to draw on the firm's wider pool of forensic accountants, enabling it to handle a wide-range of matters involving HMRC. In January 2020, Julian Balson was hired from Bird & Bird LLP, adding expertise in missing trader VAT cases and issues involving customs and excise fraud.
Vale Europe Limited
- Represented an individual in an appeal against follower notices and accelerated payment notices issued by HMRC by way of an application for judicial review.
- Represents Spectris plc in its case at the general court of the European Union, seeking to quash a European commission decision unlawful state aid.
- Represented American Express Services Europe in a major VAT dispute before the first-tier tribunal.
The practice at Bird & Bird LLP predominantly handles tax investigations and criminal defence, although the team also has experience of tax litigation. The group is led by Andy Brown, who specialises in alternative dispute resolution and cross-border tax disputes. Legal director Nicola O’Connor, who joined from Russell-Cooke LLP in November 2019, is an expert in tax investigations, with a focus on white-collar criminal defence.
‘The team is very hardworking and dedicated to providing cost-effective and quality services to its clients. The team has excellent industry knowledge, particularly when it comes to the customs warehousing sector. Excellent work ethic, attention to detail and focus on the critical points, and a lovely team to work with.’
‘Highly skilled team working to resolve issues.’
‘Andy Brown has excellent client engagement and good at constructing creative approaches to deal with the client’s issues.’
PML Accounting Limited
CCS Media Limited
Dahabshiil Transfer Services Limited
- Acted for the first named defendant on an indictment for conspiracy to cheat the public revenue in relation to a number of allegedly false claims made for uncapped sideways loss relief by members of a partnership called Formula 1 LLP.
- Represented B&M Retail in its appeals against five excise duty assessments and related pentalties.
- Act for CCS Media, which inadvertently participated in supply chains that led back to the fraudulent evasion of VAT by third parties.
At Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP the tax disputes team is led by Giles Salmond, 'a market-leader in indirect tax disputes'. It is noted for handling major VAT disputes, as well as contentious matters relating to loan relationships, international tax, SDLT and double tax treaty issues. Associate Kunal Nathwani is adept at international disputes and investigations, and co-coordinates the firm's global tax disputes offering. Matthew Cummings, who is based in Leeds, has a broad practice spanning direct and indirect contentious tax issues with HMRC.
‘Resourceful team with a wealth of knowledge.’
‘Giles Salmond is a market-leader in indirect tax disputes. Giles combines excellent technical knowledge and experience with creative, lateral thought.’
M G Rover Group Limited (in Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation)
N Brown Group Plc
Aozora GMAC Investments Limited
- Representing MG Rover Group in a case concerning VAT grouping – the team was successful before the first-tier tribunal.
- Assisted Aozora GMAC Investments with a judiical review into HMRC’s interpretation of guidance on anti-avoidance provisions in relation to unilateral relief.
- Representing N Brown Group plc in a VAT dispute with HMRC.
The tax disputes and investigations team at Mishcon de Reya LLP handles contentious indirect and direct tax issues for corporate and private clients. The group has developed a niche in employment tax and disputes connected with the national minimum wage. Under the leadership of Leslie Allen, its lawyers have appeared before UK courts at all levels, as well as appeals at the European Court of Justice. Robert Hartley is noted for his expertise in contentious transfer pricing, while Paul Noble specialises in mitigating tax risk where HMRC challenges are likely. Managing associate Waqar Shah is developing a strong reputation for judicial review and group litigation orders.
‘The experience of the senior members of the team is apparent with any case that is referred to them and although work may be delegated to younger members of the team you can be confident that an ever watchful eye is being maintained.’
‘Excellent at VAT litigation and investigations – VAT consulting and investigations are my areas of professional competence.’
‘Communication was always clear and in language that non-experts could easily grasp.’
‘Waqar Shah is skilled in his perception of situations and delivers on the team’s behalf a first class service.‘
Iceland Foods Ltd
Dixons Carphone Plc
40 claimants in a negligence class action
Royal Mail Group Litigation
Gray and Farrar International LLP
- Successfully represented Iceland Foods in its correspondence with HMRC in relation to a national minimum wage dispute.
- Represented a number of claimants in VAT litigation against Royal Mail Group after the defendant incorrectly exempted VAT from its postal services for decades.
- Represented Gray and Farrar International LLP at the first-tier tribunal in a case determining whether matchmaking services are consultancy sevices and therefore exempt from VAT
At Norton Rose Fulbright, the group is engaged in a broad range of contentious tax issues, including tax authority investigations and negotiations and litigation before UK courts and tribunals, the European Court of Justice, as well as judicial reviews. Dominic Stuttaford is the head of tax for Europe, Middle East, Asia and Brazil. He leads the litigation group and is a veteran litigator with experience of major SDRT and VAT grouping cases. Michael Alliston, who joined from Herbert Smith Freehills LLP in 2019, is an expert in HMRC enquiries and investigations, and also often works with Stuttaford in cases involving warranty and indemnity insurance. Chris Bates assists with HMRC investigations, risk reviews and tax governance and compliance matters.
‘Very good at client care during the dispute, the team makes sure the client understands and is comfortable with the process.’
‘An absolutely superb team.’
‘A good team of experienced litigators.’
‘Dominic Stuttaford is absolutely brilliant, has a depth of knowledge and understanding that is truly breathtaking, and perhaps most important of all is able to communicate arcane and complex issues with remarkable and elegant simplicity.’
‘Julia Lloyd is a pleasure to work with. Very good at working through reams of complex detail, takes the complexities out and gives clear and well-structured advice.’
Lloyds Banking Group
NDS Group Limited (formerly NDS Group plc)
Takeda (formerly Shire Pharmaceuticals Group)
- Acting for BMW in a significant case concerning the working of the VAT rules relating to VAT grouping and which entity is entitled to claim a refund of VAT where there have been changes to the composition of a VAT group over time. Successfully defended an appeal to the Court of Appeal which was heard in January 2019 and leave to appeal that decision has been refused.
- Acting for Takeda (formerly Shire) in a restitution claim in the Stamp Taxes Group Litigation Order relating to Stamp Duty Reserve Tax.
- Acting for HSBC in a restitution claim in the Franked Investment Income Group Litigation Order.
Areas of expertise for the team at Stewarts Law LLP include direct and indirect tax litigation, commercial tax litigation and tax investigations. The group has experience before courts and tribunals at all levels. 'Nimble lawyer' David Pickstone, who leads the group, specialises in direct and commercial tax litigation. Lee Ellis is noted for his direct tax litigation expertise. James le Gallais, who joined from Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP in 2019, leads on commercial tax litigation. Tax investigations are led by Sarah Stenton and Lisa Vanderheide, both of whom joined from BDO LLP in April 2019.
‘inspire confidence with their determination.’
‘The team have a perfect blend of cut and thrust litigation experience coupled with deep tax law knowledge. Having senior team members from a diverse range of tax law backgrounds.’
‘David Pickstone is a nimble but solid lawyer with outstanding commercial intuition. Has a good team that works well together.’
‘James Le Gallais is an outstanding litigator. He has a keen mind and always thinks several steps ahead.’
Ingenious Litigation – over 350 individual investors
Tayto Group Limited and Others
Invicta 43 Group Action against Jonathan Peacock QC – over 120 individual investors
FCC Recycling UK Ltd and Singleton Birch Limited
Eclipse Group Action against HSBC – 165 individual investors
Scotts Atlantic Group Action against Andrew Thornhill QC – 110 individual investors
Tax Film Schemes Group Action against Canaccord Genuity – over 30 individual investors
- Acting in a £160m claim for a large group of investors in the Ingenious film partnerships in fraudulent misrepresentation and conspiracy claims against the creators of the tax schemes and those who advised on it.
- The department acts for 165 investors in Eclipse LLPs, who are advancing claims of up to £300m against HSBC for misrepresentations and conspiracy which arise out of HSBC’s role in the design, promotion and operation of the scheme.
- The firm is acting for FCC Recycling UK Ltd and Singleton Birch Limited in an appeal to the tax tribunal in respect of an assessment to Landfill Tax regarding the rate of tax applicable to a specific type of waste.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges (London) LLP's tax litigation department is noted for its strong track record in high-profile tax litigation and cases involving novel points of law. In addition to litigating cases in court, the team advises clients on the merits of pursuing litigation against the tax authorities, and the interaction between insurance cover (and related conduct obligations) and the decision to settle or contest a tax claim. The group is jointly led by Jamie Maples, Oliver Walker and Jenny Doak (who was hired from Vinson & Elkins RLLP in 2019).
‘They understand the challenges we face as a third sector provider and are always able to get straight to the heart of the matter very quickly.’
Joint Special Administrators of MF Global UK
- Continues to advise the Joint Special Administrators of MFGUK on various issues arising out of the MF Global estate, including notably on a number of complex German tax-related issues.
Under the leadership of Harry Travers, BCL Solicitors LLP's team has developed a practice that operates at the intersection between fraud and tax law, where it predominantly represents clients in HMRC criminal investigations and judicial reviews. Ian Burton handles high-profile tax investigations for individuals and corporates.
‘BCL are well known for their expertise in dealing with criminal tax investigations. They are amongst the top tier of firms that combine criminal law and tax expertise.’
‘BCL’s team has extensive experience in particular with dealing with the criminal aspects of tax investigations. This is very rare amongst firms practising in tax.’
‘Harry Travis is extremely proactive and technically savvy.’
‘Harry Travers is an excellent solicitor who is at the top of his game!’
- Continuing to act for partners of Optimal Compliance Services LLP (OCS) in relation to a criminal investigation by HMRC. HMRC suspect OCS of misrepresenting the reality of a tax saving scheme, causing the loss of at least £9m to HMRC.
At Kingsley Napley LLP, the tax litigation department is led by David Sleight, who works closely with criminal litigation head Louise Hodges. The group is most noted for handling criminal tax investigations and is often instructed to challenge coercive powers and handle internal investigations. In addition, it is also active in cases involving tax avoidance schemes, VAT claims and compounding settlements.
Other key lawyers:
‘Excellent white-collar crime and fraud firm covering all key UK regulators.’
‘The firm is well known as a blue-chip firm for white-collar crime that represent individuals investigated for tax fraud also.’
‘Deep bench of experienced lawyers with an approachable style.’
‘Louise Hodges and David Sleight, in particular, have a good reputation in contentious tax fraud litigation.‘
‘A consistent focus on client service combined with deep experience and down to earth manner. Louise Hodges and David Sleight personify these qualities.’
KPMG Law in the United Kingdom's tax disputes and investigations team consists of experienced litigators, particularly in relation to contentious VAT and double-tax treaties. The department is led by solicitor-advocate Amanda Brown, who regularly appears at the Court of Appeal and the European Court of Justice. Angela Savin has a strong track record in direct tax disputes.
‘As a team of lawyers embedded in an accountancy firm, it has access to a large pool of practical knowledge of tax and HMRC.‘
‘Knowledge of key tax issues and key strategies is excellent compared to other firms.’
‘We have found the team to be very client-friendly and responsive. They are evidently very experienced, knowledgeable and technically astute and we are able to rely on them to lead us competently through the litigation process.’
‘Amanda Brown is one of the most hard working and intelligent individuals I have met. She always goes above and beyond and provides technically astute as well as commercially focused advice.’
Devon Waste Management
Mr Martin Fowler
GLL BVK Internationaler Immobilien Spezialfonds
Mr John Hargreaves (founder of Matalan plc)
Hudson Contract Services Limited
Jupiter Asset Management
Taylor Clark Leisure plc
United Grand Lodge of England
Volkswagen Financial Services (UK) Limited
- Acted for Taylor Clark plc before the Supreme Court in this case concerning VAT grouping (and we have continued to advise them after the release of the Supreme Court’s decision) – this is one of the most important VAT decisions of recent years.
- Acted for the founder of Matalan Plc in a successful appeal against an HMRC discovery assessment – the decision in the case has had significant ramifications for both personal and corporate taxation and has attracted significant tax practitioner and commentator attention.
- Acting (pro bono) for Martin Fowler in his case before the Supreme Court. This is only the second case concerning double tax treaties to go before the Supreme Court.
Manchester-based law firm Kuit Steinart Levy LLP has a strong contentious tax team, which is led by Robert Levy, and 'consistently demonstrates a strong understanding of how to guide clients through even the most complex of tax disputes'. Areas of focus include HMRC fraud investigations, as well as investigations arising from tax schemes and cases involving tax data theft. The group also handles criminal investigations and prosecutions involving offshore issues. Paul Bricknell specialises in tax advisory and disclosure work, and has expertise in the categorisation of tax offences.
Other key lawyers:
‘The firm is well known in this area with good technical tax knowledge and known for excellent client care.’
‘The Kuits team is uniquely able to provide a wide range of support to clients, as it consists of tax and litigation specialists with vast experience in dealing with tax disputes.’
‘The Kuits team consistently demonstrate a strong understanding of how to guide clients through even the most complex of tax disputes.’
‘Robert Levy is popular, collegiate, technically able, experienced and strategically astute.’
‘Robert Levy and Paul Bricknell look beyond the strict legal analysis of a particular point to identify the key issues faced by the client and the practical solutions to address those concerns.’
In April 2019, Osborne Clarke LLP hired seasoned tax litigator Ian Hyde from Pinsent Masons LLP. He now leads the team in all issues relating to tax risk and litigation. Areas of particular expertise include tax tribunal appeals, HMRC investigations, penalties and civil tax litigation. Another name to note is associate director Matthew Greene, who has experience of appearing before UK and European courts.
‘Strength in depth covering all areas of tax from pensions to aggregates levy.’
‘A very committed disputes team who focus upon the technical analysis and then craft a winning strategy. To do this, they combine technical ability with forensic acumen.’
‘Ian Hyde is clear thinking and approachable with strong technical background.’
‘Ian Hyde is clear thinking and approachable with strong technical background.’
Domino’s Pizza Group plc
- Acting for a FTSE 350 company on main board level tax issues.