2019 Legal Awards

SME NEWS / 2019 Legal Awards 5 Chancery Court Tax Chambers g Tax Handbook: spanning nearly two feet and printed in tiny type on tissue thin paper. ‘We’ll probably need a bigger bookcase for next year’s edition’ smiles Joseph. What it means to be ‘Boutique’ I ask Joseph to tell me about CCTC and what sets it apart from its competitors. In particular, I want to understand what ‘boutique’ means when it comes to tax chambers and whether this is just marketing spiel. “What sort of tax problems do you deal with?” I ask. “Tax is not the centre of our universe” comes the counterintuitive reply. “People are.” “Our clients are often famous celebrities, sports people, bankers, national and global business leaders- exceptional high and ultra- high net worth individuals. Many of them are highly internationally mobile, with financial affairs spanning multiple jurisdictions. When I say they are exceptional, I mean that quite literally. In that they aren’t just brilliant, but unique. And they come with unique and often highly complex financial circumstances. These in turn create unique and highly complex tax problems.” “So off-the-peg taxation solutions aren’t just adequate for them?” I reply. “Hence- the need for a bespoke approach?” “You took the words out of my mouth!” laughs Joseph. “To continue that tailoring metaphor, a boutique tax chambers is like a bespoke suit maker. We physically meet our clients and their trusted advisors to measure them up. That is, to understand their financial and personal circumstances, and what they want to achieve: be it legal compliance, tax efficient solutions to wealth structuring, inheritance or succession planning, or a myriad of other aims. Once we understand that, we tailor a suit to fit. It’s no surprise that a Saville Row suit will always fit better and look better than something off-the-peg”. I don’t even need to ask where that blue suit came from. I ask Joseph to tell me more about dialogue with clients. Because of course, most barristers are only available through referrals from the solicitors and accountants. He nods. “That’s right barristers can be curiously inaccessible. That’s one of the main reasons we’ve held a Direct Access Certificate from the Bar Standards Board for Public Access for nearly a decade.” “For us, dialogue isn’t just a marketing feature designed to provide peace of mind: it’s literally essential because we need to analyse each individual’s situation holistically. High and ultra-high net worth individuals invariably that bring unique circumstances to the table. For example, sometimes there are quite delicate family matters - involving old trust funds set up by deceased persons with restrictive provisions, or succession or inheritance regimes which apply to specific domiciles, for example those governed by Sharia Law. We need to understand a client’s full circumstances to find solutions which are commercial, discreet, and legally robust and future-proofed.” “But isn’t this personal approach simply something I would expect from any highly- trained and accomplished public access barrister?” I interject. Joseph laughs. “There are many brilliant barristers within a stone’s throw of this very building. But people can be brilliant in many different ways. Many barristers have spent their professional lives honing their litigation skills- knocking over opponents and dominating courtrooms. Very few of them have had substantial commercial experience outside of the legal world.” “So you would say that what your clients really value is your ability to look at problems from a holistic legal and commercial perspective?” I ask. “That’s exactly it. To a hammer, everything can look like a nail. In my case, I came to the bar after working commercially with clients and customers. I’m a businessman who became a barrister and who can combine rigorous legal thinking with commercial problem-solving intuition”. A holistic approach to Taxation “So, is a boutique tax chambers really just about a particularly personal approach which reflects your clients’ exceptionality?” I ask. “It’s more than that” replies Joseph. “It’s also about the broad skillset we bring.” “There is a 5-pointed star of taxation that affect most of our clients: income taxes, capital gains taxes, stamp duties, inheritance taxes and VAT. You will find most tax barristers have a particular sub-specialism which dictates most of their professional activities, and many focus on either advisory or courtroom work. But the clients we work with often require taxation solutions which straddle several of these: often all five points of the star. They are often interconnected rather than separate- so work in one often creates work in others”. I nod - it certainly makes senses that even Joseph would need to be an all-rounder rather than a niche specialist. However, there is another thing that has been bugging me, and I put it to him. Namely, why not use an experienced accountant? Is it really necessary to get barristers involved until you need legal counsel, or actually end up in court? “Accountants are invariably commercially minded and thoroughly knowledgeable in the general tax field” agrees Joseph. “However, they are not commonly legal specialists.Even if supported by the legal knowledge of a solicitor who can draft documents, there will inevitably come a point where legal complexities push them to seek counsel. Given that, we advise our clients to involve tax barristers from the beginning rather than crowbar them in later on via a referral mechanism when much ink has been spilled and positions have become entrenched.” I decide to push Joseph on how exactly having a barrister involved from the beginning – rather than keeping him or her at arm’s length for consultation – really makes a difference. “The first major advantage is that we understand the relevant documentation more swiftly and even more accurately” Joseph replies. “With our clients, paperwork is often particularly legally complex: this is especially true if documents are foreign, old, or otherwise obscure. Consider also that high and ultra- high net worth individuals may have already set up, acquired or inherited intricately- structured arrangements, assets with particular ownership structures and obligations, innovative special purpose vehicles, and many other artefacts of sophisticated legal design. Rather than operating through distant referrals – and running the risk that highly technical legal advice might be imperfectly understood – it can save enormous time and effort to involve us as soon and as closely as possible. Many of the accountants we work with recognise this and bring their more complex clients to see us very early on. This invariably improves the accountant’s relationship with the client because they are so pleased with the results.” “So that deals with the incoming documents” I reply. “What about the outgoing?” “That comes back to my earlier engineering analogy. Engaging us brings the architect and structural engineer together from the beginning. It allows all potential taxation solutions to be explored, and the optimised approach to implementation taken from the outset. I once was handed a case relating to a family partnership where the accountant did not understand the nuances of the way the law operated in a foreign jurisdiction, and inadvertently produced fundamentally flawed accounts and transaction documentation. Finally, consider the future. As we’ve discussed, taxation laws change constantly – often in reaction to unpredictable political developments – and its often simply too much to ask generalist accountants and solicitors to create cutting edge wealth structuring strategies which are legally robust (and flexible) enough to stand for the many decades to come.” “But what about a client’s existing solicitor’s and accountants?” I ask. “Can CCTC slot into existing arrangements?” “Absolutely” Joseph replies. “We work with numerous accountants, solicitors and other trusted advisors to help them take care of their own HNW and UHNW clients. One of CCTC’s greatest strengths is that we can play solo, or take our place in an existing orchestra.”

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