UK > Leading tax law firms

Corporate tax

Index of tables

  1. United Kingdom – Leading tax law firms: Corporate tax
  2. UK - TDH500
  3. Revenue authority details

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP’s sizeable team includes Colin Hargreaves, Sarah Falk and Helen Lethaby, who have handled high-profile transactions for key clients BG Group, Anheuser-Busch InBev and BT. Practice head David Haworth advises a number of prominent financial institutions on high-profile cross-border transactions, legislative changes and tax structuring. Also recommended are finance specialist Paul Davison and Murray Clayson, who leads on international transfer pricing.

Sara Luder heads the ‘consistently impressive’ team at Slaughter and May, which covers high-profile transactions, as well as standalone tax advisory work and transfer pricing. Highlights included acting for Royal Dutch Shell on the tax aspects of its proposed £47bn acquisition of BG Group. Other names to note include Steve Edge, who ‘impresses with his intellectual ability and practical approach’, Tony Beare, ‘whose advice is always considered, comprehensive and reliable’, Mike Lane, Gareth Miles and ‘clear communicatorWilliam Watson.

The ‘excellent’ Vimal Tilakapala heads Allen & Overy LLP’s five-partner team, which experienced an increase in deal flow and expansion at associate level in 2015. Lydia Challen advised a group of banks, including Bank of America and Credit Suisse, on the financing of Cerberus Capital Management’s acquisition of approximately $20bn in loans previously held by Northern Rock from the UK government. In another highlight, Christopher Harrison assisted HSBC with the tax implications of the separation of its retail and investment banking businesses. VimpelCom and Coca-Cola Iberian Partners are also clients.

Clifford Chance has ‘excellent industry knowledge and its partners are deeply involved in matters’. The ‘very client-focused’ Chris Davies and his team regularly handle complex cross-border tax issues, both advisory and transactional. Deutsche Telekom, Blackrock and Barclays are recent clients. Other key figures include Dan Neidle, who is ‘highly regarded in the banking industry’, and David Harkness, who is ‘knowledgeable as well as pragmatic’.

Linklaters LLP’s practice, led by ‘pre-eminent tax practitionerYash Rupal, handles a balanced spread of high-profile transactions and complex international tax consultancy work in the corporate, real estate, private equity and finance sectors. Recent highlights include Dominic Winter’s advice to Hutchison International on its £10.25bn purchase of Telefónica, and Mark Kingstone’s advice to Anglo American on its $1.6bn disposal of a 50% interest in Lafarge Tarmac. Timothy Lowe joined Kirkland & Ellis International LLP.

Ashurst attracts praise for its ‘excellent response times, business acumen and technical knowledge’. Energy, transport and infrastructure expert Nicholas Gardner is advising China General Nuclear Power Corporation on the tax aspects of its joint venture with EDF relating to various UK nuclear power projects. Practice head Richard Palmer, private equity and funds specialist Alexander Cox and financial products expert Paul Miller are also recommended.

Baker & McKenzie LLP has a sizeable and fast-growing team of lawyers, tax advisers, accountants and economists who ‘work together to get the job done across disciplines and jurisdictions’. The group handles innovative tax-planning projects and high-profile transactions for clients including Fedex, Towers Watson and Coca-Cola European Partners. Mark Delaney has taken over as practice head from Alex Chadwick, who has been appointed London managing partner. M&A expert James Smith, transfer pricing head Richard Fletcher and Patrick O’Gara are also recommended.

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP’s sizeable practice, headed globally by the ‘technical and very commercialMichael Wistow*, is ‘a go-to team for property tax advice’, and also stands out for its broader transactional expertise. Recent transactional highlights include advising Banque Fédérative du Crédit Mutuel on its acquisition of GE’s equipment finance and receivables finance businesses in France and Germany. The practice also handles private client related tax mandates for family offices and financial institutions. Neal Todd, Elizabeth Bradley and Richard Harbot are also recommended. *Michael Wistow joined White & Case LLP in September 2016.

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP’s recent highlights span real estate, where it assisted private equity fund manager Benson Elliot on the acquisition of a property portfolio; oil and gas, where it advised Antin Infrastructure Partners on its purchase of a 36.2% stake in a North Sea gas pipeline; and IT, which included acting for Atlassion Corporation on its $4.4bn Nasdaq IPO. Global tax head Isaac Zailer, William Arrenberg (whose broad expertise includes cross-border tax planning and structuring), Howard Murray and newly promoted partner Aurell Taussig are all recommended.

Hogan Lovells International LLP acted for GE on the sale of its global real estate equity and debt portfolio business, and advised a leading European retailer on the sale of a business in China. Key figures include Karen Hughes, Philip Harle, Philip Gershuny and transfer pricing expert Fabrizio Lolliri.

The sizeable tax team at Macfarlanes LLP is rated for its combination of ‘technical supremacy and excellent client service’. The ‘creativeAshley Greenbank acted for Altria – the largest shareholder in SAB Miller – on the tax aspects of the brewing giant’s £73bn merger with Anheuser-Busch InBev. Other key figures include practice head Mark Baldwin, who is ‘technically brilliant and a great communicator’, and ‘knowledgeable and very user-friendly’ partners Damien Crossley and James McCredie.

Norton Rose Fulbright attracts praise for its ‘real appreciation of underlying commercial issues’. The firm’s sector-led approach is replicated in the tax team, which includes EMEA tax head and insurance, banking and technology sector specialist Dominic Stuttaford; Matthew Hodkin, who stands out for transport finance and renewable energy; and structured finance experts Chris Bates and Angela Savin. The ‘proactive’ Savin also regularly acts for real estate funds.

At Simmons & Simmons, Nick Cronkshaw’s highlights included advising Macquarie Capital on its acquisition of a 25% stake in an offshore wind farm, while Martin Shah assisted The British Land Company on the structuring, establishment and launch of Broadgate REIT Limited. Finance expert Mark Sheiham is also recommended.

The ‘extremely smart and solutions-oriented’ James Anderson leads Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP’s compact team, which stands out for its cross-border tax capabilities. In addition to its transactional workload, the practice regularly handles standalone tax matters for clients including The Coca-Cola Company and Highbridge Capital. Newly promoted partner Alex Jupp is also recommended. Tim Sanders retired.

DLA Piperprovides a very professional service’ and has ‘an extremely broad level of knowledge in both corporate and real estate tax’. Neville Wright advised Market Tech Holdings on the £900m refinancing of its Camden property portfolio. Practice head Richard Woolichfinds creative solutions to difficult problems, always with an emphasis on practicality and value’. The team was strengthened by the addition of three transfer pricing specialists in 2015.

Gareth Amdor’s team at King & Wood Mallesons regularly handles complex tax structuring mandates for the firm’s private equity and investment fund clients such as Bowmark Capital and Ardian. Recent highlights include advising the UK Green Investment Bank on the establishment of its £1bn fund. Laura Charkin, Stephen Pevsner and real estate expert Clive Jones are key contacts. Giles Bavister joined K&L Gates LLP and former practice head Heather Corben has left the firm.

Kirkland & Ellis International LLP’s ‘excellent practice’ saw considerable change in 2015 and 2016: former Weil, Gotshal & Manges tax head Jonathan Kandel joined in August 2015 alongside Ian Ferreira and Frixos Hatjantonas, and Timothy Lowe joined in February 2016 from Linklaters LLP. These hires add to the already deep expertise of the team, which includes Ian Taplin and the ‘knowledgeable and practicalJane Scobie. They handle private equity, real estate and investment fund related tax matters. Molson Coors Brewing and BNP Paribas are also clients. Oliver Currall left for Sidley Austin LLP.

Latham & Watkins’ tax practice works closely with the firm’s corporate and finance teams to handle the tax aspects of high-profile transactions. Recent highlights include advising Onex Partners on its $4.6bn acquisition of the SIG Combibloc Group, and assisting the initial purchasers with the bond financing of their $2.4bn acquisition of ICBPI. In another highlight, Sean Finn advised Sorin Group on its cross-border merger with Cyberonics, which involved the first-ever dual listing of a newly inverted group formed of US and EU parties. The ‘extremely client-focusedKarl Mah is also recommended.

McDermott Will & Emery UK LLP stands out for its structuring and international tax planning capabilities. Matthew Herrington sits on the business and industry advisory committee to the OECD, giving him significant knowledge of BEPS-related issues, while on the transactional side, practice head Tom Scott advised Olam International on the tax aspects of its $1.3bn acquisition of Archer Daniels Midland Company’s global cocoa business. James Ross regularly works with US-based clients.

In an illustration of Nabarro LLP’s strength in real estate, Nick Burt and his tax team advised LaSalle Investment Management on the establishment of the East India Dock Club fund, and acted for Stratford City Business District on complex pre-let structuring deals. The ‘technically strong and business-minded’ Philip Anderson was promoted to partner, while Kirsten Prichard Jones joined Macfarlanes LLP.

Mark Joscelyne heads Olswang LLP’s ‘technically and commercially very strong and supportive team’, which includes Cliona Kirby, who is ‘very savvy on property and IP tax issues’, Stephen Hignett, whose wide-ranging tax expertise impresses, and the ‘solutions-orientedGraham Chase. TMT and retail are particular sector strengths.

Stephenson Harwood regularly advises on M&A deals, and has been particularly active in complex reorganisations involving significant tax input. Key figures include the ‘responsive and thoroughMaryanna Sharrock, and practice head Hugo Jenney, who is noted for his ‘ability to find creative solutions’. TfL and Schroder UK Real Estate Fund are recent clients.

Private equity and asset management related mandates underpin much of Travers Smith LLP’s tax work. Recent highlights for Emily Clark include advising new client SV Life Sciences on the launch of The Dementia Discovery Fund, while Simon Skinner, who is lauded for his ‘deep technical knowledge’, assisted longstanding client 3i Group with its £105m acquisition of Aspen Pumps. Kathleen Russ heads the practice.

At White & Case LLP, Prabhu Narasimhan advised on the structuring of Novator Partners’ multibillion-dollar fund. Peita Menon, who heads the growing team, is a key contact for transactional tax matters.

At Addleshaw Goddard LLP, Elaine Gwilt has been particularly active on private equity related transactions for clients such as ECI Partners and Bridges Ventures. Peter Sayer has handled a number of real estate deals, including advising Diageo on the sale of Gleneagles Hotel to Enismore Capital.

Stuart Sinclair and his team at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld regularly handle the tax aspects of restructuring and investment funds matters. The group, which includes Jonathan Ivinson, also provides standalone tax advice to a range of clients and acts as principal UK tax adviser to a leading financial institution.

CMS has a transactional tax practice that attracts praise for its ability to ‘make complicated tax accessible’. Key figures include Sam Dames, whose recent clients include Exceptional Innovation, Diageo and Viatel, and Aaron Fairhurst, who is ‘a leading adviser in the M&A insurance industry’.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP’s diverse team includes a mix of UK and US qualified lawyers who provide both tax advisory services and transactional support, with a particular emphasis on private equity and investment fund related matters. Clients include The Carlyle Group, HarbourVest Partners and Triton Partners. Richard Ward and practice chair Matthew Saronson are key contacts.

Dentons is recommended for its ‘excellent business acumen and client care’. Alex Thomas and his team handle a mix of transactional support and tax-led structuring mandates for a broad client base that includes KSL Capital Partners, Enbridge International and Virgin Group. Jeremy Cape has ‘market-leading knowledge of African tax matters’. Newly promoted partner Andrew Thornton is ‘a rising star of tax law’.

Fieldfisher’s practice includes Andrew Prowse, who is a key contact for transactional tax matters, Nicholas Noble, who is a financial services and funds expert, and employee-owned businesses specialist Graeme Nuttall. Time Warner, Currencies Direct and John Lewis are recent clients.

With partners spread across London and Birmingham, Gowling WLG combines a standalone advisory practice with transactional support capabilities, and acts for a mix of clients ranging from start-ups to multinationals. Key contacts include practice head Lee Nuttall, who regularly handles real estate transactions, and Michael Murphy.

Mayer Brown International LLP’s tax practice is noted for its cross-border reach and its balance of transactional support and standalone advisory capabilities. Practice head Sandy Bhogal advised Brookfield Property Partners on the acquisition of Center Parcs by one of its global real estate opportunity funds. James Hill is the other name to note.

Boutique tax firm NGM Tax Law LLPprovides excellent service in terms of technical knowledge, response times and value for money’. It handles a broad range of transactional and advisory matters, and benefits from strong referral relationships with major law firms. Mark Nichols, Keith Gregory, Stephen Hoyle and Simon Meredith are key contacts.

Ropes & Gray LLP is singled out for its ‘reputation and knowledge of the alternative investment funds and private equity markets’. Practice head Brenda Coleman, whose ‘superb technical skills and solution-driven approach make for a highly impressive tax adviser’, assisted longstanding client Bain Capital with its £414m acquisition and subsequent refinancing and listing of Ibstock. Counsel Andrew Howard is also recommended.

The ‘efficient and very responsive’ team at Shearman & Sterling LLP regularly provides tax advice on multibillion-dollar transactions, including Liberty Global’s $8.2bn acquisition of Cable & Wireless Communications. Newly promoted partner Simon Letherman led advice to Liberty and is recommended alongside practice head Sarah Priestley, whose clients include a number of private equity houses.

Sidley Austin LLP is noted for its ‘state of the art advice’ as well as the diversity of its workload. Practice head Drew Scott is ‘a passionate corporate adviser who brings added value’, and is ably supported by Will Smith and new recruit Oliver Currall, who adds to the team’s private equity credentials.

At Taylor Wessing LLP, ‘attention is paid to properly understand the client’s objectives’. The practice is headed by Peter Jackson, who ‘combines good tax knowledge with an understanding of business practicalities’ and handles a mix of transactional support and structuring work for clients such as Canada Life, McLaren and Inflexion. Nikol Davies is ‘particularly knowledgeable and a pleasure to work with’.

At Weil, Gotshal & Manges, the ‘thoughtful and responsive’ Oliver Walker handled Providence Equity’s £374m acquisition of Chime Communications. In addition to his transactional expertise, Walker also handles employee share scheme matters, and is supported by David Irvine, who is recommended for fund restructuring and insolvency-related tax work. Both were recently made partner, while former practice head Jonathan Kandel left for Kirkland & Ellis International LLP.

Tax litigation and investigations

Index of tables

  1. United Kingdom – Leading tax law firms: Tax litigation and investigations
  2. UK - TDH500

Clifford Chance is ‘very well placed to offer useful insights on complex cross-border issues’. Practice head Liesl Fichardt – who is noted for her ‘invaluable ability to identify what will persuade a court in her client’s interests’ – has been particularly active in the financial services and media sectors; Credit Suisse, Sky and Global Radio are new clients.

Top-tier firmFreshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP stands out for the breadth of its litigation and pre-litigation expertise. Recent highlights for practice head Helen Buchanan include advising various international banks on tax and regulatory investigations into dividend as well as arbitrage transactions, and acting for a UK corporation in employment tax disputes. Murray Clayson is a key contact for contentious transfer pricing matters.

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP has wide-ranging expertise, making it a go-to choice for tax investigations and litigation of all stripes. Practice head Heather Gething and senior associate Nick Clayton (who are ‘knowledgeable, responsive and easy to work with’) are representing Bernard Ecclestone in High Court claims challenging HMRC’s rescission of a 2008 settlement agreement. Bank of Ireland and G4S Cash Solutions are also clients.

Service-minded’ boutique firm Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP is ‘a market leader in EU-related tax litigation’; it is currently handling a number of high-profile corporation tax group litigation orders (GLO), including the Franked Investment Income GLO and the Prudential Assurance Company Supreme Court case. Simon Whitehead, Paul Farmer and Phillippe Freund ‘work well together as a team in managing a case’. The firm’s recruitment of Daniel Margolin QC from Maitland Chambers further strengthens its silk-level capability, which includes the ‘extremely professional and responsiveGraham Aaronson QC.

Pinsent Masons LLP attracts praise for its ‘excellent technical knowledge, experience and negotiating abilities’. The ‘proactive’ Jason Collins heads the sizeable team, which includes Stuart Walsh (who ‘exudes competence and ability’) and the ‘highly intelligent’ Ian Hyde, who relocated to London from Birmingham. The practice is at the forefront of challenging HMRC’s new powers to issue advanced payment notices. Key clients include BT Pensions Group and Avon Cosmetics.

Slaughter and May’s ‘excellent’ multi-disciplinary tax disputes team includes leading litigator Sarah Lee; tax practice head Sara Luder, who advised Santander on two appeals against HMRC regarding structured finance transactions; Tony Beare, who was recently appointed part-time judge in the First Tier Tribunal; and the highly regarded Steve Edge, who has recently handled various contentious transfer pricing matters.

Fieldfisher provides a ‘particularly high standard’ of service to a broad range of clients including RCI Europe, for which it represented in an ECJ dispute on the tax classifications of timeshare services, and Invamed Group, for which it acted on a customs duty challenge. Hartley Foster, George Gillham and Derek Hill, who is now focused on advising individuals involved in film partnerships, are all recommended.

Hogan Lovells International LLP is singled out for its ‘constant engagement to ensure client needs are addressed’. The tax team acts alongside the firm’s public law group in high-profile cases including the recent challenge to the limit imposed by the Finance Act 2014 on tax reliefs for North Sea UK drilling services companies. Practice head Rupert Shiers is ‘a highly accomplished operator’ with deep expertise. Lee Squires is a key contact for indirect tax disputes.

Key highlights for PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal LLP included practice head Mark Whitehouse’s work in a group litigation concerning a stamp duty reserve tax and challenge against HMRC; and David Anderson’s work for Drax Power and Infinis Energy Holdings in a judicial review of the decision to remove a renewable energy tax exemption.

RPC’s ‘highly practical team’ is ‘responsive without compromising on the ability to deliver high-quality analysis and solutions’. ‘Dynamic’ team head Adam Craggs is noted for his ‘clear and practical’ advice; he is representing over 2,000 IT contractors in judicial review proceedings against HMRC relating to its accelerated payment notices, and continues to act for Greene King in its dispute with the Revenue over the tax treatment of its intra-group finance arrangements.

Simmons & Simmons’ practice, led by ‘excellent tactician and strategist’ Nick Skerrett, continued its impressive growth in 2015. In a highlight matter, the practice advised the Investment Association (UK), among others, on behalf of 20 investment managers and banks in their high-profile dispute with the Indian Income Tax Commissioners. Caritas Anchor House and BPP Holdings are also clients.

Ashurst is ‘highly professional in its approach to tax litigation and investigations’. Key contacts include Nicholas Gardner, who attracts praise for his ‘forensic mind and eye for detail’; Alexander Cox, who is acting for Gala Coral in VAT litigation; and Paul Miller, who is a longstanding adviser to Ocean Finance founder Paul Newey.

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP’s contentious tax team includes the ‘determinedNeal Todd and highly regarded VAT expert Alan Sinyor, as well as very active senior associates such as Kate Ison, who acts for a broad range of corporate and financial clients, and Kunal Vyas, who regularly advises on structured asset finance disputes.

At DLA Piper, Richard Woolich regularly handles VAT-related disputes, while Simon Airey, who attracts praise for his ‘wealth of experience’, specialises in tax and fraud investigations for private individuals and financial institutions.

Eversheds LLP’s ‘excellent, client-focused team’ is headed by indirect tax specialist Giles Salmond, whose recent clients include Mueller Europe and MG Rover Group.

Clients always feel secure’ with KPMG LLP’s ‘outstanding tax litigation team’, which is led by ‘excellent strategist’ Amanda Brown. Recent cases span landfill tax, VAT and residency issues. The Open University and Volkswagen Financial Services are clients.

Linklaters LLP’s multi-disciplinary team includes transactional tax specialist Mark Kingstone, litigator Michael Sanders and corporate tax expert Dominic Winter. BP, Vodafone and Citigroup are clients.

At Macfarlanes LLP, recently promoted partner Gideon Sanitt, who ‘impresses with his common-sense, pragmatic approach to dealing with HMRC’, coordinates disputes work across the firm’s sizeable tax practice.

Mishcon de Reya LLP’s contentious tax team was strengthened by the recruitment of ‘creative and determined tax litigatorLeslie Allen from DLA Piper. He joins a team that includes consultant Dario Garcia, who is a key contact for indirect tax disputes relating to financial services.

Angela Savin and Dominic Stuttaford are the key contacts at Norton Rose Fulbright. Recent highlights include acting for Lloyds Bank in a case related to capital allowances in an overseas leasing transaction, and BMW in a VAT repayment dispute.

Stewarts Law LLP stands out for its ‘wealth of experience and strong team of very impressive lawyers’. Led by the ‘very client-friendly, responsive and knowledgeableDavid Pickstone, the practice has been representing individual contributors to tax mitigation schemes in defending them against the HMRC and in claims against the promoters of such schemes.

The ‘very strategic and client-oriented’ team at Weil, Gotshal & Manges includes litigator Hannah Field-Lowes, who is acting for Ingenious Games in its high-profile £1bn dispute with HMRC; the ‘thoughtful and responsive’ Oliver Walker, who secured a Court of Appeal victory for The Littlewoods Group in its long-running payment of compound interest on overpaid VAT against the Revenue; and the ‘exceptionally professional and efficientJamie Maples.

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