Tax lawyers are involved in advising their clients (who may be private individuals, companies, or the government) on and the best way to mitigate their tax liability.
Most tax work is non-contentious, but tax lawyers working for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are engaged in investigating potential breaches of the law, and either prosecuting individuals or companies; or defending cases on behalf of the government.
What does this type of lawyer do?
If acting for private clients, tax lawyers will be engaged in client meetings, advising on potential tax liability (for example, in the buying of selling of assets) and the best way to mitigate that liability.
If acting for companies, tax lawyers often work with other teams of lawyers as one aspect of a larger deal, as virtually all commercial transactions will include tax ramifications. Typical deals might include, advising on the tax implications of a mergers and acquisitions, property deals, restructurings, and all manner of finance (funds, equity, debt etc)
HMRC is the government body with the remit to bring proceedings against a company or individuals; and they may also be involved, as the flip side of the coin, in defending cases brought against the government. HMRC lawyers are also involved in advising on the application of the (frequent) new laws on taxation.
What skills are required?
Tax is an area that is heavy on ‘black letter law’: in other words, tax legislation is a huge and complex area of law, which changes every year. You will need to be academically able in order to understand complicated and voluminous legislation; and genuinely interested in the subject in order to keep up. Additional qualifications (for example, Chartered Tax Adviser status) may be required.
In addition to being able to digest tax legislation, you will of course need to translate it into practical courses of action; as well as be able to communicate your advice clearly to your client, so commercial awareness and communication skills are also a must.
An awareness of the wider deals in which you will be engaged (for example, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, private finance initiatives and so on) is also requisite.
In general, tax is a stable area of practice – in the boom years, commercial deals require the expertise of tax lawyer; in lean times, companies and individuals are keen to look at how they can reorganise their affairs to minimise tax. However, in recent years, the creative schemes used by some private individuals and companies to avoid tax have grabbed the headlines. In addition, and partly as a result of both the pressure on public finances and political pressure, the HMRC is taking a tougher line when it comes to pursuing tax avoidance.
- Target Law: https://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/law-solicitors
- Chambers Student guide: http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk