I give opinions and advice on the way in which the law works in most situations – commercial, government, not-for-profit and domestic. This is largely in the areas of my specialties: tax and superannuation law. But this often involves associated legal issues. As a result I have also advised (and litigated) in areas which might be described as ‘negligent’ tax advice (where a taxpayer is seeking redress from the person who gave them tax advice).
The areas in which most often practice are the main federal taxes: Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Goods and Services Tax (‘GST’).
I might be retained to give the initial/only advice, or I might be retained for a ‘second opinion’ – perhaps after a tax accountant has given the initial advice.
You might want my advice to chose a course of action, but it can also be important to get legal advice in tax matters to help demonstrate that you (or your client) have exercised ‘reasonable care’ in taking the action you did, and so avoid penalties, in the event that the tax result is not as hoped for.
I have deep experience in giving tax advice from my 25 years as a solicitor – most of it as a partner in national law firms practicing in tax and superannuation, and then from my years at the Bar (since 2004). Furthermore, I remain committed to staying up to date as you can see from my monthly publication of tax developments for lawyers.
I will appear for either taxpayers or the Revenue authorities in litigation – whether that is about the amount of the tax, its collection, or perhaps ancillary matters (such as investigations). I will run cases on my own, or as junior counsel (that is with, and lead by, Senior Counsel: a QC or SC).
There is a list of all the cases where I am reported as having appeared – under the ‘Cases’ tab above. These are only the ones that have gone all the way through to hearing and a reported decision. I have been involved in many more, but they have settled (see my Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR services below).
Alternative Dispute Resolution (‘ADR’)
ADR has become very important, and I practice in all aspects of it. This is usually associated with certain formal processes to settle litigation which is already under way, such as mediation, conciliation and early neutral evaluation. These days very few pieces of litigation can get to hearing without at least one attempt at settling the dispute this way. And revenue authorities have recently become much more supportive of ADR, not only when the matter has gone as far as commencing litigation, but much earlier in the process of seeking rulings, investigations leading to audits, position papers, amended assessments, objections and their determination. And so these processes can be informal also.
They can lead to resolving matters much more quickly, cheaply, and often completely that a piece of litigation running through to judgement, and are often a good option, and worth putting some effort into.
Nor does ADR always lead to settling ‘somewhere in the middle’. Quite a high proportion of taxpayers for whom I’ve acted in formal ADR processes have won 100% as I used this forum as an early opportunity to explain to the relevant revenue authority why the taxpayer was right.
I have acted for parties in conciliations in the Federal Court and Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and also in County Court sponsored mediation in a tax negligence case.
I also act as a Mediator for parties engaged in Mediation.
I often act for taxpayers in seeking rulings about the application of the tax law to a proposed transaction, or one that has already happened.
This is an important part of revenue law, as often rulings are binding on the relevant authority. A ruling might be in addition to advice I give, or instead of relying only on only my advice (which will not bind the revenue authority).
Obtaining rulings also is a way of managing tax penalty risk.
Negotiations with revenue authorities is involved in all of the above, and can be necessary in relation to other things. I am can assist in that, not only through experience, but with a knowledge of the right people to contact, built up over the years.