Smaller Firms are Best Placed to Nurture Legal Talent
Law firms look set to expand their legal teams in the first half of 2019, with a particular focus on their disputes practices. Yet new research, recently shared in the Global Legal Post, suggests that there is a lack of skilled lawyers, legal secretaries and paralegals available in the market to meet this expanding demand. The research notes that large international firms are likely to struggle most with the increasing trend for leading individuals at all levels to move to smaller, often specialist, firms.
The draws of small firms for talented lawyers and business services employees include opportunities for greater work-life balance, diversity and flexible working. Smaller firms can also provide a stronger sense of community, creating an environment that lends itself to greater empathy and acceptance of individual circumstances and challenges. This friendlier and more open culture can also result in greater diversity across the workforce.
For trainees, associates and paralegals there are further benefits to choosing smaller firms. It is likely that they will perform more substantive legal tasks than those at their larger counterparts. This can result in a faster-paced learning environment. Associates may also have greater levels of client contact; at large law firms this is often the reserve of more senior lawyers.
Smaller outfits can also more easily promote accelerated career progression, as there are fewer layers of management and bureaucracy. It can also be easier to demonstrate worth and gain recognition; lawyers can more easily build an individual practice and move towards partnership. With all this in mind, it is unsurprising that many talented junior lawyers are opting to join smaller firms.
For partners there is the opportunity for increased influence over firm management, strategy and development. There is more tolerance and understanding of individual ways of working, and greater scope in the development of practices, in terms of direction, variation and growth, due to both the flexibility and the lack of client conflicts found at smaller firms.
Although this new research does not herald a step change in today’s global legal market, it indicates that many of those working in private practice are rightly thinking beyond firm size, profile and global footprint when choosing where to work.
Offshore Structures and Onward Gifts
The so-called “onward gift” tax anti-avoidance rules were introduced by the Finance Act 2018 to complement the changes brought in the previous year aimed at restricting the UK tax privileges afforded to non-UK domiciled individuals. The rules were designed to close some perceived loopholes in relation to the taxation of non-UK resident structures (including but not limited to non-UK trusts). With effect from 6 April 2018, it would no longer be possible for an individual to receive a gift without questioning its providence, particularly where family trusts are involved.
The rules were designed to prevent non-UK structures from using non-chargeable beneficiaries as conduits through which to pass payments in order to avoid tax charges. Gone are the days of “washing out” any trust gains that could be matched to offshore income or gains by prefacing a payment to a UK-resident taxable beneficiary with a non-taxable primary payment to a non-UK resident beneficiary.
“It is notoriously challenging to prove a negative (especially to HMRC) and even more tricky where the taxpayer must speak to someone’s intention other than their own.”
Note that the new rules will apply where funds are received from non-UK resident structures before 6 April 2018 to the extent that they are subsequently gifted after that date.
Increased Investment in Personal Tax Compliance in the UK
Changes in public opinion, advances in technology and increased international fiscal co-operation have made global personal tax compliance initiatives pop up in abundance in recent years. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the corresponding economic fallout have prompted governments to increase transparency in relation to investments by wealthy foreign individuals in their countries.
The UK’s HMRC is one of the most sophisticated tax collection authorities in the world and the department is making significant investments in technology in the field of compliance work.
It should therefore be well placed to take advantage of new international efforts to increase tax compliance, particularly against the backdrop of the already extensive network of bilateral tax treaties in the UK, and not forgetting that the UK was a founding member of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) forum.
This article discusses the main developments in support of the increased focus on international transparency and tax compliance in the UK. There are other international fiscal initiatives, particularly in the field of corporate taxation, but such initiatives are beyond the scope of this article.
Case note: Lynton Exports (Alsager) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 00224 (TC)
As HMRC continue to apply the Kittel principle to increasing numbers of industries and businesses, taxpayers need to be vigilant about evidential requirements that HMRC must fulfil in order to discharge their burden of proof. Read JHA’s latest insight into the First-tier Tribunal’s decision in Lynton Exports (Alsager) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 00224 (TC).
If you require any further information about the Kittel, Mecsek, and Ablessio principles, or any other allegations by HMRC of fraud or fraudulent abuse, please contact Iain MacWhannell (email@example.com).
Preparing for the Possibility of a Domicile Enquiry
Helen McGhee, a director and chartered tax advisor at Joseph Hague Aaronson, explores who might be vulnerable to an HMRC enquiry on domicile and how best to deal with such enquiries.
The Kittel Principle - Sweet Sixteen
The following is an article written by David Bedenham about HMRC’s wide-ranging application of the ‘Kittel principle’. The current focus appears to very much be on the labour supply industry and the allegation of ‘Mini Umbrella Company Fraud’ (or ‘MUC Fraud’). This article highlights the need for taxpayers to get specialist advice at an early stage when faced with a Kittel decision. If you have any queries about Kittel-related issues or similar denials of input VAT or assessments to VAT, please contact Iain MacWhannell (firstname.lastname@example.org).