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One minute with... Arun Birla

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What’s keeping you busy at work?
We are busy working on a variety of matters such as the setting up of credit/real estate/private equity funds, public and private corporate finance deals, private equity transactions, real estate related matters and securitisations/CLOs. None of the matters are run of the mill and the continuously changing tax landscape keeps me on my toes. As tax laws become more uncertain, the challenge is to continue to provide succinct and to the point advice to our clients. Never a boring day!
If you could make one change to a tax law or practice, what would it be?
I would like to see our tax laws become more competitive in certain areas after Brexit (whatever that may end up looking like). The investment funds space immediately comes to mind. It would not take much to catch up with the likes of Luxembourg without the UK ending up with a ‘tax haven’ tag.
Is there a recent tax case that has caught your eye?
Project Blue v HMRC [2018] UKSC 30 on FA 2003 s 75A. I have spent a fair amount of time analysing whether the provision could apply to a specific set of facts in the context of a private M&A acquisition involving an historic reorganisation (which ordinarily a layman would have thought was entirely commercially driven). The decision in the case is broad in many respects. Standing back you can see why the majority in the Supreme Court ruled as it did, but we are nevertheless left with many unanswered questions and HMRC having a great deal of flexibility as to when it can invoke the anti-avoidance provision. The provision should always be on your checklist to tick off when considering any SDLT issue (even for what might seem innocuous to you).
Are there any new rules that are causing a particular problem?
Funnily enough, the United States tax reform across the Atlantic is impacting on a number of European transactions and, in particular, the unfortunately named GILTI rules are seeing deals being structured using alternative investment vehicles. The uncertainties surrounding the operation of the principal purpose test in the context of treaty relief claims are very much at the forefront of investors coming into Europe. I am not going to discuss the hybrid mismatch rules…
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
Networking and focusing on client relationships are key to a successful career in law. I enjoy developing new business and I try to ensure my team thrives in attracting new business. I also believe that lawyers setting out in their careers should have a global outlook; I regularly see clients being impressed if you have a working knowledge of developments in other jurisdictions, such as the United States, Netherlands, Ireland, France, Germany and Luxembourg.
How do you see tax evolving over the next five to ten years?
I do not have a crystal ball but I wonder whether we will see forms of artificial intelligence/robots being taxed. We are predicted to see unemployment in large droves due to technological advances, so it begs the question, what will replace the lost tax revenues?
You might not know this about me... 
I am a petrolhead. Classic ‘muscle’ cars are a particular favourite. 
Issue: 1407
Categories: One minute with