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One minute with... Ben Jones

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What’s keeping you busy?
The combination between Eversheds and US firm Sutherland, which went live on 1 February 2017, is a key focus at the moment. Sutherland has a leading tax practice in the US and, combined, Eversheds Sutherland now has over 150 tax specialists globally. Tax will consequently be a key service line of the combined firm going forward, and a lot of time is being spent at the moment building relationships within the group and pursuing mutual opportunities.
What measure in the current draft Finance Bill caught your eye?
In my view and perhaps not surprisingly, the most important measure within Finance Bill 2017 is the interest cap. The introduction of a cap on interest deductions for both related and third-party debt represents a fundamental change to the UK tax system and could drive significant changes to the way transactions are structured. In addition to the potential tax cost of the rules, businesses within the scope of the rules will have to undertake a significant and ongoing compliance exercise in connection with these new rules.
On a more positive note, the proposed changes to the substantial shareholding exemption are very welcome, addressing in a pragmatic way some of the problems with the current rules and introducing favourable exemptions.
How are multinationals responding to the result of the Brexit referendum?
In my experience, the response so far of multinationals to Brexit has been very mixed, ranging from businesses that have undertaken a forensic analysis of the impact of all the different potential Brexit outcomes, through to the (more common) wait and see approach. Frankly, there is probably still too little information to take any active steps at the moment. I have, however, noticed a real perception shift with clients when discussing the UK as a potential headquarters or holding company jurisdiction. Understandably, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit has damaged the attractiveness of the UK, which is disappointing after nearly a decade of tax reform designed to improve the corporate tax system and ensure that the UK is indeed ‘open for business’.
Alongside Brexit, the election of President Trump in the US was another key event in 2016. What impact do you see this having from a tax perspective?
Trump’s presidency and the Republican dominance of Congress and Senate may trigger the most significant period of US tax reform for many years. The proposed reforms could have wide reaching consequences for businesses both within the US and internationally. For example, the suggested destination based cash flow tax would represent a dramatic change to US corporate taxation that could lead to very different outcomes for different businesses, alongside the potential extraterritorial taxation of businesses trading with the US. Equally, lower corporate taxes in the US, coupled with a cash repatriation tax amnesty and an end to US tax deferral on income earned abroad, could change not only the fundamentals of cross-border tax planning, but could also significantly impact the investment decisions and M&A activity of US multinationals.
If you could make one change to UK tax law or practice, what would it be?
As a transactional tax lawyer advising on many UK and international transactions, my suggestions would be to abolish stamp duty on the transfer of shares. It may be that SDRT on CREST share transfers needs to be retained to maintain tax revenues, but stamp duty on private, certificated share transfers does not raise a material amount of tax revenue, and it is certainly costly to the taxpayer.
You might not know this about me…
I also lecture the next generation of tax lawyers at the College of Law, putting the NQs of many City tax teams through their paces on the basics of tax and being a tax lawyer. In truth, though, I often also find myself being equally tested, a testament to the high-quality individuals who are the future of the profession!  
Issue: 1341
Categories: One minute with