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One minute with... Charlotte Brown

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You’ve recently established Northgate Tax Chambers. Why, and what do you hope to achieve in your first year?
As a proud Northerner, the plan was always to practise from the North. There is a wealth of talent and expertise across all industries and sectors there, but the Tax Bar is grossly under-represented outside of London. This is despite the fact that taxpayer disputes will always occur, regardless of geographical location, and the number of appeals being heard at the Manchester and Birmingham tax tribunals is increasing. I therefore felt that there was a need for a specialist tax set in the regions to address this imbalance (and to create some healthy competition!).
I am obviously hoping to build a successful practice, and in order to do this, communication and collaborative working with other tax professionals is key. I hope to gain a reputation for being approachable and user-friendly, whilst providing the high standard of technical and legal representation that is synonymous with the Tax Bar. I currently have a number of diverse matters that I am working on, and so I also hope to be involved in some interesting tax decisions over the next year.
Is there a tax case you have your eye on?
Recent cases that spring to mind are the Court of Appeal Colaingrove decision ([2017] EWCA Civ 332) regarding the VAT treatment of serviced holiday accommodation that included electricity supplies to caravans, and the CJEU judgment in Wortmann KG (C-365/15). The latter is a landmark ruling that held that a taxpayer who paid duty to the tax authority in breach of EU law is entitled to interest in addition to repayment of the tax. This is contrary to the legislation (article 241 of the Community Customs Code), which explicitly stated that interest is not payable where customs duties are reimbursed to the taxpayer (save for the situation where the repayment is paid more than three months after the decision that the repayment is due is made). It will be interesting to see how the judgment is applied to the successor provision to article 241 in the Union Customs Code, which has a slighter narrower application, and how the quantum of interest will be calculated. Hopefully, the forthcoming Supreme Court decision in Littlewoods will shed some light on the latter point.
If you could make one change to UK tax law or practice, what would it be? 
I would remove the limitation on the First-tier Tax Tribunal’s jurisdiction, so that it has a supervisory, as well as an appellate jurisdiction. I have always found it difficult to understand how the FTT’s overriding objective ‘to deal with cases fairly and justly’ sits with the inability of the FTT to entertain appeals relating to public law matters, such as fairness and legitimate expectation. This goes against the idea that the FTT is accessible to all, and it creates an obstacle for taxpayers wishing to challenge HMRC’s behaviour but who may not have the means to pursue judicial review proceedings.
What subject causes a disproportionate amount of tax disputes?
Penalty disputes, due to the fact that there appears to be no consistency within HMRC as to how they are imposed. In my experience, HMRC is keen to impose penalties for deliberate behaviour as a starting point, when such penalties are not always appropriate. There can then be a costly (and often unnecessary) process for the taxpayer to challenge these. 
Who in tax do you most admire?
Advocate General Kokott. She has an incredibly impressive CV and is only the third female advocate general in the history of the CJEU. Her opinions are incisive and span many of the seminal tax judgments, so she has a huge influence and impact on tax law throughout Europe. She is clearly superwoman, as she has managed to do all this whilst also raising six children. 
Finally, you might not know this about me but… 
My claim to fame is that Brian Wilson made me a Shirley Temple mocktail. I was about ten years old and unfortunately had no idea who he was at the time. 
Issue: 1359
Categories: One minute with