Market leading insight for tax experts
View online issue

One minute with... James Carter

printer Mail

You are now managing partner at Charles Russell Speechlys. How do you see the practice evolving in the coming year?

The next 12 months for the merged firm will be very exciting. We are one of only a few leading law firms to combine business law and private wealth advice internationally.

Much of the transactional work over recent years has been driven by independent capital. With the continuing policy shift towards increased tax transparency and scrutiny by tax authorities, there is no longer any real divide between the transaction structure and the ownership structure. Similarly, the growing internationalisation of families and business, the use of alternative cross-border structures and changing financing techniques all require advisers to look at structuring issues from an even wider perspective.

There is a temptation to equate private client with private wealth, but that is wrong. They are very different. Firms cannot have a credible private wealth offering without significant expertise across the range of corporate, real estate and dispute resolution disciplines. Equally, I think a number of the larger UK commercial law firms have realised how important the private wealth market is, but they are the same firms who got rid of their private client practices ten or 15 years ago. It will take them some time to develop that combination of skills and knowhow that private wealth requires.

Aside from your immediate colleagues, whom in tax do you most admire?

I joined Speechly Bircham as a senior associate largely on the back of the reputation of John Avery Jones, the senior partner. John was almost unique amongst tax lawyers in that he was as comfortable advising on complex corporate tax issues as he was on the more traditional private client tax issues. Few lawyers or accountants have that breadth of knowledge and understanding of the law, and why it is there.

What advice would you give to someone new to the profession?

Do not specialise too quickly: the more transactions you see and the more experience you acquire, the better adviser you will become. Your perspective will be broader and your understanding of what drives clients will become that much more focused.

What caught your eye in the Budget?

The restriction of CGT entrepreneurs’ relief aimed at joint venture companies and corporate members of partnerships will have attracted little attention, but it is an all too common reaction to what the government sees as the exploitation of a tax relief.

Whilst the restriction is aimed at preventing CGT ER being claimed on so-called ManCo structures, the change will also catch corporate members of partnerships established well before CGT ER was introduced, where there were (and still are) genuine commercial reasons for the structure used.

This failure to distinguish the commercial from the abusive happens too often, and it is difficult for clients to understand why the law is framed in this way. The government will no doubt blame the profession, but with the GAAR and the current approach of the courts to the interpretation of tax legislation, the approach does seem unnecessary.

Tell us a secret.

All managing partners should be made to watch Arsenal defend a 2–1 lead on a regular basis. After that, partners’ meeting are a breeze.