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One minute with... Michael Hunter

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How did you end up in tax?

It started with an essay question at university. One of the issues I had to look at was the availability of rollover relief. At the time, I knew next to nothing about tax and this was my first taste of working through a tax statute. What struck me was just how complex the tax system was and how much technical detail was involved. That struck an immediate chord.

The complexity of the tax system is still a huge attraction. Working as a tax lawyer never becomes boring because there is always so much to learn. I doubt you could say the same for most other areas of law.

Who in tax do you most admire?

The rest of the tax team at Addleshaw Goddard (of course) – particularly my fellow partners Justine Delroy, Elaine Gwilt and Peter Sayer. Also John Christian, who I had the benefit of working for whilst at Pinsent Masons.

What are you working on at the moment?

Amongst other things, a proposed property acquisition, which is potentially caught by the VAT anti-avoidance rules on exempt occupiers. The rules are a classic example of overly wide anti-avoidance legislation cut down to a slightly more manageable level by HMRC guidance and practice. Finding a way out of them is like walking through a minefield.

Looking back on your career to date, what is the key lesson you’ve learnt along the way?

Resist the urge to jump to conclusions.

What is your view on the way tax law is made in the UK?

In some ways, I feel very positive about it. The level of consultation we are experiencing at the moment is unprecedented, although it can become be a bit overwhelming at times.

I feel much less positive about the tendency to push through unfinished legislation which is only fixed later (and not always retrospectively). There is also a tendency to overcomplicate, a typical example being the ‘pre-completion transactions’ provisions introduced into SDLT earlier this year.

Tax simplification – is enough being done?

No. Most of what is being done looks like tinkering around the edges. Also, it seems to be giving with one hand and taking with the other when new legislation, such as the SDLT ‘pre-completion transactions’ rules, is being released in anything but a simplified format. True simplification would require a fundamental reassessment of the UK’s tax system, which I do not believe any of the major political parties has the courage or the will to undertake.

If you could make one change to UK tax law, what would it be?

There are so many candidates for change that it is difficult to single one out. An obvious candidate would be abolishing the distinction between income tax and NIC and simply raising the income tax rate on earned income.

You might not know this but ...

At heart, I’m passionate cook. I have a mini-library of recipe books at home and my wife has made it very clear she does not want me adding any more to the collection. I am a huge fan of curry in particular, so about a third of the ‘library’ is made up of curry books, whilst I have enough spices to fill a couple of kitchen cupboards.