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One minute with ... Peter Cussons

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How did you end up in tax?

I got into tax in the summer of 1978 at Pricewaterhouse as it then was. I'd done my ICAEW finals, and I was offered a three-month secondment into either tax or insolvency. I chose tax and never looked back.

Who in tax do you most admire?

I admire Graham Aaronson QC, one of the best advocates at the Bar. In the profession, fellow partners like John Mongan have an outstanding reputation. Bernard Glass is also a great guy and very innovative. I’d also mention Simon Whitehead at Dorsey as very influential in tax litigation.

Best piece of professional advice?

For a tax partner it's not to act as a sole trader. When you know you don't know something, consult. Obviously the most dangerous position is when you don't know you don't know something. But over the years I've generally found the boundaries and I'm a great one for ‘phone a friend’, hopefully before the meeting.

Is there a tax issue about which you are particularly concerned?

I'm very worried about the drafting of tax law which I think is exemplified in the CFC full reform. The principles of the reform are laudable but the drafting we've got now after 70 or so government amendments in standard committee stage is so dense that large swathes of the legislation are currently largely inaccessible to practically everybody, including experienced practitioners.

I can cast my mind back 28 years when Thatcher and Howe were bringing in CFC in '84; that legislation is obviously not fit for the 21st century modern world but it did have the merit of being much less densely drafted and much more accessible.

My concern was typified the other day when I was looking at the finance company exemption in chapter nine. There is a point which we put to the Treasury where a tightened-up government amendment could mean that practically nobody could access the exemption. That clearly was not intentional. When the drafting is so dense that nobody can really discern what the legislative intent is, something's gone wrong.

Where do you stand on the GAAR, as set out in HMRC’s ConDoc?

I wholly agree with Graham Aaronson that something needs to be done. What is now on offer is clearly not identical with the draft that the Aaronson committee put forward. The principal issue I've got with it is the double reasonableness test. The draft says that the tax arrangements are not abusive if they can reasonably be regarded as a reasonable course of action having regard to all the circumstances. What does this mean? Reasonableness is like morality – it's subjective and it changes with time.

And I think it is completely unacceptable for the government to say in this document that HMRC, which is charged with the administration of all our taxes, will not give any view on the application of the GAAR when enacted. That to my mind is inconsistent with the department's management of revenue responsibilities. We should push back on this and I would fervently hope that it will be changed.

You might not know this about me but at heart ...

As well as being an avid Tolkien fan, I’m a railway enthusiast! One of my favourite memories was standing on Penrith station in the early '60s, and seeing the steam-hauled express train that had just come over Shap summit, double-headed, thundering through the curved station. It was magnificent sight.