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One minute with... Prabhu Narasimhan

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

Structuring 2.0. The world has changed and so have risk appetites. Businesses making investments want to be cognisant of the changing global tax, macro-economic and public perception landscape and want to use ‘best in class’ structures which are robust, efficient and aligned with commercial reality.

If you could make one change to a tax law or practice, what would it be?

Tax should be seen as a consequence of productive transactions and events and not as a law in itself. If tax authorities want businesses to align their tax planning with commercial reality, they need to respect that tax assessments should also track commercial reality. A literal or inadvertent application of tax law should not give rise to tax being applied when commercially no productive transaction has been undertaken. Often tax applies in a vacuum, which cannot be justified by explaining that there is nothing logical about tax!

Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

One of my mentors frequently compares tax advice to the sale of a car – the client is keen to know that if he switches the start button, the car starts. The client does not want to hear chapter and verse about how the car’s ignition system works. In other words, clients want robust tax advice, together with a clear recommendation of what is the appropriate position to take. They do not want to hear the in depth analysis which may be magic to us tax advisors but to the client mostly means nothing.

Are there any new rules that are causing a particular problem?

Tax law is voluminous around the world as it is. Any new tax law to add to the mix escalates what is a crisis into a catastrophe. In that sense, any further addition causes a particular problem. That particular problem is: how does a global business navigate this elaborate, complex and often counter-intuitive maze, particularly where tax laws of multiple jurisdictions collide giving a different result to the same transaction?

Is there a recent tax case that has caught your eye?

Anson v HMRC [2015] UKSC 44. I would like to know if an LLC is opaque or transparent. It is prima facie opaque apparently, but it could also be transparent. It could be opaquely transparent, transparently opaque, maybe opaquely opaque.

The practical issue is this. If I have an LLC in a corporate structure, I don’t think anyone can be certain what the UK tax position is going to be of that corporate structure.

Finally, you might not know this about me but…

This assumes you know me! However, rhetorically approaching the question, I am a corporate tax lawyer but my practice is focused on what you would otherwise associate with private client lawyers. I concentrate on the structuring of multi-billion family offices and founder-led businesses to combine with PE/investment fund structuring work. 


Issue: 1414
Categories: One minute with