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One minute with... Stephen Hignett

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What’s keeping you busy at work?
I currently have on my desk the usual eclectic mix of matters which keeps my working life so interesting. This includes demerging and selling a restaurant business, reorganising a music group, renegotiating the sale of a TV production company, ‘de-enveloping’ UK residential real estate, designing a poker tournament deal and assisting clients to navigate the expected new rules which will charge ‘freeplays’ to remote gaming duty.
Can you share a tip from your tax work advising the TV and music industries?
With respect to music, don’t overlook the fact that master sound recordings are excluded from the corporate intangibles code. When transferring assets around a music group, this can result in the challenge of simultaneously managing three sets of rules (‘old’ intangibles / chargeable gains; ‘new’ intangibles; and master sound recordings). 
With respect to TV, we’ve recently been looking into the carve-out from withholding tax on copyright royalties for cinematographic film; its scope is wider than I had thought. 
It’s been a few months since the three way merger between CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang. What changes have you seen, and what are your hopes for the future direction of the tax team?
Whilst I had seen a few changes during my 17 years at Olswang, I now feel I’ve seen 17 years’ worth of changes in as many weeks. There are still familiar faces and clients, of course, but everything else feels new – moving to Cannon Place, the international reach of CMS, new sectors, new specialist teams, going ‘open plan’ – so, lots of change and huge opportunities. However, the standout issue for me is the quality and friendliness of the people and the similarity in the cultures of the three firms. Particularly in our tax team, where we had three high quality and similar sized groups combine as one, we have knitted together as a single team very quickly. There’s real excitement that we have such a wide range of skills and experience within our ranks and a good balance of advisory and transactional work. The challenge for us is not only to be successful in the short and medium term, but also to create a sustainable platform that will attract the tax talent of tomorrow.
If you could make one change to a tax law, what would it be?
Although we now have business investment relief, the ambit of which is being extended (small steps in the right direction), I have always thought that attracting wealthy non-doms to the UK on the basis that they leave their money outside the UK was crazy. If we are going to continue to attract wealthy non-doms to the UK, we need to do more to persuade them to invest here.
Is there a recent tax development that has caught your eye?
The case of Gulliver v HMRC caught my eye for two reasons. First, it suggests that HMRC seems more inclined to challenge a person’s domicile status. Second, it confirms that, even if HMRC has accepted facts in relation to one tax year, that is not an impediment to it challenging those facts in a later tax year. The startling effect of this is that a taxpayer may potentially find himself having to prove the same thing over and over again in relation to exactly the same facts. 
Finally, you might not know this about me but... 
I’ve been trying to learn to kitesurf for two years, but almost every time I put on my kit the wind disappears... 
Issue: 1366
Categories: One minute with