Market leading insight for tax experts
View online issue

One minute with... Tim Crosley

printer Mail

How did you end up in tax?

Nearly on purpose. Having done sciences at A level and having a father very keen for me to study law at university, I had a plan to become an IP lawyer. It turned out that my tax seat as a trainee at Freshfields was rather more interesting than expected, and my IP seat rather dull by comparison. So it didn’t take much to entice me back to become one of ‘those crazy people in tax’.

Who in tax do you most admire?

David Taylor from Freshfields. He’s not only a brilliant and exceptionally hard-working lawyer, with an immediate instinct for the key important issues, but also someone who has never lost his sense of humour and respect for others.

Is there a recent development in tax that concerns you?

The recent and ongoing trials by the media and the PAC (Starbucks, Google, the role of large accounting firms, etc) have had some good isolated moments. But like many others, I’m sure, I am terribly frustrated at the constant hunt for the (sometimes laughably inaccurate) soundbite and the unwillingness (or even, dare I say it, inability) to properly debate the real technical issues. Tax behaviour will change from well drafted, well executed and (increasingly) internationally coordinated legislation, and continuing to pontificate emotionally about morality and ‘fairness’ will, in the long term, lose the real target audience and go nowhere.

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

Ask all the questions you think need answering, even the basic and stupid ones, before offering any opinion on tax. It sounds so obvious, but it saves so much time. In almost all situations, one of those questions should be ‘why?’

Get used to learning something new every day. Always start with the legislation, rather than anyone else’s summary of it. When asked to advise, try to make a clear distinction between an easy point and a hard point and advise accordingly. Clients (generally!) and fellow lawyers will come to trust you so much more quickly if you can do this.

What advice would you give to HMRC?

HMRC has a terribly difficult job, made so much harder by sometimes short-sighted policies and knee-jerk panics which are often outside their control. I strongly support HMRC’s drive to curtail egregious tax avoidance, and am on the whole pleased with its recent successes. But I would ask it to remember that not all taxpayers are ‘at it’. It is frustrating to see HMRC continuing to take cases to tribunal which have no merit at all, and to continue to ‘untax by concession’ where anti-avoidance legislation has clearly fallen wide of the mark or has the potential to affect entirely commercial transactions (with the advisers and their costs being the only beneficiaries).

You might not know this about me but…

I have run and conducted a large amateur orchestra and choir called ‘EC4 Music’ for the last 17 years. Over that time, the group has raised over £200,000 for national charities. The most recent performance was in April at the Royal Festival Hall for Coram’s 275th anniversary, where 250 musicians played to 2,000 in the audience. For all our performers, music is a tremendous, and tremendously important, distraction from the stress of the City.