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One minute with... Elena Rowlands

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

2021 has been a very busy year so far. My practice has a broad scope advising asset manager clients on a wide range of matters. I am currently working on a number of fundraisings across the alternative asset classes (private equity, credit, venture), as well as secondary transactions which involve a combination of investment funds and M&A work. Tax disputes are also keeping me busy with HMRC seeming to raise an increasing number of enquiries into the affairs of asset managers. There are also the implications of the post-covid world and the increase in global mobility which inevitably gives rise to a long list of tax considerations.

I am also involved in some interesting pro bono work and am a member of Travers Smith’s pro bono tax committee. Travers Smith has a broad pro bono practice with climate, environment and sustainability being one area of focus. Our sustainability work is focused around supporting impact investing and innovation funds – tax input is key to many of these projects.

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

Whilst there is much talk of simplification of the tax system, I see precious little sight of it in practice. Legislation seems to be hastily implemented and then supplemented by HMRC guidance in an attempt to fill the gaps. The UK anti-hybrid rules which came into effect from 1 January 2017 are a prime example of this approach. The UK was a ‘first mover’, in that it implemented anti-hybrid rules before any other jurisdiction (EU member states were only required to introduce anti-hybrid rules with effect from 1 January 2020). The result was legislation which was not appropriately targeted and which gave rise to disproportionate outcomes thereby causing significant practical issues as well as uncertainty for businesses. After three years of the UK rules as well as experience from within the international landscape as other jurisdictions implement anti-hybrid rules, FA 2021 introduced welcome changes (some of which were backdated to 2017). Whilst these changes have resulted in much improved legislation, it has taken an unnecessarily long time to reach this position. If only the government had delayed the introduction of the rules until 1 January 2020.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I was attracted to tax law because the law changes frequently and there is so much to learn. I remember being very junior and having to research the tour operator’s margin scheme which was relevant to a private equity deal I was working on at the time. As someone who now specialises in asset management and investment funds, I was surprised when a client recently asked me a question about the tour operator’s margin scheme, but I was even more surprised to have been able to remember what the tour operator’s margin scheme was and to give a vaguely sensible answer. It is reassuring to know that the learning never stops but also, that the things I have learnt are not forgotten.

What are you looking out for later this year?

The outcome of the UK government’s attempts to enhance the competitiveness of the UK as a location for asset management is an exciting development. The UK’s new asset holding company regime could provide a viable alternative to using Luxembourg holding companies, particularly for credit funds. We are also awaiting the government’s review of VAT and fund management fees as well as the outcome of the government’s wider review of the UK funds regime. These developments could be positive and hugely beneficial (if the government gets them right).

Finally, you might not know this about me but...

One of my interests is bog snorkeling. I have competed at the World Bog Snorkeling Championships in mid-Wales but unfortunately, I have not yet been crowned champion. Making your way through a 60 metre peat bog is not at all easy, although the experience is surprisingly refreshing.

Issue: 1550
Categories: One minute with