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One minute with... Jessica Kemp

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

I am spending a lot of time liaising with international lawyers. I am an officer of the Taxes Commission of the International Bar Association and president of the AIJA Tax Law Commission, which gives me the opportunity to meet some of the most talented tax practitioners around the world. This is extremely important to our international practice at Travers Smith, as it means we can provide the highest quality service on cross-border transactions.

My practice has a broad scope advising clients on both public and private mergers and acquisitions, tax structuring, tax enquiries and incentives. The range of different tax issues which clients face is enormous, but for people operating in a commercial environment they all yearn for one thing: certainty.

The level of complexity in our tax system is a source of constant frustration. Perhaps the most important aspect of my role, therefore, is to boil down that complexity into clear and commercial messages, cutting through uncertainty. Most importantly we seek to find ways of resolving and allocating risk which allow a transaction to go ahead in the timeframe that the parties are intending.

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

DAC 6 (the new European rules imposing a requirement to disclose certain types of cross border transactions) is currently an area of focus for many tax practitioners. The challenging circumstances of these very broad rules being in force and applying to transactions for months before the UK has any settled rules should be of concern to everyone. Clients should consult their advisers early on the potential effects of these rules and how to manage any resultant disclosures.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier in your career?

How much change there would be on the world’s approach to diversity and inclusion in such a short time. As a northern, comprehensive school woman coming into the city, it sometimes felt like you had to look very hard for role models. I was lucky to find some amazing ones, but it wasn’t so easy for others. There is still an enormously long road to travel in this area. However, I have seen a fundamental change in the level of engagement in recent years, from the myriad of books my young daughters, such as Fantastically great women who changed the world, to the freedom afforded not just to allow difference in the workplace, but to celebrate it. Most of all, I am hugely proud to look round our tax team at Travers and see genuine diversity, of background, gender, religion, ethnicity and thought. It makes us all stronger.

What’s on the horizon that we should look out for?

The current political turmoil could lead to significant upheaval in the UK’s tax system, particularly in the event of a Corbyn-led government and/or a no-deal Brexit. A review of the application of Labour’s proposed tax policies to existing arrangements, as well as consideration of contingency planning for no-deal, may be advisable prior to any general election.

Among the more foreseeable events, the new off-payroll working rules in April 2020 could really catch some people by surprise. Anyone engaging with contractors off-payroll should undertake a review both of how the legislation will apply to them and whether they have sufficient contractual protection in the event of HMRC challenge. HMRC may have its sights set on all sorts of gigging workers too, so no-one should be complacent in this area.

Finally, you might not know this about me but…

In a previous professional life, I worked in Malawi defending death row prisoners and those accused of capital crimes. It was an extraordinary and challenging experience, and one that I can always call on when looking for some perspective on my current job.

Issue: 1462
Categories: One minute with