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One minute with… Julian Feiner

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

Training, inductions, meetings and coffees – alongside a lot of really interesting and fast paced work! – in my new role as the Head of Tax at DAC Beachcroft LLP in London. So far I have worked on a takeover, M&A and real estate deals, an insurance claim defence, employment tax issues and more.

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

Tax lawyers can work internationally. That was doubtful when I started – and I wasn’t deterred – but many articled clerks preferred to do M&A or finance for that reason. Since then the international tax framework has grown and movements like BEPS and Pillar Two promote worldwide discussion. I have worked on tax matters spanning dozens of countries and attended meetings in places like Singapore, Kampala and Dar es Salaam. Tax principles are similar wherever you go and there is a lot to learn from each other.

If you could make one change to tax, what would it be?

It’s a wild idea but I would make sure the Explanatory Memorandum to the tax legislation explained the purpose of the provisions, instead of paraphrasing their literal meaning. Purposive construction is the norm but the specific purpose is often opaque. We cobble it together from consultation papers, old press releases and Hansard transcripts. I once worked on a case that was decided by looking at the handwritten notes of a Parliamentary draftsperson to confirm why a specific phrase was used. At least some of that revelatory insight needs to be included in the explanatory materials.

Has there been a recent change in HMRC practice which has impacted your work?

HMRC manuals are an excellent resource to understand HMRC’s practice but, as all good tax associates learn, they are no substitute for reading the legislation and cases carefully. The FTT’s recent decision in Howard-Ravenspine v HMRC [2023] UKFTT 471 (TC) is a case in point. HMRC applied the approach from their internal manual which, inadvertently, had misstated the findings of a High Court decision. This was discovered during the hearing and, after some deliberation over the lunch break, an apology was issued and graciously accepted. The FTT rightly praised HMRC’s handling of the issue in a postscript to the decision. It’s a reminder of our challenge as tax lawyers: to somehow deal with complex issues, which require deep review and checking, in a way that is prompt and accurate. I doubt AI will do it better!

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

Watch this space! We will see new proposals during and after the election, before what could be a major Autumn Budget. There are bound to be problems, particularly if a new government tries to introduce retrospective legislation.

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

My love of tax might come from one of my great-grandfathers, who spent five years as HM Inspector of Taxes in Portadown during World War II. He also played the organ at the ‘Soldiers’ Sunday Night Song Services’ and I like a good music recital too. 

Issue: 1666
Categories: One minute with
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