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One minute with... Stuart Crippin

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

Certainly, inheritance tax is always a key focus for clients, especially given the perceived unfairness of that tax.

Despite the various travel restrictions, the international nature of the work that we are seeing come across our desks is certainly striking and underlines the centrality of the English legal and UK tax systems to the affairs of many internationally mobile clients.

There remains active interest in the statutory residence test and also in appropriate ownership structures for the acquisition of UK property.

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

Although it may well seem idealistic, the basic premise of seeking to harmonise tax systems globally seems attractive to me. The idea of harmonisation might seem impractical, but I tend to think of the analogy of the EU Succession Regulation which, with a certain degree of success, has harmonised succession laws across the EU.

Clearly, there is the need to strike a balance between a bland ‘one size fits all’ tax regime globally and varying degrees of domestic tax incentives. I expect this sort of argument will run for quite some time!

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

It is easy to get bogged down with a forensic analysis of legislation and case law, but what I have learned throughout my career is the importance of being able to understand what the bigger picture is from a client’s perspective. It is essential to get to the heart of what a client is concerned about, and then assess what steps can be taken to address those concerns. Clients often just want to understand the headline basic take-away points. Therefore, the real skill is being able to get to grips with complicated law and tax principles, and then convey that complexity in a very accessible way and apply it to clients’ circumstances so that they have a clear set of action points.

Has a recent tax case caught your eye?

I found the recent First-tier Tribunal case of Perlman v HMRC [2021] UKFTT 219 (TC) interesting, especially as I was in the middle of providing advice to a wealthy dual US/UK national on his domicile status when the judgment was published.

HMRC took the view that the taxpayer was UK domiciled and asked for details of the taxpayer’s worldwide income and gains. The taxpayer refused on the basis that he was non-UK domiciled, and HMRC therefore issued a taxpayer information notice. The FTT decided that the information was reasonably required by HMRC, and the FTT also decided that it did not have jurisdiction to determine the domicile status of the taxpayer.

The case is interesting because, first, it underlines the steps which HMRC can (and will) take in order to demand information from taxpayers. It is a cautionary tale for any internationally mobile taxpayer who thinks that they do not need to disclose such information if it is relevant to HMRC’s assessment of the individual’s tax affairs. Secondly, the case serves as a reminder of how crucial an individual’s domicile status is for determining UK tax liability.

What should we look out for later this year?

It seems very likely that tax hikes are on the way. Although it may not be top of the list, I suspect that inheritance tax is likely to be overhauled. In January 2020, an All-Parliamentary Committee made a number of recommendations regarding significant changes to the inheritance tax regime. One of its proposals was for inheritance tax to be potentially levied immediately on lifetime gifts; I sense that this idea will gain more traction in the coming months.

And finally, you might not know this about me but...

Before going into law, I worked overseas teaching English for several years in Denmark, Poland and Japan. One of my most notable students was the Polish minister of foreign affairs. Our one to one lessons involved me visiting the Polish Parliament and being met with a military salute!

Issue: 1542
Categories: One minute with