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One minute with...David Southern

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What’s in your in-tray?
The latest episode in the Homeric tale of NHS VAT; the question whether payments which you never receive because they arise from a tax planning scheme which failed can be still taxable as income; and whether you can be required to sit an exam without seeing the question paper, i.e. whether it is right for HMRC to start COP9 enquiries without indicating their reasons for doing so.
What attracted you to the Tax Bar?
I joined the Inland Revenue out of fascination with the technicalities of tax; I wanted to be an advocate, not a tax adviser; having sat behind (unfailingly excellent) Revenue counsel for years, I thought, why not me?
What recent tax case caught your eye?
The Upper Tribunal’s decision in Volkswagen Financial Services (UK) Ltd caused surprise to VAT practitioners. The judgment of Patten LJ in the Court of Appeal has put matters right, set out the principles of VAT in lapidary form and finally explained how BLP fits into the subsequent line of cases.
You are conducting numerous judicial review proceedings of accelerated payments notices. On which points are JR proceedings likely to prevail?
The accelerated payments rules were put into primary legislation, with the aim of making payment notices alike unappealable and unchallengeable by judicial review. They have been issued on an industrial scale, including cases which do not constitute tax avoidance in any shape or form. Those are the cases where JR proceedings stand the best chance of prevailing.
If you could make one change to UK tax law or practice, what would it be?
Abolition of the phasing out of personal allowances where income exceeds £100,000. This imposes a marginal rate of tax of 60%, and so makes the headline rates of tax deceptive and misleading. If we are going to increase rates of tax, let us do so transparently and honestly.
The tenth edition of your Taxation of loan relationships and derivative contracts will be published later this year. Please comment on a key change.
The key changes revolve around the wholesale rewriting of the legislation in CTA 2009 by F(No. 2)A 2015 and of the Disregard Regulations. This was in part to take account of the introduction of FRS 102, but the changes extend much further than was required for this purpose. There is also the BEPS project.
Aside from your immediate colleagues, who in tax do you most admire?
Michael Avient of UHY Hacker Young handles difficult and demanding cases and clients with matchless professionalism, tireless energy, firmness and good humour.
What will the UK tax system look like post-Brexit?
UK businesses which have expanded abroad will collapse. International businesses will withdraw from the UK. The only way to stop the haemorrhaging of investment and jobs will be to make the UK into a tax haven, and remove all the special charges on the ownership of property in the UK by companies. This will be a curious climax to the last government’s campaign against tax avoidance. VAT will continue as a national tax, but without the framework of the Directives or the guidance of the CJEU, so it will diverge ever more from EU principles.
Finally, you might not know this about me but…
I spent two years studying the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf. The great moral of that poem is that it is sometimes better to be on the right side and lose, than on the wrong side and win. That reflection affords some consolation for those in practice at the Tax Bar, and for participants in the recent referendum.  
Issue: 1315
Categories: One minute with