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One minute with...Ian Maston

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How did you get into tax?
Anne Elliott of Latimer Hinks took a chance when offering me a training contract, and she and Andrew Way gave me a fantastic grounding in the world of trusts and tax. Then, when I moved to London in 1997, I was lucky enough to join Williams Jeffrey Barber. It was only a few months before Tony Blair’s first election victory and – fearful of what was to come (little did we know) – there was an awful lot of interesting inheritance tax planning around. 
You’ve recently set up Mastoni Tax. What makes Mastoni different?
I should comment on the name. ‘Mastoni’ was my first email address and it stuck with some of my friends and colleagues as a moniker. Also, my wife teaches Italian and lived there for many years, so I can claim a tenuous Italian connection. What makes us different? Well, I think we’re all trying to offer clients sound, pragmatic advice and a proactive service, so I won’t claim that as a USP. I specialise in trusts, and UK and international estate planning, and I like to think that I don’t miss too many tricks. 
Comment on a recent trend in tax 
The sea change in the government’s approach to avoidance is fascinating. We practitioners might not like accelerated payment notices, follower notices, strict liability offences, and direct access to bank accounts, but it’s not our job to collect the revenue. It makes you wonder what previous governments were playing at. 
Aside from any immediate colleagues, whom in tax do you most admire?
I would have to single out two: Nicholas Hughes of Saffron Tax Partners has an extraordinary depth of knowledge across private client tax, and the personal generosity to share it. BDO’s Daniel Dover is a force of nature, and a man you would definitely want on your side in a fight. I have learnt so much from both of them. 
What advice would you give to someone new to the profession?
Find out quickly what you’re good at and what you enjoy; try to specialise if you can. Work hard at explaining tax to clients in terms they understand; learn how to say ‘no’ to them sometimes. Beware of overly ambitious colleagues. Express yourself. And make sure you do something funky at the weekend – you’ll need a better party icebreaker than ‘I’m a tax adviser’. 
What caught your eye in the recent Budget?
I was intrigued to see whether, free from the fetters of coalition, the Conservatives would take the opportunity to do something radical with inheritance tax. Quite the contrary: the proposed new additional nil rate band for residential property is ridiculously complicated, offset by a further freezing in the main nil rate band, and not even that generous. Maybe more radical liberalisation will be delayed until nearer the next election, or maybe there simply aren’t going to be the funds available in the medium term. 
If you could make one change to UK tax law or practice, what would it be?
Transfers to interest in possession trusts should be potentially exempt transfers (as was the case before March 2006). I don’t know what Gordon Brown had against trusts for people over the age of 18, but I can’t see any logic in a system that promotes the use of outright gifts over fixed interest trusts. 
You might not know this about me, but…
I hitchhiked to Istanbul in 1985. We listened to Live Aid in an articulated lorry outside an asbestos mine near Mount Olympus. Those were the days…