Expert in tax law and taxpayer defence

Geoff Clews is one of the few New Zealand lawyers who specialize in acting for clients facing serious tax problems, both civil and criminal. He has done so for more than 30 years. Geoff’s practice covers all aspects of tax controversy. He advises clients in the course of Inland Revenue investigations. He conducts the formal aspects of the statutory tax disputes process. He litigates tax and related issues, and defends criminal tax charges, before the Courts at trial and appellate levels. In all these matters Geoff applies focused and objective analysis of his client’s situation, an honest judgment of their position, strategic thinking and compelling advocacy.
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                     WINNER, CCH TAX AWARD, NEW ZEALAND LAW AWARDS, 2012


Highlighted services

Sometimes people cut corners with their taxes. Not everything gets returned as it should be. Claims are over stated or income is suppressed. These tax secrets fester away but you can do something about them if you act in time and with the right help. We deal with these issues all the time. A tax investigation can be intrusive, frustrating and worrying. Tax investigation powers are intimidating but have to be exercised within limits. These procedures have to be managed carefully to avoid cost and increased tax risk. We manage tax investigations daily.  The statutory tax disputes process  is complicated and involves strict time frames for the exchange of notices and “sudden death” deadlines. If you miss one of them, you can lose all your rights of dispute and if you omit something it will be difficult to raise it later. We know these procedures thoroughly.
A tax challenge is formal civil litigation in the Taxation Review Authority or the High Court. It requires a winning strategy, tactical sense and persuasive advocacy. We try to keep clients out of court but, if it is needed, we advocate for taxpayers against the IRD at all Court levels. Tax crime is serious and involves the real risk of prison. If you have not disclosed your default to the IRD and it prosecutes you, an effective defence or mitigation is vital. We appear regularly to defend people who have been charged with tax offenses. Tax debts can mount up very quickly if they are not managed. Penalties and interest can virtually double the size of a debt in 3 to 4 years. Settling payment terms with the IRD is not a normal commercial negotiation. We deal with this issue for clients all the time. 
Tax laws are particularly complicated because they have to cover every aspect of commercial life. Parliament is always changing them to meet new demands and to close loopholes. Many commercial transactions require a tax sign off and responsible taxpayers will seek advice before adopting a course that could have material tax outcomes. Sound tax advice can be insurance against some tax penalties. Trusts have proliferated in New Zealand. Some are well managed and some are not. Trustees do not always understand their obligations and beneficiaries are sometimes wrongly locked out of trust property or disadvantaged by trustee decisions. The Courts can intervene to stop trust excesses or to assist trustees with directions. The Department of Internal Affairs Charities Service vets, registers and oversees charities. Defining the purposes of an organisation in a way that qualifies as charitable can require professional advice. Adverse decisions as to charitable status may be appealed to the High Court which has marked out a more particular approach to the scope of charitable purposes. 

Professional reviews


Geoff Clews...He's the guy you call after Inland Revenue bursts through your doors and seizes your computers, certain already after months of covert surveillance that you're fiddling your taxes...
Auckland's Best Lawyers, Metro Magazine, August 2008

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Experienced practitioner Geoffrey Clews... is known in the market as a 'good safe pair of hands" with a high capacity for handling 'a wide variety of work' in the taxation space. He frequently represents clients in disputes with the Inland Revenue, and is active both in an advisory capacity during investigations and in court proceedings at first instance and appellate level."
Chambers Asia Pacific 2015, New Zealand, the Tax Bar, Notable Practitioners

Highlighted by market commentators as an "excellent" adviser, Geoffrey Clews of Old South British Chambers impresses with his abilities representing high net worth individuals in criminal proceedings related to allegations of tax evasion."
Chambers Asia Pacific 2016, New Zealand, the Tax Bar, Notable Practitioners 


Recruitment opportunities

Although a small team, we are always on the look-out for capable people, especially graduates who have an interest in legal tax practice and who may be able to assist in chambers. For further information about possible graduate positions, click here.

Chambers available

A large suite has become available in Old South British Chambers, overlooking High Street. The occupant would share in all common areas including conference and meeting room, kitchen and reception areas. All suites in chambers share its secure server and wifi. This is character space with presence, comprising some 45 sq m, with high stud and ornate plaster ceilings. Collegial environment, reasonable rent, share of opex and rates. To get more information about this space in chambers click here.   



Latest tax and trusts news

9 September 2016 - The IRD's paper on hybrid financial instruments adopts most of the OECD's recommendations for addressing hybrid tax avoidance opportunities. However the paper has been criticized for targeting a mischief that has been overtaken by the approach of our courts to tax avoidance. A case of much ado about yesterday's problem?
27 June 2016 - The report on New Zealand's  foreign trust disclosure regime has been released. While endorsing the view that NZ is not a tax haven it recommends a number of changes to the registration of foreign trusts, the information collected about them and access to that information. to read more, click here.
27 May 2016 -
New Zealand has signed the instruments for multilateral exchange of information aimed at allowing countries to better understand how multinational enterprises have structured their tax affairs. To see more click here

13 April 2016 -
New initiatives to simplify provisional tax have been signaled for future introduction, along with removal of use of money interest for many taxpayers. To read more, click here

11 April 2016 - Respected tax expert John Shewan has been appointed to report on New Zealand's longstanding foreign trust laws. He is to consider their fitness for purpose and reputational risks arising from the foreign trust regime.  

To view past tax and trusts news, click here. 

Case notes

Tax and trusts law is constantly developing through Court and tribunal decisions. To read our latest case notes, click here.


Audits and Disputes: The Myths, The Realities and The Lessons to be Learnt

To read recent commentary, click here.

P.  +64 9 307 3993   M.  +64 21 627 737
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