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


Geoffrey Clews of Old South British Chambers is praised as a "very good operator" and is lauded by clients as "knowledgeable and a very safe pair of hands in a serious tax dispute." He has extensive experience representing high net worth individuals in criminal proceedings concerning allegations of tax evasion. According to one source, "in the criminal area he is brilliant."
Chambers Asia Pacific 2017, New Zealand, the Tax Bar. 

To see other reviews, click here.


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

3 March 2017 - At the international Fiscal Association Conference today 3 discussion documents were released setting out Government proposals to tighten NZ's laws affecting large multinational companies doing business in NZ. The initiatives span transfer pricing and permanent establishment avoidance, strengthened interest limitation rules and the implementation of the multilateral convention on tax treaty matters. The Government seeks feed back by the end of April. To read more click here, here and here
14 December 2016 - A Cabinet paper has been released setting out measures IR and Treasury will work on to strengthen transfer pricing and permanent establishment rules as a NZ response to BEPs, outside the OECD initiatives also being pursued. To read more, click here,
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?
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.

To read about company directors being personally liable for company tax debts, 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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