Your Expert in Tax Law and Taxpayer Defence, Trusts law and Trusts disputes

Geoff Clews is one of the few New Zealand barristers who specialize in acting for clients facing serious tax problems, both civil and criminal. He has done so for almost 40 years. Geoff leads the tax practice at Old South British Chambers, assisted by experienced associate barrister, Sam Davies.

Geoff’s practice covers all aspects of tax advice and 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. His practice also includes trusts related advice, disputes and litigation.

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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                                              INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION 



Our Expertise

Tax changes have been made to help weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic. They will continue but will need to be within limits. Tax policy will also move quickly in these uncertain times and significant future tax changes will be needed to repay stimulus and social borrowing. Read our commentary on COVID-19 tax issues here.  
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. A new Trusts Act is about to take effect that changes the legal landscape. The position of Trustees is likely to be more onerous and beneficiaries will have expanded rights to know about a trust.
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. 
Geoff Clews holds permanent
admission to the Bar of the Cook Islands High Court. He is available to act as counsel in tax disputes and litigation with the Cook Islands Revenue Management Division, and litigation related to the Cook Islands International Trusts and Companies regimes.  

Inland Revenue's hospitality crackdown
IR is once again targeting members of the hospitality and liquor sector who under-report cash sales and who pay staff under the table. IR now has very effective forensic tools to identify targets. If this crack-down may affect you, contact us. Our team has years of experience representing members of the hospitality and liquor industries against Revenue.

Professional reviews

quote.gif 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

quote.gif Geoffrey Clews of Old South British Chambers is in-demand for tax disputes, and noted by law firms for his activity in this practice area. Lately he has been involved in litigation around the meaning and extent of tax provisions between New Zealand and foreign jurisdictions, such as the double tax agreement with China. He is highly respected, with one source stating: "He is great to work with as he is approachable and well-versed at thinking outside the box to get the right legal answer." - Chambers Asia - Pacific 2019, New Zealand, the Tax Bar.

quote.gif Geoffrey Clews of Old South British Chambers is well regarded among commentators, who report that "he really performs well." Noted for handling tax avoidance cases, he has extensive experience of advising clients on Inland Revenue investigations, as well as trusts cases. - Chambers Asia - Pacific 2020, New Zealand, the Tax Bar.

quote.gif Geoff, since a young age I have understood the benefit of retaining very capable people, especially when it comes to challenging issues that are quite consequential. Right from the beginning I knew you, like others before, were going to fulfill that same need. Too many people use middle level advisers, get average advice with no connection to the senior ranks of the other party and despite the lower charge out rate, end up paying more. - Client communication on successful completion of a long running case, May 2017.

quote.gif Geoff Clews has been a long-established leader in the tax law arena, in both a civil and criminal context and is one of the few New Zealand barristers who has developed a strong reputation in the area. His expertise extends from every part of tax issues and at all appellate levels, achieving significant recognition for his expertise in the area, including for his advocacy. - LawFuel "Top Barristers Nudging the Power List," February 2019.

To see other reviews, click here.


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COVID-19 Protocols

COVID-19 Alert Level 1: We are working from Chambers following Health Department guidance on hygiene, distancing and contact tracing. We can meet with you in Chambers or, if you prefer, can consult by telephone or video link.

Nga mihi nui 

Geoffrey Clews, Head of Chambers,
Old South British Chambers, Auckland


Latest tax and trusts news

28 July 2020 - An updated round-up of global tax responses to the COVID-19 pandemic has been posted to our COVID resource section. To view it, click here.

23 July 2020 - The Commissioner has released a practice statement dealing with dual civil and criminal action against taxpayers. It says that if a taxpayer is subject to criminal proceedings, that will be treated as an exceptional circumstance allowing the taxpayer to continue the civil tax disputes process out of time, if they opt to wait until the criminal matter has concluded. This is to avoid the risk that a taxpayer may undermine their criminal defence when dealing with the civil dispute. 

16 July 2020 - 
A proposed amendment will provide a pathway for migrant foreign trusts, that have not made an election to pay tax on world-wide trustee income within the prescribed period, to become complying trusts. Under current law, such trusts are classified as non-complying trusts and distributions are taxed at 45%. When the new law passes, if such a trust makes a voluntary disclosure and pays the related tax, it can be a complying trust for the periods to which the voluntary disclosure relates. Inland Revenue’s commentary on the draft amendment notes that the definition of complying trust does not currently address the voluntary disclosure situation for migrant foreign trusts. Adding that “a purpose of the voluntary disclosure rules is to allow the taxpayer to “put right” their past tax position, subject to appropriate penalties and interest being imposed” Inland Revenue acknowledges that the proposed amendment will protect tax positions assessed under such voluntary disclosures by allowing tax-paid trustee income to be distributed tax-free to beneficiaries. 

19 May 2020 - Figures from Inland Revenue show there were 104,443 instalment payment arrangements operating in March 2020 - up from 41,014 a year earlier. The total dollar value of the instalments rose from $659 million to $1.167 billion. The greater part of March fell before the COVID lockdown, so this trend can be expected to continue and the numbers to increase considerably.

15 April 2020 - A suite of tax changes has been announced to further assist businesses weather the cash flow impacts of the COVID-19 lock down and its aftermath. Legislation has still to be introduced to formalise these arrangements, which cover a tax loss carry back scheme, loosening the shareholder continuity rules, and flexibility over statutory deadlines. Legislation is to be introduced by the end of April. To read more click here.    

2 April 2020 -
IR has published an update of COVID-19 related advice to businesses, covering key issues such as remission of interest, broadened exchange of information within Government and its approach to some audit activity. To see this update, click here.

2 April 2020 -
There is some confusion about the tax treatment of the Government's COVID-19 wage subsidy. A good summary of the tax treatment is available here

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.


COVID-19 and taxes 

To read our commentaries on tax matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand, click here.

Chambers & Partners Tax Controversy Guide for NZ

The second edition of this international publication, whose New Zealand contribution was written by our tax team, was released on 20 May 2020. To read the New Zealand chapter, click here.

2020 edn of the Tax Disputes and Litigation Review

The third edition of New Zealand commentary for this international publication, written by our tax team, was released in March 2020. To read it, click here. 

The final word on Chatfield?

To read this recent commentary, click here.

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