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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                                      Law review 2019
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    CHAMBERS ASIA PACIFIC, LEADING PRACTITIONER AT THE TAX BAR, 2008 - 2019
           INTERNATIONAL TAX REVIEW, TAX CONTROVERSY LEADER, 2011 - 2018
      BEST LAWYERS IN NZ 2017 - 2020. AUCKLAND TAX LAWYER OF THE YEAR 2017
              FINANCE MONTHLY, NZ TAX LAWYER/FIRM OF THE YEAR, 2018, 2019

   THE LAW REVIEWS EXPERT PANEL 2018, 2019 TAX DISPUTES AND LITIGATION
               WINNER, CCH TAX AWARD, NEW ZEALAND LAW AWARDS, 2012


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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. 
 
 
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.  
   
 

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 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.


Chambers available

A large suite is 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. The space provides a collegial environment, and comes at reasonable rent, share of opex and rates. To get more information about this space in chambers click here.  

 

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Latest tax and trusts news

21 May 2019 - The Government has announced changes to the GST treatment of outbound roaming services used by New Zealand residents overseas, intended to apply from 1 October 2020. From that date, telecommunications service providers would need to start charging GST on roaming services supplied to New Zealand-resident consumers. If implemented, the changes will mean outbound mobile roaming services received by New Zealand residents overseas would be subject to GST at the standard rate of 15%, and inbound mobile roaming services received by non-residents in New Zealand would no longer be subject to GST.

14 May 2019 - Regulations have been passed to exempt support payments and any related income received by the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks and their families when assessing a client’s income and cash assets. This ensures that donations to support those affected by the Christchurch mosque attacks of 15 March 2019 do not negatively impact recipients’ entitlements to government assistance through the tax credit and transfer system.

18 April 2019 - The Government's response to recommendations of the Tax Working group emphasises possible tax responses to land banking, seismic strengthening expenditure, investment in nationally significant infrastructure, loss continuity issues, securing tax debts, and director liability for company GST and PAYE debts. Matters, apart from a capital gains tax, that have been dropped include a taxpayer disputes service and additional tax resource for the Ombudsman. Read more about the Government's response here.

17 April 2019 - In a surprise announcement the Prime Minister has said that the coalition Government will not proceed with a capital gains tax and that the Labour Party will not advance such a policy while the PM is leader. Other initiatives suggested by the recent Tax Working Group will be considered by Inland Revenue, as part of its ongoing work program, or by the Productivity Commission.

10 March 2019 - A major consolidation of aspects of the Tax Administration Act has been carried into law. This changes a number of provisions relating to the Commissioner's investigative powers, although the changes are not supposed to involve any change of policy. As with any legislative amendment, however, alterations of language can have consequences. 


6 March 2019 - The Department of Internal Affairs has released a discussion document on modernising the Charities Act. This is part of a consultation process that is open for submissions until 30 April 2019. The document can be read here.

5 March 2019 - 
From 1 April 2019 NZ will add 30 further jurisdictions to the 60 it already recognises for the purposes of Automatic Exchange of Information on tax matters. This marks a substantial expansion of NZ's commitment to the common reporting standard promoted by the OECD. The additional territories include the Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Niue, Panama, Switzerland and several Caribbean countries. To see the release by the Minister of Revenue, click 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.

Commentary

What Next for Chatfield?

To read this recent commentary, click here.
 
OLD SOUTH BRITISH CHAMBERS, LEVEL 3, 3-13 SHORTLAND STREET, AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

P.  +64 9 307 3993   M.  +64 21 627 737
F.  +64 9 307 3996
E.  geoff.clews@taxcounsel.co.nz