GEOFFREY CLEWS, LL.B (Hons), M. Jur. (Distn) (Auck.), AIF, FANZCN, M. Inst. D.
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
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 analysis of his client’s situation, an honest judgment of their position, strategic thinking and compelling advocacy.
Until 1998 Geoff was a senior tax partner with Russell McVeagh. At that time he withdrew from his firm to practice as a specialist barrister. Since then he has been consistently rated as an outstanding practitioner in disputed tax matters. Excerpts from independent professional reviews since 2010 include:
- A "notable practitioner ", recommended in tax. Chambers Global 2010.
- "..top flight tax barrister", National Business Review 25 November 2011.
- "...highly skilled in contentious tax issues. He has a long-established reputation, especially in connection with Inland Revenue investigations." Chambers Global 2011.
- "Taxpayer defence expert...a very sound lawyer with more than 30 years experience handling contentious tax cases." Chambers Asia Pacific 2012
- A Tax Controversy Leader for NZ, International Tax Review, 2012.
- Winner of the CCH Tax Award, NZ Law Awards, 2012.
- "'A very good operator'...in the area of taxpayer defence. ...Well equipped to advise...and to litigate to appellate level...". Chambers Asia Pacific 2013.
- "Specialises in acting for clients in major tax defence matters... 'He is a good resource and very generous with his time and advice.' He is also praised for his sound judgment and many years experience." Chambers Asia Pacific 2014.
- "Experienced practitioner...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 ... active in an advisory capacity...and in court proceedings at first instance and appellate level." Chambers Asia Pacific 2015.
- "Highlighted by market commentators as an 'excellent' adviser, Geoffrey Clews...impresses with his abilities representing high net worth individuals in criminal proceedings relating to allegations of tax evasion." Chambers Asia Pacific 2016
- Best Lawyers in New Zealand, 2016-17 edition, Listed for tax , wills and trusts. Auckland Tax Lawyer of the year for 2017.
- A "very good operator"... 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
- Finance Monthly, New Zealand Corporate and Business Tax Lawyer of the Year, 2018.
- "'Very well regarded' by sources, who report that he is a 'safe pair of hands and has good judgement.' He is noted for his activity on trust matters, with experience in handling tax disputes for both individuals and companies. He often represents high net worth clients on tax evasion and anti-corruption matters." Chambers Asia Pacific 2018
Geoff is a member and past chairman of the New Zealand Law Society’s Tax Committee. He is a longstanding member of the International Fiscal Association
(IFA) and of the International Bar Association
(IBA) for which he has acted as national tax reporter. He has also acted as national reporter to the Foreign Lawyer’s Forum of the American Bar Association Tax Section
Geoff’s practice also includes representation in trust disputes. His experience in trusts includes superannuation (pension) law and a special interest in the tax treatment of foreign trusts and trustees and of trusts for non-residents of New Zealand or persons immigrating to this country. For a time he chaired the board of the Bank of Bermuda’s New Zealand trust operation.
Geoff has advocated the voluntary adoption in New Zealand of higher practice standards by investment fiduciaries and professionals and in 2003 he contributed the New Zealand case law commentary to the work in this country of the Centre for Fiduciary Studies
, associated with the University of Pittsburgh. This work set out a framework of practices to improve the quality of investment-related decision making by trustees and advisers. In 2005 he qualified as an Accredited Investment FiduciaryTM
under the auspices of the Centre (now called Fi 360
His work in advising on standards for investment professionals was cited by the Minister of Commerce when Geoff was appointed in August 2011 to be a member of the Financial Advisers Disciplinary Committee
. This body is established under the Financial Advisers Act 2008 to consider complaints of misconduct laid by the Financial Markets Authority against Authorised Financial Advisers. Geoff's term on the Committee was renewed for a further four years in 2015.
Geoff is a member of the New Zealand Institute of Directors.
Outside the law Geoff’s community interests centre on the arts. In the early 1990’s he was part of a small team which established the Rose Centre
community theatre in Belmont, Auckland. He went on to play a major role in establishing the premier arts facility on Auckland’s North Shore, the Bruce Mason Centre (named for a famous New Zealand playwright). In 1997 Geoff received the inaugural Major Achievement Award from the New Zealand Trustees Association on behalf of the trust he chaired to establish that facility. He received a civic award from his city for those efforts in 1998. He chaired the Board of the Bruce Mason Centre
for twelve years after it opened in 1996. Geoff stepped down from the Board in September 2009 after 25 years of association with the promotion, development and governance of the Centre. The Board of the Centre recognised that contribution by conferred on him the honorary title Chairman Emeritus
In 2007 Geoff joined the Board of Q Theatre Limited
, a company working to establish a multiform theatre in Auckland’s CBD. Construction of Q Theatre began in December 2009 and the Theatre opened for business at the end of August 2011, offering a curated program of professional performing arts in central Auckland. Geoff stood down from the Q Board in May 2013 after 6 years with the project, having seen it through construction to opening and operation. Largely because of his work in arts governance Geoff was then appointed by Auckland Council as a director of Regional Facilities Auckland
. RFA is the commercial arm of Auckland Council which has responsibility for the major publicly owned arts, sports, heritage, collections and convention venues in the Auckland region, over $1.2 billion in assets. Geoff chairs RFA's Audit Committee and is also a member of its Capital Projects Committee. He was appointed to a second term on the RFA Board in 2016.
Geoff also chaired for three years Arts Advocates Auckland
, an organization which promoted arts issues and interests in the Auckland region. In addition to these activities Geoff is an enthusiastic theatre and opera supporter. Since 2005 he has sponsored the annual drama award of the Northern Area Performance Theatre Awards
(NAPTA’s) and in 2013 became the Patron of that organisation. With his appointment he inaugurated an annual patron's award, which in 2016 consists of 2 scholarships for advanced training in performance or technical aspects of theatre.
Since 1987 Geoff has been a trustee of the Sir George Elliot Charitable Trust
. This substantial foundation makes sizeable grants towards community projects and, at Geoff’s suggestion, it marked the millennium with the first Sir George Elliot annual scholarships for tertiary education, which have been awarded every year since. Successful candidates have faced and overcome adverse life circumstances to be leaders in their school communities and achieve academic success. The Elliott Scholarship is now recognised as one of the most generous and prestigious in New Zealand. It is contested keenly each year and awards are presented by the Governor General
. There are now more than 40 Elliot Scholars. Many of the scholarship alumni have graduated from their studies and are beginning to make their marks in their chosen fields.
Geoff also strongly supports initiatives by Takapuna Grammar School, of which two of his children are past pupils. He is a sometime adviser to the school on trust matters and was a member of the advisory group for the Takapuna Grammar Centre for Business and Enterprise.
In August 2011 Geoff joined the Board of Trustees of the then Auckland Communities Foundation. This organisation promotes private and commercial philanthropy under a model that has had great success in the US and Australia. It aims to establish long term endowments with which to help meet the present and future needs of Auckland. It provides a legal "umbrella" for donors to plug into easily, providing an efficient asset-holding and management structure for donors, while allowing them still to determine how their contributions should be applied to causes that move them. In July 2014 Geoff was elected Chairman of the Foundation. Under his leadership the Foundation has trebled in size and has recently been renamed the Auckland Foundation
. After four years in the role, Geoff will stand down as Chairman in August 2018.
Geoff regularly undertakes pro bono
work for community organisations. Find out more about this work.
Geoff has contributed New Zealand commentary to four international legal texts. He is the author of the New Zealand Chapter of International Taxation of Low-Tax Transactions
, BNA International Inc 1999, and of the New Zealand contribution to International Stock Plans: The Practitioner’s Guide to Exporting Employee Equity
, Louis Rorimer, Bowne & Co Inc 1999, 2000. He wrote the New Zealand Commentary for the 2000 Edition of Brookes Notary
and contributed the New Zealand update for the 2014 edition.
In 2017 Geoff Clews was approached by Law Business Research Limited, the publishers of the prestigious Law Review
collection, to contribute the inaugural New Zealand chapter for the Tax Disputes and Litigation Review
. Although 5 editions of this Review had previously been published, none had included work setting out the practice and procedures governing tax disputes and litigation in this country. The 6th edition of the Review
was published in April 2018. To read the New Zealand chapter, click here
Geoff is a regular speaker at tax and trust related conferences and seminars, both in New Zealand and overseas, and a number of his papers are published on this site.
Qualifications and Teaching
Geoff is a graduate of Auckland University (LLB (Hons) 1979, M Jur (Distn) 1982) and was admitted to the New Zealand Bar in February 1980. He also holds permanent admission to the Bar in the Cook Islands, where he regularly appears in disputed tax matters and international trust and company litigation. He argued as taxpayers' counsel the first case to test the scope and application of the Cook Islands' Tax Information Exchange Agreements.
Geoff was appointed a Notary public in 1991 and is a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Notaries
Until 2003 Geoff was a guest lecturer on legal issues affecting arts administration in the Faculty of Management at Auckland University. Since 2004 he has co-presented the module on the Conduct and Procedures of Tax Disputes in the Master of Taxation Studies
programme, first at Auckland University's School of Commercial Law and now at the University Law School, where he is is a Teaching Fellow in the Law School faculty.
To view Geoff Clews' LinkedIn profile, click here.
SAM DAVIES, BA, LL.B (Cantuar)
Sam joined chambers in February 2015. He is a graduate of the University of Canterbury with conjoint BA and LLB degrees.
Sam began his professional career as a tax consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Wellington and then moved to the Indirect Tax Litigation Group with Deloitte in London. After 3 years with Deloitte he joined the London law firm of Pinsent Masons, specialising in tax litigation and investigations. After 2 years with Pinsent Masons, Sam rejoined Deloitte in London as a Senior Manager in the Tax Dispute Resolution Group, where he worked for 4 years. Family brought him back to New Zealand and from January 2013 he was a Senior Solicitor with Buddle Findlay’s Auckland tax practice.
Sam’s work in the UK saw him part of the teams that dealt with high profile tax disputes such as the Marks & Spencer
cases. Sam now closely assists Geoff Clews in all aspects of his work, including appearing with Geoff as junior counsel and as sole counsel on delegated matters. He provides a second point of contact for all clients.
Sam edited the chapter on disputes and penalties in New Zealand Taxation: Principles, Cases and Questions,
Thomson Reuters 2016-2018.
Outside the law Sam has a busy family life with three young children. In what little spare time they afford him he enjoys sailing in the Hauraki Gulf, both racing and cruising.
Sam's direct dial number is +64 9 915 4814.
He is contactable by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
or through our contact page.
To view Sam Davies’ LinkedIn profile, click here
Executive Assistant and Chambers Manager
Lianne Skinner is Executive Assistant to Geoff Clews and Chambers Manager of Old South British Chambers. She joined Chambers in October 2016. Her administration experience consists of executive assistant and office management roles for businesses involved in recruitment, academia, organisational development and manufacturing.
Lianne’s responsibilities cover all non-legal aspects of Chambers management, including client liaison, diary management for Geoff and Sam, creation of correspondence and documentation, accounts and debtor management, and management of Chambers suppliers and expenditure.
If you want to make an appointment to see Geoff or Sam, then Lianne is your first point of contact to make those arrangements. Her direct dial number is +64 9 307 3989
and she is contactable by email at email@example.com
or through our contact page.