1. Why make a disclosure to the IRD?
This statutory procedure requires the IRD to reduce penalties that would otherwise apply if it investigated you and found the tax default you are concerned about. In some cases the penalties can be cancelled completely. In many cases you can obtain an assurance of non-prosecution.
2. What is involved?
A disclosure has to meet the requirements of the IRD’s
standard practice statement. This generally requires:
(a) full details of the affected taxpayers;
(b) a full explanation of the defaults and how they occurred;
(c) Sufficient information for the IRD to make an assessment;
(d) Statutory declaration.
3. What savings can I get?
A disclosure that is made before an investigation is notified earns a reduction in
penalties of 75% and, in cases of lesser severity after 17 May 2007, 100%.
A disclosure that is made after an investigation is notified, but before it has
commenced, earns a reduction in penalties of 40%.
4. When is an investigation started?
There are 2 possibilities. The first is at the end of the 1st formal interview that an IRD officer has with the taxpayer after issuing notice of the investigation. The second is when the officer inspects the taxpayer’s information after notifying the investigation and notifying the taxpayer of the inspection.
The earlier of these possibilities applies.
5. How does the IRD choose whom to investigate?
There are many reasons why an investigation starts. Sometimes the IRD receives anonymous information. Sometimes it may be investigating another taxpayer and your name comes up in the course of that investigation. Sometimes it may consider that you are involved in a business that has tax risks. There is usually a legitimate reason for the investigation, though you may not know it.
6. What are the IRD’s powers?
The IRD probably has wider powers of investigation than the police. It is entitled to full and free access to business premises without warrant and may access private homes with a judicial warrant. It can require reasonable assistance in its investigations. There are, however, limitations on its powers and you should be legally represented to be sure that the IRD does not over-step its powers.
7. Can I or my client stop the IRD coming into premises unannounced?
You probably cannot prevent the IRD from coming onto your premises unless you are in a private home. In that case the IRD must have an access warrant before being able to proceed. Even if the IRD is permitted to be present you should insist on being given time to take legal advice before the IRD is allowed to review or to remove any records. If the IRD refuses to allow that time you may have to make an urgent application to the Court. The IRD is supposed to allow you to take reasonable steps to protect from disclosure any records that are privileged or subject to tax advice non disclosure rights. It has developed procedures designed to protect these documents so that it can continue with its inquiry but you should be represented to be sure that these are followed.
8. What documents are privileged or protected from disclosure?
Documents that record communications between a lawyer and client will normally be privileged from disclosure. The scope of this privilege is often misunderstood and you should get advice about it. In addition tax advice documents from other tax advisers are protected from disclosure. There are complicated rules for claiming tax advice non disclosure which mean that you should get advice about that. In addition to these protections there are others such as that for documents involved in legal proceedings.
9. What if the IRD wants to interview me or my client?
An interview can be voluntary or compulsory. In the first the IRD will sometimes record the interview but in the second a taped record will always be made. A voluntary interview can be refused but it is often unwise to do that. A compulsory interview must be attended. The IRD can require that you answer questions on oath in a compulsory interview. You should be represented at any interview with IRD officers. If you are not, you can ask in a voluntary interview to break to take advice or ask to note a question for later reply once you have taken advice. In a compulsory interview this is more difficult and you should not really start such an interview without representation.
10. Do I have to tell the IRD things that will incriminate me?
There is only limited protection from self incrimination in a tax investigation. If the IRD asks for information you must give it truthfully even if that leads to a tax liability. Outside a compulsory interview you can refuse to answer questions which would tend to implicate you in criminal conduct such as tax evasion. It is important to understand that anything you say in a voluntary interview can be used in evidence against you. However, the IRD cannot use the information you give in an compulsory interview to prosecute you unless you later contradict yourself. In that case your interview can only be used as evidence of perjury.
11. How should I or my client manage a tax investigation?
There are different ways of doing this but there are some basic rules. Keep a single point of contact with the IRD in your organisation. Don’t let IRD officers quiz your staff about matters. If the IRD has questions have them come through your point of contact, preferably in writing. Involve your professional advisers early, even if they remain behind the scenes. Keep track of the IRD’s requests for information. Keep a diary of deadlines. Keep copies of whatever is given to the IRD. Identify early potential problem areas and plan how to deal with them.
12. How does a tax investigation usually end?
If the IRD finds nothing, it will tell you. If it discovers what it considers is a default it will normally invite the taxpayer to complete an Agreed Adjustment form. This is a concession by the taxpayer that the IRD is right. If it is signed it will be followed by an assessment and the taxpayer will have no right to dispute that. Before any Agreed Adjustment is signed you ought to check that the adjustment is one that you will accept. You do not have to sign the Agreed Adjustment form if you disagree with the IRD’s view. In that case the IRD will normally issue a Notice of Proposed Adjustment to start the formal tax disputes process.
The tax disputes process
13. What is a NOPA?
A Notice of Proposed Adjustment. This notice starts any formal tax dispute. It can be issued by the IRD or by a taxpayer. If the IRD issues it the taxpayer must respond within 2 months. If the taxpayer wishes to issue a NOPA it will normally have to do so within 4 months of an event such as the issue of an assessment by the IRD. The NOPA advises the changes to a tax position which the issuing party wants to make and the basis for those changes.
14. What is a NOR?
A Notice of Response. This replies to a NOPA and sets out the basis on which the opposing party rejects the NOPA.
15. Do I need legal help to file a NOPA or a NOR?
It is wise to at least have your lawyer look over the NOPA or NOR. There are some traps for the unwary. The content of the notices have to meet statutory standards. They have to follow a prescribed form. If your case is at all complicated you should obtain advice about these notices.
16. What is a SOP?
A Statement of Position. This is a very important document. It follows the issue by the IRD of a disclosure notice. This notice makes a SOP a binding document and limits the IRD and taxpayer in any later tax challenge to the issues and propositions of law referred to in the SOPs that are exchanged. In other words the SOPs limit the way in which you will be able to argue your case in later proceedings.
17. Do I need legal help to prepare an SOP?
Yes. It is most unwise to try to prepare an SOP on your own. Because of the potential impact it has on the way you would be able to argue any subsequent tax challenge, you should be sure that the SOP has been prepared with input from the lawyer who will argue your tax case for you.
18. How soon should I get a lawyer involved if IRD issues a NOPA?
The sooner the better. Even if your lawyer only supervises the work that you or your accountant do to prepare NOPA or NOR, you will benefit by the input. You should definitely involve an experienced tax lawyer when the SOP stage has been reached.
19. How long do I have to respond to a NOPA?
Normally two months from the date the NOPA was issued. Be careful because this is not a full 2 calendar months. The time runs from the date of issue and expires on the day before the date that is 2 months on. So a NOPA issued on 20 June must be responded to by 19 August.
20. Does the IRD have to issue a NOPA?
In most cases yes. It does not have to do so if it issues a default assessment in the absence of a return. There are also other instances, such as when it considers that the revenue may be at risk by giving notice to a taxpayer, when it can move immediately to assess.
21. When would a taxpayer issue a NOPA?
A Taxpayer will normally issue a NOPA in either of two cases. The first is when the IRD has issued a default assessment in the absence of a return or an assessment without NOPA (see 20 above). To dispute a default assessment the Taxpayer must both file the required return and an accompanying NOPA.
The second is when the taxpayer wishes to raise a potentially contentious matter with the IRD without running the risk of incurring penalties. A taxpayer may lodge a tax return taking a conservative position then issue the IRD with a NOPA proposing to adjust their filed tax position.
22. How long does the disputes process take?
Because the time frames for issuing and replying to notices are stipulated by legislation, the process can be drawn out. This means that it can be very frustrating and costly. It is not unusual for tax disputes to be conducted over a period of 12 to 18 months, and sometimes more.
23. If the IRD calls a conference, do I have to take part?
No. You can ask for the conference to be dispensed with, though it is sometimes beneficial to meet the IRD and hear what they have to say. That is less likely to be the case if you and your advisers have been dealing with the IRD for some time and your respective positions are clear and are unlikely to change.
24. How independent are the IRD disputes reviewers?
The disputes review unit ("DRU") is part of the IRD but it is independent from the investigations teams of the IRD. The reviewers make their decisions only on the papers that are submitted to them, ie the SOP’s and related documentary evidence. In an appreciable number of cases the reviewers do not uphold, or only partially uphold, the position taken by the tax investigators. On matters of policy they apply the IRD position. When there is a question of credibility in the evidence they apply the conclusions of the investigators.
25. Does my dispute have to go to the DRU?
No. If the IRD is under time pressure it can skip disputes review and assess. In most cases it must have received and considered a taxpayer’s SOP before assessing but that does not require that the matter go to disputes review. It is possible for taxpayers to ask to by-pass disputes review. In certain circumstances the law allows an “opt out” by taxpayers which allows them to proceed to litigation. The IRD is reluctant to allow this to happen in any but the rare cases where it is clear that the parties are proceeding to litigation and there is little to be gained by prolonging the dispute phase.
26. Is there an advantage to disputes review?
It gives you an opportunity to see a careful analysis of the IRD’s and your case. It can help to focus arguments and to better assess the prospects of success or failure in litigation. It can throw up surprises and opportunities not previously recognized or addressed.
Tax Challenges and Appeals
27. Why start a tax challenge in the Taxation Review Authority?
The TRA hears tax challenges in private. When its judgments are published they do not contain any information which would identify the taxpayer. The TRA has only limited power to award costs against an unsuccessful party. It operates as a commission of inquiry and so in some cases can receive evidence that would be excluded in an ordinary Court. The current TRA is a District Court Judge, Judge Allison Sinclair.
28. Why elect to go to the High Court?
The High Court is the forum usually chosen for major, complex or significant litigation. It is equipped to deal with complex documentary evidence. Its Judges have a wide range of experience in the law, but not always in tax. If you are confident of winning, the Court awards costs in favour of the successful party. Often the IRD prefers the High Court to the TRA because of these factors and because there is one less tier of appeal from it.
29. How costly is a tax challenge?
Costly! Judges are on record as saying that major tax litigation is not for the faint-hearted. Costs can easily extend into the many tens of thousands of dollars on a tax challenge and the more complex the matter the more expensive this will be. This makes it vital that you engage counsel who knows the ropes and can work most efficiently for you.
30. Is there a jury in a tax case?
A tax challenge is dealt with by a Judge alone. The TRA is also a sitting District Court Judge and a High Court challenge is presided over by one of that Court’s Judges. Tax prosecutions can be tried before a jury (see below).
31. What is discovery?
This is the process by which parties to civil litigation list and disclose to the other side all the documents in their possession and control which could assist either party’s case. Although documents will often have been disclosed to the IRD in the course of an investigation, the lawyers who act for the IRD in tax litigation (usually Crown Law) routinely require full discovery. This can be a time consuming and frustrating process because it requires a careful examination of records, including emails and electronic documents, to be sure all are covered. Discovery normally leads to document bundles being exchanged and often to an agreed bundle of documents that is put before the Judge. This process is gradually being conducted in electronic form. This can require expert to be engaged to collate and list documents electronically, linked to electronic evidence bundles.
32. How long does it take to get a tax challenge in front of a Judge?
This depends on how long the case is likely to take and how busy the TRA or the High Court is. It is not unusual for fixtures to be available 6 months or more from when a case is ready to be set down. This is part of the reason why cases are managed by the Judges, to be sure that they can be brought on for hearing as quickly as practicable.
33. How is a tax challenge run – what actually happens?
The challenge normally starts with an opening by the taxpayer as plaintiff which explains the taxpayer’s case. The taxpayer’s evidence is then led from witnesses. Normally evidence is submitted by witness statements or briefs in writing. These are read into the record. When a witness has given his or her evidence, opposing counsel cross examines and then the Judge can ask any questions he or she may have. The process is then repeated for the IRD. The challenge concludes with each side making legal submissions and a closing argument. Again in most cases this is prepared in writing. Unless the Judge believes that a judgment can be given immediately the decision will be “reserved”, ie the Judge will take time to consider it. The decision is normally rendered at a later stage when the registry of the TRA or the Court sends the written decision to each side by email.
34. How long do I have to appeal a decision that goes against me or my client?
An appeal should be notified within 30 days of a TRA or High Court decision being given. If the appeal is from the TRA it is to the High Court. If it is from the High Court, it is to the Court of Appeal. In cases which involve matters of principle and commercial or public importance an appeal may be taken from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. That appeal must have the leave or permission of the Supreme Court.
35. How does a tax prosecution start?
Normally the IRD will file charging documents against a person in the District Court. In these the Commissioner of Inland Revenue acts as prosecutor and will state the basis on which it is considered that an offence has been committed. The charging documents will be served personally on the defendant (unless substituted service is required) and will include a summary of facts and information about how the defendant should respond. The charging document will state a date and time for the defendant’s first appearance.
36. What happens at the first appearance
Most first appearances on tax charges occur before a registrar in the District Court. Depending on the number and seriousness of the charges it is usually possible to reach agreement with the IRD about the terms on which a defendant will be remanded and bailed at the first appearance. In some cases the remand will be at large and the defendant will simply be ordered to return to the Court at a later time. In other cases bail may be imposed with or without additional terms. If bail is required it will be necessary for the defendant to complete a bail agreement before leaving Court at the first appearance.
37. What bail conditions are possible?
If bail is sought by the IRD it may also ask for certain conditions. This is particularly so if more serious charges have been laid. Some of the most common conditions are to reside at a nominated address, to surrender your passport and to report periodically to Police. If you do not want these to apply but the IRD does, the matter will have to be dealt with by a Judge rather than the registrar.
38. If remanded, do you have to keep coming back to the Court?
Yes. It is sometimes possible to deal with matters on the basis that your counsel appears without you, but some Judges can get upset about that. It is wise that at the end of each remand you front up at the Court for matters to be rolled over.
39. When do I enter a plea?
You should enter a plea at the time when you have enough information to be able to assess properly what the nature of the charges is and a good idea of the factual allegations on which the IRD relies. In most cases, if initial disclosure has been given by the prosecutor, the Court will expect that a person be in a position to enter a plea at their second appearance. Sometimes you may not have all of the information you feel you need but the Court may insist that a plea be entered. If you have the slightest doubt about what you should do, enter a plea of not guilty, which you can later change if necessary. If you are going to plead guilty, there is a sentencing benefit in your having pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity.
40. Can I change my plea?
If you plead not guilty you are able to change your plea to guilty at any time, even after the trial has started (but before it has concluded). If you have pleaded guilty, you can only change your plea to not guilty in very limited circumstance and with the leave of the Court.
41. Should I elect a jury trial or Judge alone?
The right to make this election is not available in all prosecutions but, if it is, you will generally be expected to make the election at the time you enter a plea. More serious tax evasion charges carry the right to elect a jury trial. If you are able to elect, you should discuss this carefully with your lawyer because it will have a very important effect on the way your trial proceeds. In a jury trial it is the jury which decides the facts of the case. If the trial is before a Judge alone, that Judge decides matters of fact and law. There are no hard and fast rules about the choice. Some juries are hard on defendants who evade taxes – taking the view that “if I pay mine you should pay yours”. Others can be persuaded that a defendant did not behave deliberately or dishonestly if they think the IRD has been heavy-handed.
42. Can I get some idea of sentencing if I plead guilty?
Yes, it is possible to get a sentencing indication from a Judge based on the prosecution summary of facts. If you accept a sentencing indication it is highly likely that a sentence as indicated will be imposed unless at the time of sentencing there are other factors that the Court was unaware of at the time of its indication. If you accept the sentencing indication, you must be sentenced by the indicating judge, although this will follow pre-sentencing reports.
43. What are the maximum sentences for charges of tax evasion?
The words “tax evasion” actually cover a number of possible offences under the Tax Administration Act and the Crimes Act. If the offences are charged under the TAA, the maximum sentence for the most serious offences is 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $50,000. If the offences are charged under the Crimes Act the maximum possible term of imprisonment rises in most cases to 7 years.
44. Does it help to have paid back the tax?
It helps a great deal. When imposing sentence the Court is required to take into account any efforts by the defendant to make restitution or amends. Where the IRD and the general population of taxpayers are concerned, that means paying the tax that was evaded. It also helps if use of money interest has been paid although this strictly speaking not the sum that is considered when reparation and amends are in issue. The Courts give sentencing credits for various matters and this is one of them, although you must accept that there is also the view that by paying back the tax you are simply doing what ought to have been done in the first place.
45. Can I get legal aid for a tax prosecution?
If you meet the criteria for legal aid it can be available for the defence of tax charges. However, Geoff Clews does not accept legal aid briefs.
46. Does the IRD have to accept a payment proposal?
IRD has to consider a number of matters in deciding whether or not to accept a proposal. One is that it should try to recover the highest net return over time, but that is not a paramount consideration. It has to be balanced with others, including the need to promote compliance with the tax regime. So, even if a proposal offers more than the IRD would recover from bankruptcy or liquidation it can’t always be forced to take it.
47. What does the IRD look for in a payment proposal?
There are no hard and fast rules because proposals must fit the circumstances, but it helps to be able to offer a substantial lump sum up front. Instalments should be the maximum reasonably achievable. The proposal should not be so long that there are risks of non performance over time. It should not involve continuing interest to the extent that the taxpayer can make no head way in reducing the debt.
48. What happens to penalties if I negotiate with the IRD
As long as you abide by the time frames for negotiation it is possible to suspend late payment penalties while negotiations are afoot. Interest continues to run.
49. Will the IRD write taxes off?
The IRD has power to cancel tax when it is consistent with it receiving the highest net return to do so. Practically speaking the IRD will explore all avenues to recover all of the tax that is due before looking at writing any off.
50. Will the IRD write off interest?
In most of its literature the IRD says that interest will not be remitted. It has power to cancel interest but seldom does so. Usually a deal which involves cancellation has core tax written off so that interest continues to be charged at normal rates on the balance of the tax.
51. If my company has a tax debt can the IRD chase me?
In some cases the IRD can make the director and shareholders of a defaulting company liable for the company’s tax. The liability can arise under general insolvency law, but there is also a tax law that says if a company has been subject to an arrangement that has the effect of leaving it unable to meet a foreseeable tax liability and that was purposefully done, a director can be personally liable subject to certain limited exceptions.
52. What will IRD do about the debt?
First the IRD will try to settle payment terms. If the IRD cannot settle the tax debt with you it will try to obtain judgement against you. It may follow this course in order to put pressure on you to settle a payment proposal. Judgment is a Court order that you owe the debt. Obtaining judgment normally involves a formal demand followed by an application to the Court when the demand is not satisfied. It is precursor to a bankruptcy or liquidation application.
53. Will the IRD automatically bankrupt me if I don’t pay?
That depends. If the IRD believes that it is best for your affairs to be managed by the Official Assignee (a liquidator in the case of a company) it will apply to bankrupt or liquidate a debtor. In some cases where it is clear that there are no assets to speak of and bankruptcy would severely limit your ability to work (and pay taxes) it may elect not to take this step. IRD does not normally take this step unless it considers it a last resort and it is often too late to do much to stop things at this stage. It is sometimes possible to delay matters but only if it is likely that an arrangement for payment of the debt can be reached.
54. Should I write to my MP about the IRD chasing me?
Often this is a waste of time. Most MP’s can do no more than request the IRD to reconsider your case and most get a polite response from the IRD telling them that your case is being dealt with entirely reasonably.
55. How should I seek tax advice?
The answer is a little more complicated than “ask for it”. The object of any instruction is to get the advice you need as quickly and efficiently as possible. This means that you ought to meet with your barrister to discuss the facts in detail. Expect to be asked lots of questions. If possible provide a summary of the facts you think are relevant. Also provide all of the documents that relate to the issues you are concerned about.
56. Does tax advice have to be a formal opinion?
The advice can be in any form which suits you. But don’t expect that by asking for it to be given informally or in summary form you will save greatly on costs. The same amount of work will be done to research summary advice as for a full opinion unless your specific instructions are that you only want counsel’s impression. In that case you may save costs but the advice will be expressly conditioned so that it would be unwise to rely on it as you might a formal opinion.
57. What keeps the advice I seek confidential?
The client of any lawyer has a legal professional privilege in communications passing between the client and lawyer on legal business. In relation to tax matters this is reflected in statute. Maintaining the privilege is also part of the ethical obligations of all lawyers. It means that neither the client nor the lawyer can be compelled to disclose their communications to any other person (the IRD included). If the IRD investigates the client it is supposed to take reasonable steps to avoid breaching the privilege and privileged material will not be admitted as evidence in Court. Communications which further an illegal or wrongful act are not privileged even if they are between lawyer and client.
Trust issues and disputes
58. What is a trust?
Essentially it is a set of promises made by people called the Trustees that they will hold property and apply it for the benefit of others, called the beneficiaries.
59. Who is entitled to information about a trust?
There are no hard and fast rules about this. Broadly speaking if someone is within a class of people capable of benefiting from a trust they will be permitted to obtain some information about how the trust is run. Just how far that goes will depend on a range of issues including whether the interest of other beneficiaries are affected or whether there are commercial sensitivities in the information that is sought.
60. What liabilities may trustees have for poor investments?
Generally speaking trustees are supposed to invest trust funds prudently although that obligation can be altered by the trust deed. In many instances the deed will relieve trustees of liability if they elect to keep the trust fund in one or only a few assets, even if that means that the value of the fund reduces over time. Even if the deed provides that, in extreme cases the Trustees may have a liability for gross investment loss. Ideally trustees ought to invest in a diversified portfolio of investments, with the advice of a reputable financial adviser.
61. What is a discretionary trust and discretionary beneficiaries?
Most modern family trusts are discretionary trusts. This reflects the discretions that are given to the trustees about who should benefit under the trust. A discretionary beneficiary has no interest in the trust assets, only an expectation that the trust will be properly administered by the trustees. He or she acquires an interest in the property only when the trustees exercise their discretion to benefit the particular beneficiary. Discretionary trusts typically allow for the greatest flexibility in trustee decision making although trustees will usually be guided by a “letter of wishes.”
62. How can the Court help trustees?
Sometimes trustees are unsure what they should do even if they have wide discretions. There may be competing claims from different family members or uncertainty over who can or should benefit under a trust. Within certain limits trustees are permitted to apply to the High Court for assistance by way of directions.
63. How far can discretions be used to benefit people not contemplated by the Trust?
Sometimes in the past steps have been taken to resettle or to transfer property from one trust into new trusts which extend to beneficiaries not contemplated in the first. This has been criticised in recent cases where the new beneficiaries have clearly been more than incidental recipients of a benefit. Such cases can see transfers struck down as a “fraud on the power” which is used to make the transfer. Great care needs to be taken to achieve such transfers legally.
64. How is a corporate trustee different from a “natural” trustee?
A “corporate trustee” refers to the case where a company is the trustee of a trust. This often has the advantage that when directors of the company change, property does not have to be transferred to a new owner because the company remains the same. Where natural people are trustees a change of one trustee requires that property be transferred. There are ongoing debates about the respective liabilities of the directors of a corporate trustee compared with the liabilities of natural trustees. In large measure they involve the same concepts of fiduciary duty but the liabilities are enforced by slightly different means.
General questions about briefing Geoff Clews
65. Is it easy to get an appointment to see Geoff?
Like any busy professional, Geoff may not be able to see you right away. However, every effort will be made to ensure that an appointment with him, or one of his colleagues in chambers, is available within 3 working days of your inquiry.
66. If I contact Geoff through this site, when can I expect a response?
A general website inquiry will be acknowledged within 24 hours. A website inquiry is not usually a substitute for full instructions. You will normally be given some impressions relating to your inquiry and invited to instruct Geoff formally if you require more. If full instructions are sent by website inquiry, they will be confirmed within 48 hours.
67. How does Geoff charge for his services?
Normally Geoff’s charges are by way of an hourly rate which is subject to a discount for prompt payment. The headline hourly rate is NZ$785 plus GST and office expenses. This is reduced by 10% if paid within a month of the account being issued. Work done by other professional staff is charged at lower rates and is also subject to the prompt payment discount. In some cases Geoff is prepared to negotiate a flat fee and in others to negotiate a blended hourly rate reflecting the work done on a matter by him and by other counsel at lower hourly rates. Geoff will always try to give an estimate of his likely costs on request. Clients will usually be asked to confirm their instructions by placing a sum in trust with their solicitors as an assurance of payment Geoff’s. A payment on account in the order of $8,500 will normally be requested for anything but a very minor matter. For current terms on which instructions are accepted click here.
68. Why do I need a solicitor to brief Geoff?
Geoff practices as a barrister sole. Legal ethics require that in most contentious cases he not accept instructions directly from the public, but through a solicitor. The closest analogy is the medical profession where you cannot normally see a medical specialist without your GP’s referral. Your solicitor is expected to work with your barrister to be sure that your brief is properly fulfilled. Often an instructing solicitor is able to deal with matters at much less cost than your counsel and so can make matters more efficient for you. Your solicitor must also hold funds on account for Geoff’s fees and handle payment unless arrangements are made for you to pay Geoff directly.
69. How long will it take to get my job done?
This depends on the type of job. If you seek an opinion, Geoff will try to achieve any reasonable deadline. However, most clients seek Geoff’s advice because they want him to take the time to consider their position carefully. At the time of taking instructions an estimate of completion time will be given. If that changes, you will be told ahead of time. There are occasions where unforeseen events such as urgent Court commitments mean that time commitments have to be altered. We try to avoid that as much as possible.
70. When do I have to pay and can I take time to do so?
Accounts are rendered for all attendances every month. They are due for payment immediately. We expect payment at the latest within 4 weeks of the date of invoice. Legal costs can be high, especially in tax disputes and litigation. It is not always feasible to pay fees in one sum. It is our preference that you make arrangements elsewhere to raise funds to meet your costs, but fee arrangements are possible as a last resort. These normally involve a client commitment to part-payment (at least half) of each monthly account and the deferral of the balance for payment within an agreed time. Interest will normally be charged on the balance at our practice overdraft rate plus 2% and security over assets may also be sought. If it is apparent that fees cannot be paid as they fall due, alternative arrangements must be made immediately and adhered to, or the brief will be terminated.