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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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

24 September 2019 - Picking up recommendations from the Tax Working Group the Minister of Revenue has announced work on simplifying the deduction of feasibility expenditure and changing the rules for shareholder continuity that affect losses being carried forward. These steps are intended to make it easier for start ups to attract capital and to retain tax assets that have accrued as a result of exploratory expenditure, without losing them as the start up company grows and shareholding changes. This is not law yet, but will proceed though the standard tax reform process. 

16 September 2019 - New Zealand has signed a protocol amending its Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with Guernsey. The protocol updates the TIEA to include model treaty provisions to prevent tax treaty abuse and improve dispute resolution as recommended by the OECD and G20.

8 August 2019 - The Minister of Revenue has outlined the updated Inland Revenue work programme for the next 18 months. The tax treatment of land remains a focus as do the treatment of feasibility and "black hole" expenditure. It looks also as though the conduct of business by charities is likely to get a work over. To read more information about the work programme, click here.  

24 July 2019 - The major Trusts Bill that will overhaul trust law in NZ has passed its third reading and now awaits the Royal Assent. When passed into law and operative, it will usher in a suite of new laws regulating the rights and obligations of trustees and beneficiaries. To read the statement by the Minister of Justice, click here

4 June 2019 -
 A Government discussion document outlines two broad options for the future taxation of offshore digital companies:
• Changing the current international income tax rules to allow more taxation in market countries. This option is currently being discussed by the OECD and the G20 group of large economies.
• Applying a separate DST of 3% to certain revenues earned by highly digitalised multinationals operating in New Zealand.

30 May 2019 - In a Budget light on tax announcements the Government announced it will shortly release a discussion document exploring options for taxing the digital economy. No details of the proposed digital services tax are given in the Budget, but the Prime Minister has indicated that a 2–3% tax on turnover is one of the templates being considered.

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.

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.


Chambers & Partners Tax Controversy Guide for NZ

This inaugural publication was launched in May 2019 and was written by our tax team. To read it, click here.

The final word on Chatfield?

To read this recent commentary, click here.

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