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 
             
    CHAMBERS ASIA PACIFIC, LEADING PRACTITIONER AT THE TAX BAR, 2008 - 2021
           INTERNATIONAL TAX REVIEW, TAX CONTROVERSY LEADER, 2011 - 2019
      BEST LAWYERS IN NZ 2017 - 2021. AUCKLAND TAX LAWYER OF THE YEAR 2017
                FINANCE MONTHLY, NZ TAX LAWYER/FIRM OF THE YEAR, 2018
     FINANCE MONTHLY, NZ CIVIL AND CRIMINAL TAX LAWYER OF THE YEAR, 2019

   THE LAW REVIEWS EXPERT PANEL 2018 - 2021 TAX DISPUTES AND LITIGATION
            WHO'S WHO LEGAL, CORPORATE TAX (CONTROVERSY), 2019 - 2021
               WINNER, CCH TAX AWARD, NEW ZEALAND LAW AWARDS, 2012


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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.
Some trusts are well managed and some are not. Trustees do not always understand their obligations and beneficiaries are sometimes disadvantaged by trustee decisions. The new Trusts Act changes the legal landscape. Trustees' duties are clearer and beneficiaries have expanded rights to know about a trust. Importantly, trust disputes can now be resolved using alternative dispute procedures of mediation and arbitration saving the costs of litigation.
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.gifGeoffrey Clews of Old South British Chambers is highly recommended by sources familiar with the contentious tax scene as "a very experienced, safe set of hands and a very good litigator." Active across a comprehensive range of advisory and representational mandates, he is particularly well known for his work on behalf of clients facing especially serious tax-related issues in both the civil and criminal spheres. Chambers Asia - Pacific 2021, New Zealand, the Tax Bar, 2021.

quote.gif "Highly respected".... "great to work with"... "approachable and well versed at thinking outside the box"... "he really performs well." Chambers Asia Pacific reviews 2018-2020.


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: Auckland has returned to Alert Level 1 from midday 12 March 2021. We are working from Chambers following Health Department guide lines for Level 1. All Court processes continue, subject to Justice Department protocols. Our contacts with Inland Revenue are open and we are well able to advise and represent you on all tax and trusts matters and to consult in person or by phone, email and video link.

Nga mihi nui 

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

 
 

Latest tax and trusts news

23 March 2021 - The current 5 year bright-line test is to be extended to 10 years for all but new built residential property. The new bright-line period will apply to residential property acquired on and after 27 March 2021. In the same suite of measures interest deductions on borrowing used to acquire residential property will be abolished for property acquired on and after 27 March and will be phased out over 4 years for borrowing related to all other residential investment property. Property developers are unaffected by these changes. To read more click here.  

4 March 2021 - The shareholder continuity requirements for carrying forward company losses are to be amended. A business continuity test will be introduced to ensure that, as a company transitions from start-up, in which losses often arise, to more mature operations, often with new shareholders investing, the early tax losses are not extinguished because of a breach of shareholder continuity. Legislation has not yet been issued but is expected shortly.   

28 February 2021 - The OECD has encouraged member states, of which NZ is one, to explore strategies and actions against professional service providers who play a crucial part in the planning and pursuit of white collar crimes like tax evasion, bribery and corruption which are often hidden through complex legal structures and financial transactions. Tax advisers in NZ are already the subject of promoter penalties when involved in aggressive tax avoidance and the party provisions of the Tax Administration Act and the Crimes Act apply to those who aid, abet, counsel or procure criminal activity. To read more click here.  

18 February 2021 - The business media is reporting increased debt recovery and enforcement action by IR. Liquidation and bankruptcy action is returning to pre-COVID levels. As at 15 February IR is advancing 144 liquidation cases and 83 bankruptcies. After a time of leniency during the initial impact of COVID in 2020, enforcement action has also restarted in earnest. 


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

COVID-19 and taxes 

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

2020 Chambers & Partners Tax Controversy Guide for NZ


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

2021 edn of the Tax Disputes and Litigation Review

The fourth edition of New Zealand commentary for this international publication, written and revised by our tax team, was released in March 2021. To read it, click here. 

The final word on 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