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 his colleague in Chambers, 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.
  news img 59   Geoffrey Clews best l smaller

                                              INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION 



Our Expertise

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 has announced the establishment of a new unit to begin building the forensic investigation capabilities that its new START computer system permits. In a nod to the TV series of the same name, the unit is called CSI, standing for Compliance Strategy and Innovation.    
This operation targets some 400 wealthy new Zealanders and asks them to disclose a great deal of information about their affairs, much of which is irrelevant to their present tax obligations. The information is being sought under a new inquiry power which allows Revenue to seek information that it considers is relevant to the development of policy for the improvement or reform of the tax system. 

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 active across a comprehensive range of advisory and representational mandates in the taxation sphere, being particularly well known for his work on behalf of clients facing especially serious tax-related issues in both the civil and criminal spheres. He is described as "extremely competent" by one source and as "a distinguished lawyer with a broad practice" by another. Chambers Asia Pacific. New Zealand, the Tax bar, 2022, 2023

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 Clews stands out as a go-to for civil and criminal tax disputes thanks to his three decades of experience in the field. Who's Who Legal, Asia Pacific, 2021 

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.


Employment and other opportunities at Old South British Chambers

Junior or trainee barrister interested in gaining experience in all aspects of contentious tax practice. For more information, click here. 

Barrister's room in Chambers available - character space of 43 square metres, with adjacent secretarial bay and use of all Chambers facilities. Available now. For more information, contact Geoff Clews on 021- 627-737.  

RFA PortraitSeries Monochrome 0831 DS8 4305-X3


Latest tax and trusts news

27 March 2024 - A major tax bill passed its third reading, enacting on royal assent the alignment of the trustee income tax rate with the top individual marginal rate of 39%. Also addressed in the new Act are the phased resumption of investor residential interest deductions and the scaling back of the bright line test applicable to residential property to two years.
20 December 2023 - Residential interest deductions coming back - The Minister of Finance has signalled that a timetable for the phased return of residential housing interest deductions will be announced in the early New Year.

20 December 2023 - Bright line change signalled - The Government's December mini budget presages the return of the land sales bright line test to two years from 1 July 2024. There is no suggestion that the test (currently set at 10 years) will be retrospectively amended so we will have a curious situation where the extended bright line runs on for some properties, when those acquired from 1 July next year are subject to a much shorter test. Presumably this is justified on the basis that those who acquired property under the old test knew what they were getting into! 

14 December 2023 - Forfeited deposits in land sales can be income - IR has stated that when the underlying property transaction would have generated income, a forfeited deposit has the same character and so will be taxable. See QB 23/09.

14 December 2023 - Electric scooters not subject to FBT - IR has ruled that the provision of "Workride" electric scooters in lieu of remuneration, to assist employees to commute to and from wok is not subject to FBT. to read more click here

7 December 2023 - Call for loans to be repaid - Inland Revenue has called for borrowers under the Covid era Small Business Cashflow Scheme to repay their debts. Some $2bn was advanced under the scheme and already 10,000 borrowers have defaulted to the extent of $177m. 

6 December 2023 - Tax bills rolled over to new Parliament - One of the first events of the new Parliament has been for the tax bills that were unresolved prior to the October election to be rolled over for consideration in the current term.
29 August 2023 - DST Bill to be introduced - The Finance Minister has announced that legislation allowing for a Digital Services Tax will be introduced to the House this week. The Government consulted on this in 2019 but there has been no attempt to have draft legislation considered ahead of this announcement. The Bill cannot pass before the House rises for the election, and so will need to be reconsidered by the next Government and Parliament, whatever the shape of that may be. The legislation is designed to allow a DST to be implemented if the OECD's multi-lateral approach fails.

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 our case note on the recent Supreme Court Family First decision, click here.

To read about company directors being personally liable for company tax debts, click here.

Commentary and publications

2023 Chambers & Partners Tax Controversy Guide for NZ

The latest edition of this international publication, whose New Zealand contribution was originally written and is annually revised by our team, was released on 18 May 2023. To read the new New Zealand chapter, click here.

2023 edn of the Tax Disputes and Litigation Review

The sixth edition of New Zealand commentary for this international publication, written and revised by our team, was released in March 2023. To read it, click here

P.  +64 9 307 3993   M.  +64 21 627 737
F.  +64 9 307 3996