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working in the tax team...posted on behalf of a trainee

23 May 2014

I am nearing the halfway point of a tax seat in a compact and busy team. A notable part of working in this seat has been the firm-wide exposure it provides. There have been opportunities to work in both the Nottingham and Birmingham offices, helping the corporate, employment and various property teams in need of tax assistance. It has been a great way to understand the firm as a whole and how its different teams interact with each other to take advantage of their respective areas of expertise to provide clients with an across-the-board legal service.

But what about the actual work? I have noticed that when I tell friends and family that I am doing a seat in tax, their perception is some distance from the reality. Some people seem to imagine me locked in a room surrounded by dusty statutes and cases written in dead tongue, searching for long forgotten loop holes from another era, advising clients that the most tax efficient way to pay employee bonuses is exclusively in Persian rugs. Others imagine me in a team of super-geeks designing convoluted corporate group structures involving holding companies in the British Virgin Islands, management companies in Delaware and hundreds of subsidiaries in the Channel Islands. Although it appeals to my sense of humour to allow these perceptions to persist, I unfortunately have to confirm that they are not true!

The reality is that I spend most of my time in Browne Jacobson’s fancy new open plan office in Nottingham with my supervisor, in amongst the ruckus of the corporate team. On a normal day, I will come in and check my diary for any deadlines that are approaching for our clients to pay tax in connection with a transaction they have been involved in. If there is, I will check the payment status and, if necessary, remind the relevant lawyer managing that deal. I might then be given a research task by Beth regarding how a client can ensure that they comply with the law and pay the correct amount of taxation for their circumstances – no more, no less! – and I will spend a few hours using both online materials such as Westlaw, PLC, Lexis and HMRC Tax Manuals, as well as hard copy statutes and commentary. I will then report back to Beth, perhaps in an email with links and references to support my findings. I might also be asked to help Beth with the tax elements on the mergers and acquisitions dealt with by the corporate team. This will involve going through the heads of terms and purchase agreement for the relevant deal, discussing commercial issues with the corporate lawyers and may involve a chance at some bespoke drafting to deal with specific issues. Then there are also a few bits and pieces of filing: an SDLT submission here and a letter to the Stamp Office there. Overall, it’s an extremely varied experience, but no loop holes involving Persian rugs!