International firm Baker McKenzie is widely regarded to have one of the strongest tax practices in London. Led by head of the tax practice Mark Delaney, it has an extensive roster of practitioners that includes lawyers, tax advisers, accountants and economists, all focused on specific specialist areas. Coupled with the firm’s expansive international network, this allows it to provide an almost unparalleled offering to clients.
One recent example of the firm’s work is its position advising Hitachi in connection with its $11 billion acquisition of ABB’s power grid division. Elsewhere, the team is also acting for Hutchison 3G on one of the largest VAT cases in the UK that concerns whether VAT is due on unused mobile phone credit.
There were two significant hires in the team during the research period. Senior consultant Tom Aston joined from KPMG along with senior consultant Russell Hampshire, who came from McDermott Will & Emery.
“We love them. They add real value and work extremely well with our in-house team and other external advisers creating a single unified team.”
The strength of the team at Davis Polk & Wardwell in London lies in it abilities in the M&A and capital markets spaces. The team, which is led by partner Jonathan Cooklin, concentrates on corporate tax planning, including corporate finance and private equity work, public and private M&A, demergers, joint ventures, reconstructions, equity and debt transactions, and cross-border transactions.
Recent examples of the firm’s work include advising Comcast on its £22 billion offer for Sky, assisting Technip on its $13 billion merger with FMC Technologies and providing legal counsel to ContourGlobal on its IPO and LSE listing.
The London tax practice of US firm Debevoise & Plimpton is led by partners Richard Ward and Matthew Saronson. It is primarily recognised for its work in the transactional tax space, with a particular focus on private equity fund formation, lifecycle and exits, public and private M&A, capital markets and general tax advisory.
One recent example of its work saw the team advising the AIA Group on the tax aspects of its $6 billion global medium term notes and securities programme and its offering of $500 million of notes. It also assisted the Motor Fuel Group in connection with its £1.2 billion acquisition of MRH, the UK's largest petrol station and convenience retail operator.
The only major change to the team during the research period was the departure of international counsel Ceinwen Rees, who left the firm in May 2018 to take up a position with Macfarlanes.
The EMEIA Tax Center at EY is organised as a supranational entity covering the entire Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA) region, with its Intercompany Effectiveness Platform, Solutions & Intelligence and operational transfer pricing practice serving clients’ needs across all jurisdictions.
Led by well-recognised, Oslo-based partner Sveinung Baumann-Larsen, the operational transfer pricing team brings together multi-disciplinary experience and resources focusing on IT, accounting, and tax from the entire region to bring to bear in its work. This work covers some of the leading global companies in their respective fields and includes those involved in retail and consumer products, energy and pharmaceuticals.
The London branch of international firm FTI Consulting is led by senior managing director Euan Sutherland, whose practice covers real estate tax. He is supported by life sciences and R&D specialist Richard Turner, Toni Dyson – who covers corporate and transactional tax – and David Quantrill, who also covers transactional tax. Its work covers tax compliance, transaction support, best practice process implementation and structuring. The team includes experts in tax, law and surveying along with valuations and technology experts and economists.
Details of the firm’s recent work and clients remains confidential.
There were a few changes to the team made during the research period. On the way out were tax managing directors Paul Baldwin and Gareth Crooks, who left in May and October 2018 respectively. Moving in the other direction, Wei (Chris) Liu joined the team in August of 2018 from Grant Thornton.
“FTI are highly professional and responsive, and committed to the life sciences sector. I cannot identify any areas for improvement.”
Mayer Brown has a total of 120 tax lawyers spread across four continents, giving the firm a truly international reach. In London, it is led by partners James Hill, Simon Rose, Ben Fryer and has a focus on transaction support, especially in relation to M&A, reorganisations, buy-outs, joint ventures, capital markets, leveraged and structured finance, and real estate.
A recent example of its work saw it acting for eOne on its $209 million acquisition of a 49% stake in a film and television producer The Mark Gordon Company and related $75 million placing. It also advised The British Land Company on the acquisition of the Woolwich Arsenal Estate.
The one notable change to the team during the research period was the arrival of partner Simon Rose, who joined the team from Michelmores in September 2018.
The team at McDermott Will & Emery in London is led by James Ross and includes two partners supported by an additional lawyer. His practice covers a broad range of international and domestic commercial tax issues, including corporate and tax restructuring, transfer pricing and thin capitalisation, and double tax treaty issues.
Recent work highlights include advising Praxair on the €5 billion sale of the majority of its businesses in Europe to the Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation and acting for Alsco on its £95 million acquisition of Clean Linen Services from MML Capital Partners, and its management.
The team welcomed a new member during the research period. Neville Wright joined the practice in April 2018 from DLA Piper.
MHA MacIntyre Hudson is a member of the global Baker Tilly International network, giving it contacts in more than 145 locations worldwide. In the UK the team is led by Rachel Nutt, Chris Denning, James Kipping and David Wignall. Domestically, the firm has 50 offices spread throughout the UK.
Details of the firm’s recent work and clients remains confidential.
Several new names were brought into the team during the research period. This included senior customs duty manager Lucy Sutcliffe from HMRC in March 2018, global mobility partner David Wignall from PwC in May 2018, and partner Chris Danes from Baker Tilly International in April 2019.
The London tax practice of Paul Hastings is led by Arun Birla, who is the vice-chair of the firm’s global tax department. He advises UK and international clients on the tax aspects of M&A, private equity, real estate, investment funds, structured and asset finance, joint ventures, financing arrangements, demergers, reorganisations, and restructurings, as well as tax litigation and IP planning matters. In particular, the team has a strong presence in the collateralised loan obligation and real estate spaces.
Recent work highlights for the firm include advising Octopus Healthcare in relation to the structuring and tax aspects of the conversion of the closed-ended MedicX I Healthfund into a perpetual life fund and assisting Starwood Capital with its disposal of 12 full-service hotels, forming part of the Principal Hotel Company, to FdM.
International firm Simmons & Simmons has longstanding experience across all areas of direct and indirect taxes, covering transactional, advisory and contentious matters. The team includes lawyers, accountants and economists and so can provide a full range of services to clients covering all areas of tax.
One recent example of the team’s work saw it acting for Orlebar Brown in connection with the sale of its swimwear business to Chanel. Another is the range of advisory services it provides to British Land, advising on various tax and restructuring matters.
There were a couple of new additions to the team during the research period. VAT partner Jo Crookshank, in September 2018, and VAT principal Bryn Reynolds, in October 2018, both joined the firm from EY.
“Simmons & Simmons have a wealth of background knowledge on our business, across tax and other legal areas. They are very good at utilising this information to ensure that their advice is appropriate and also takes into account all relevant tax and non-tax issues. Additionally, advice is always technically robust and well delivered.”
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has a London tax practice led by partner James Anderson, who is the European head of tax for the firm and is a private capital specialist focused on asset managers, family offices, investment companies and HNW individuals. The team is best known for its work on cross-border matters, most notably those between the UK and the US, as well as private capital matters.
Recent work highlights for the team include advising The Coca-Cola Company on the tax aspects of its £3.9 billion acquisition of Costa Coffee from Whitbread and assisting Phoenix Group Holdings on its £2.93 billion acquisition of Standard Life Assurance and strategic partnership with Standard Life Aberdeen.
There was only one notable change to the team during the research period, which was the arrival of senior associate Luke Vassay from Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in February 2019.
Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May has a particular focus on corporate work in the tax space. The team includes six partners and approximately 20 associates and provides clients with services in transactions, consultancy and disputes.
One example of the high calibre of the work the team does sees it advising Asda owner Walmart in relation to the proposed merger of J Sainsbury and the Asda Group. Alongside its Best Friends group members in Europe, it also recently acted for the Tata Steel Group on its definitive agreements to enter into a 50/50 Joint Venture with thyssenkrupp.
There was one significant addition to the team during the research period. Consultant Sarah Blakelock joined the firm from KPMG’s tax dispute resolution and controversy practice in Australia in November 2018.
The tax team at Taylor Wessing is headed by head of international tax Peter Jackson, along with head of tax and incentives Robert Young and partner Graham Samuel-Gibbon. It is recognised for providing practical and commercial advice across a range of different tax areas including private wealth, real estate funds, inward investment into the UK and corporate technology. Major client focus areas include technology and media, real estate, hospitality and retail.
One notable example of its recent work saw the team advising Grapeshot, a UK start-up providing brand safety and pre-contextual solutions to marketers globally, on the sale of its entire issued, and to be issued, share capital to the Oracle Corporation. Another example sees it assisting an UHNW family on The Tulip – a proposed 1,000ft concrete and glass tower in the heart of the City's financial district.
The London tax practice at Watson Farley & Williams is focused on transactions, tax consultancy matters and disputes. It has a particular focus on the energy and infrastructure, maritime, natural resources and real estate sectors, with a specific expertise in maritime and renewables (a sub-set of energy).
A matter the team recently worked on saw it advising Aban Singapore, a wholly owned subsidiary of Aban Offshore, on its acquisition, via its wholly-owned subsidiary Caldera Petroleum, of a 100% interest in two oil and gas blocks in the North Sea for a non-cash consideration of $75m, 50% of which were immediately on-sold. Elsewhere, it advised MSC Cruises on the tax and operational structuring for two new Seaside-class cruise vessels.
The team Wiggin includes two partners and covers corporation tax, income tax, VAT, PAYE and gaming duties. It advises public and private companies on things like investments, M&A, joint ventures and private equity deals.
Examples of the firm’s recent work saw it advising the sellers on the corporate tax aspects of the sale of Gamer Network to Reed POP (part of RELX Group), assisting Fulwell73 on its part-sale to Valance Media and acting for the individual sellers on the sale of their remaining shares in Lookout Point to BBC Studios.
The one significant addition to the team during the research period saw the arrival of partner Ceri Stoner in October 2018, joining the firm from Mishcon de Reya.
“I am very satisfied with Wiggin’s service and client friendliness.”
“Excellent tax advice, responsive, quick and diligent legal work.”
“Great work, very responsible. In the domain of tax we are very happy.”