The importance of specialised tax advice for private clients

Only last week I got into a debate with a new client. He’d lived most of his adult life in the UK and he ran his business from the UK. His children were based here and his home was here. He was currently non-domiciled in the UK and hadn’t given a lot of thought to domicile or why it might matter to his situation. I suggested that we needed to check his domicile and he took some convincing. It was quite an in-depth conversation but a crucial one if my client is going to pay the right amount of tax.

And I've been specialising in international private clients for many years, so I’m aware of the potential pitfalls. How would you deal with that challenge if you weren't a specialist; would you know where to start?

With individuals becoming more international it’s getting increasingly complicated to give appropriate advice to private clients. 

So it was ‘interesting’ (in the Chinese proverb sense) to see that an accountant who gave tax advice without identifying that his client was non-domiciled, and without advising the client to seek advice from an international tax specialist, was found negligent earlier this month.

The judge in the case highlighted the duty for those giving general tax advice to refer their clients to specialists in international taxation. It’s an important lesson, particularly in the current climate of public opinion.  

It would be lovely if all tax advice could come from one adviser but we live in a different environment with complex interactions of different tax laws. If you have international interests, you want proactive personal tax advice and to be advised of all your options in a balanced and informed way (including the likely attitude of the various tax authorities and the risk of adverse publicity) then your best option is to speak to a private client specialist.

Katherine Bullock is a partner and Head of Private Client for our UK practice.
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