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Concerns remain over improved tax avoidance proposals

6 December 2016

Revised proposals about how to target aggressive tax avoidance are an improvement - even if concerns still remain, the Law Society of England and Wales said.

The changes, released yesterday in the draft Finance Bill 2017, follow a comprehensive response from the Law Society and other stakeholders.

"While we are cautiously encouraged by the way the government appears to have taken some of our views on board in the draft bill, there remain a number of complex areas where we will be seeking further reassurance," said Law Society president Robert Bourns.

"In particular, we will be seeking more detail on the government's proposed approach to protecting legal professional privilege (LPP) and a more careful definition of "enablers" to ensure professionals are properly protected when giving legitimate advice. We will continue to voice our objection to imposing penalties on solicitors who have advised their clients honestly and lawfully.

"However, the government has made a number of positive changes in response to feedback we and other stakeholders gave, including adopting a fees-based penalty regime instead of the excessively punitive tax-based penalty regime initially proposed and accepting the importance of the changes not being applied retrospectively."

The importance of protecting LPP was singled out as key in the draft bill.

"LPP is a cornerstone of the justice system, and of the relationship a solicitor has with their client," said Robert Bourns.

"It is heartening the government has expressly acknowledged the need to protect LPP and ensure that solicitors can comply with measures to tackle tax avoidance without disturbing their clients' vital legal rights.

"We will continue to work through the proposals over the coming weeks, and look forward to providing robust and constructive feedback on the bill."

Notes to editors

The Law Society's response to the previous consultation on these proposals can be found here

About the Law Society

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