A leading tax barrister has criticised the members of his profession who are prepared to accept a fat fee in return for issuing overly favourable opinions on tax avoidance schemes.  

Jolyon Maugham tells of an opinion on his desk written by a leading QC which "expresses a view on the law that is so far removed from legal reality that I do not beleive that he can genuninely hold the view he says he has...". He does not name names, he says that "we all know who they are" however it would break his client confidentiality to report their writers to the Bar Standards Board.

The barristers concerned are unlikely to be sued by the scheme promoter, as it is the scheme user who is the real victim. The barristers' mutual insurance fund is funded by all barristers which means that little to no risk of financial penalty arises for the opinion writer.

Maugham suggests that a US-style system which imposes financial penalties on practitioners where their written advice does not meet certain standards may be something for parliament to consider.


Get rich quick tax scheme promoters have long required legal opinions in order to underwrite their schemes: the combination of a QC's opinion backed up with an insurance policy have clearly been the dream marketing ticket for avoidance industry. It is extremely rare for any barrister to launch an attach of this nature (this story has appeared in various tax magazines as well as his Waiting for Godot blog)