has a wide ranging practice which encompasses many areas of the tax code, particularly business and employment tax-related matters and issues affecting private clients. He also advises on tax-related pensions matters and on tax-related commercial disputes. In the past Laurent qualified as a chartered accountant which provides useful background knowledge in dealing with tax questions with an accounting aspect. Litigation (usually for the taxpayer and where necessary) is an important part of his work and has taken him to the Tax Tribunal, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Despite his mixed European ancestry, the forebear (according to family legend) of whom he is most proud is Admiral Nelson, from whose example he has learnt two lessons: first to bring the greatest possible firepower to bear in solving any tax problem and, secondly, that every tax barrister must do his duty to the client. However he knows that, in dealing with tax, you must consider all angles. As a client once put it to him, if you cover your eyes, it does not mean that people cannot see you.
He enjoys the ludic qualities of taxation but has learnt through sorry experience that it is best not to mention this at dinner parties.
Outside work, Laurent’s interests are primarily language-focused. He speaks French and Italian fluently, can have a good go at German if he needs to and also speaks emergency Russian and aspirational Egyptian Arabic (the last of which he is looking to build upon in spare moments). His occasional holidays are spent, with his wife and son, in warmer climes.
Affiliations and memberships:
International Fiscal Association
Revenue Bar Association
Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales
Before coming to the Bar, Laurent qualified as a chartered accountant and gained several years’ experience in the tax department of a city law firm.
BA (Modern languages) (Oxford University, First Class Honours)
ACA (Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales)
Postgraduate Diploma in Law (City University, Distinction)
Legal Practice Course (College of Law, Distinction)
Legal Directory Comments:
Chambers UK Bar 2019: Recent silk with a corporate and employment tax litigation practice, who is active predominantly on the taxpayer side. He also has a solid advisory practice that caters to a number of leading corporate clients. He is admired for his knowledge of capital gains and income tax. “Very thorough and diligent.” “He provides detailed, authoritative sensible advice.”
Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2018: Ranked Band 3 in Tax Silks. “Recent silk with a corporate and employment tax litigation practice, who is active predominantly on the taxpayer side. He also has a solid advisory practice that caters to a number of leading corporate clients. He is admired for his knowledge of capital gains and income tax. Strengths: ‘Always provides responsive and pragmatic advice. He has a great ability to communicate with the corporate client’. ‘He is always keen to get the right answer and the best answer for the client. He is extremely diligent, practical and commercial.’ ”
Legal 500: Ranked in ‘Tax Corporate and VAT’ category (2016 silks): ‘Extensive experience acting on the side of the taxpayers.’ Ranked in ‘Private Client: Personal Tax’ category (2016 silks): ‘Laurent Sykes QC remains especially sought-after in immigration and emigration matters involving high-net-worth individuals.’ ‘He brings experience from all different angles of tax law and court advocacy.’
Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2017: Ranked New Silk. “New silk with a corporate and employment tax litigation practice, who is active predominantly on the taxpayer side. He also has a solid advisory practice that caters to a number of leading corporate clients. Strengths: ‘Very thorough and diligent, and a great communicator.’ ”
Legal 500: Ranked Tier 1 in ‘Private Client/Personal Tax’ category and Tier 1 in ‘Tax/Corporate’ category
Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2016: Ranked Band 1.”Has a great commercial head and knows what is realistically achievable.”
Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2015: Ranked Band 1.”Has recently been involved in a number of notable tax deed and employment tax cases. His advisory practice also takes in business and corporation tax issues. Expertise: ‘Exceptionally able and very willing to challenge the instructing solicitors. He’s both definitive in his advice and commercially very sound.’ ”
Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2014: Ranked Band 1. “Highly thought of by clients, who laud his technical ability and communication skills. He regularly advises on corporation, business and employment tax.”
Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2013: “Laurent Sykes wins strong market approval. He is seen as having an ‘excellent technical and strategic mind’, which he employs to good effect working both on corporate transactions and on behalf of private clients.”
Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2012: “Clients are also effusive in their praise of Laurent Sykes, who is ‘absolutely brilliant thanks to his meticulous attention to detail and his ability to put across a complex subject in a simple way.’ His experience as both a solicitor and a chartered accountant means he has key expertise, particularly in accountancy-based tax disputes.”
Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2011: “Laurent Sykes is ‘a confident, responsive and commercially minded junior.’ Formerly at Freshfields, he has only been at the Bar for a matter of three years or so but has knowledge way beyond his call year due to his stint as a solicitor. Excellent at all he does and particularly good on Islamic finance“
Recent reported cases include (acting as lead or sole counsel):
Hasbro European Trading BV v The Commissioners for HMRC  EWCA Civ 1221 (customs classification of Beyblades).
Maersk Oil North Sea UK Limited and Maersk Oil UK Limited v The Commissioners for HMRC  UKFTT 20 (whether apportionment of profits for the purposes of the supplementary charge to corporation tax just and reasonable).
Horton v Henry  EWCA Civ 989 (pensions and bankruptcy).
Anthony Bayliss v The Commissioners for HMRC  UKFTT 0500 (whether negligent or fraudulent conduct).
Bainbridge v Bainbridge  EWHC 898 (rescission of transfers into a discretionary trust and tax implications thereof).
R (on the application of Andrew Michael Higgs) v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKUT 0092 (judicial review of HMRC: whether s34 TMA 1970 applies to self-assessments; failure to exercise discretion to extend time limits properly).
Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 626 (whether registered charity carrying on a business).
John Mander Pension Trustees Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  EWCA Civ 1683 (charge to tax on cessation of approval of a retirement benefits scheme).
Nicholas David Telfer v Costas Sakellarios  EWHC 1556 (whether declaration of trust over shares; operation of PAYE).
Hopegar Properties Limited v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 331 (capital vs revenue; improvements vs repairs).
Collins v HM Revenue & Customs  UKFTT 411 (whether $2m payment emolument from employment).
Teesside Power Holdings Ltd v Electrabel International Holdings BV and another  STC 774 (construction of tax deed).
Kuehne & Nagel Drinks Logistics Ltd and others v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  STC 840 (tax treatment of compensation payment).
Rogers v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  SFTD 788 (whether shares received by employee emolument from employment).
Revenue and Customs Commissioners v Rogers  STC 236 (whether tax payable pending appeal/abuse of power).
RMS Communications Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 411 (correct customs classification of ipod nano).
RIG Holdings LP v Aeroflex Test Solutions Ltd  STC 2521 (construction of tax deed).