36 Queen Street, London, EC4R 1BN | +44 (0)20 7242 2642
Laurent Sykes KC

“A corporate and employment tax litigation expert who is active predominantly on the taxpayer side. He has a solid advisory practice that caters to a number of leading corporate clients. Sykes is admired for his knowledge of corporation tax and income tax.” “Very, very diligent and hard-working.” “He is very responsive and has excellent knowledge of case law.”

Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2021: Ranked Band 2 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 ordinary practice that caters to a number of leading corporate clients. ‘He is admired for his knowledge of corporation tax and income tax.’ ‘Intelligent and responsive, he offers practical technical advice and complex legal analysis. He is a very experienced tax barrister who is very commercially focused’.”

Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2020: Ranked Band 2 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. ‘Very thorough and diligent.’ He provides detailed, authoritative sensible advice.”

Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2019: 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.’ ”

Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2018: Ranked Band 3 in Tax Silks.

“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.’ ”

Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2017: Ranked New Silk

“Extensive experience acting on the side of the taxpayers.” Ranked in ‘Private Client: Personal Tax’ category (2016 silks): “Laurent Sykes KC 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.”

Legal 500: Ranked in ‘Tax Corporate and VAT’ category (2016 silks):

”Has a great commercial head and knows what is realistically achievable.”

Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2016: 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 2015: Ranked Band 1

Ranked Tier 1 in ‘Private Client/Personal Tax’ category and Tier 1 in ‘Tax/Corporate’ category

Legal 500

Laurent 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).

Affiliations and memberships:
  • International Fiscal Association
  • Revenue Bar Association
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales
Education:
  • 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 and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2021: Ranked Band 2 in Tax Silks. “A corporate and employment tax litigation expert who is active predominantly on the taxpayer side. He has a solid advisory practice that caters to a number of leading corporate clients. Sykes is admired for his knowledge of corporation tax and income tax. ‘Very, very diligent and hard-working.’ ‘He is very responsive and has excellent knowledge of case law.’”
  • Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2020: Ranked Band 2 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 ordinary practice that caters to a number of leading corporate clients. ‘He is admired for his knowledge of corporation tax and income tax.’ ‘Intelligent and responsive, he offers practical technical advice and complex legal analysis. He is a very experienced tax barrister who is very commercially focused’.”
  • Chambers and Partners’ Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2019: 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. ‘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 KC 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.”
Recent reported cases include:

Acting as lead or sole counsel.

  • Ruhal Islam v HMRC [2022] UKFTT TC/2020/01131
    Laurent Sykes KC represented the Appellant in this appeal against Discovery Assessments and Closure Notices. The Appellant successfully argued that HMRC had to show a loss of tax and the Tribunal agreed with the Appellant that HMRC had not sufficiently shown this. The appeal was therefore allowed.
  • Gerard Lee and Sarah Lee v HMRC [2022] UKFTT 175 (TC). Laurent Sykes KC acted for the Appellants in an appeal against HMRC’s refusal of Principal Private Residence relief. The Appellants successfully argued that the “period of ownership” relevant for the relief was the period of ownership of the dwelling-house being sold such that full relief was allowed if the dwelling-house had been the primary residence for the whole period after it was built. It was immaterial that that the land under the house might have been owned for a longer period.
  • Cider of Sweden Limited v Revenue & Customs Commissioners (Ernst & Young LLP, third party) [2022] UKFTT 00126 (TC) Laurent Sykes KC acted for the third party in an application for the parties’ statements of case in Cider of Sweden’s appeal. The Tribunal held that the third party should not bear the costs of the Appellant and Respondent in the underlying appeal choosing to resist the application, notwithstanding the fact that the appeal had been allocated to the complex category, as the application was an application directly to the Tribunal and was not part of the underlying complex proceedings.
  • Claimants in the Royal Mail Group Litigation v Royal Mail Group Ltd [2022] EWHC 704 (Ch) Laurent Sykes KC acted for the claimants in this preliminary issue hearing as part of the Claimants’ group litigation. The claimants seek VAT invoices in respect of supplies made to them by Royal Mail which were believed at the time to be exempt but which it is argued were taxable.
  • Cider of Sweden Limited v Revenue & Customs Commissioners (Ernst & Young LLP, third party) [2022] UKFTT 00076 (TC) Laurent Sykes KC acted for the third party in an application for the parties’ statements of case in Cider of Sweden’s appeal. This is the first case which considered the role of the Tribunal’s inherent jurisdiction to allow access for documents before an effective hearing. It was held that access to such documents should be governed by the balancing exercise outlined by the Supreme Court in Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring (for and on behalf of Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK) [2019] UKSC 38.
  • Junjie Liu and Zhe Li v Revenue & Customs Commissioners [2022] UKFTT 44 (TC) Laurent Sykes KC acted for the Appellants in an appeal against assessments to VAT in relation to goods for direct export. It was confirmed that VAT Notice 703 does not require that export evidence is all in one place. It did not defeat the appeal that values were not correctly stated on postage receipts as the values could be identified from the evidence taken as a whole. The Appellants also relied on legitimate expectation as a second ground of appeal, but as the appeal was successful on the first ground this was not considered.
  • Karim Abadir v Credit Suisse Trust Ltd [2021] EWHC 2573 (Ch) Laurent Sykes KC acted for the claimant and successfully obtained an order setting aside a $16.8 million transfer of stocks and shares based on the defendant’s erroneous advice.
  • Quinn (London) Limited v Revenue & Customs Commissioners [2021] UKFTT 0437 (TC) Laurent Sykes KC acted for the Appellant in an appeal against HMRC’s refusal of its claims for enhanced R&D relief. It was held that the relief could only be denied on the basis that the cost of R&D was “subsidised” when there is a “clear link” between the R&D spend and the price paid by a potential subsidiser. This was not the case under the construction contract in issue. The appeal was allowed.
  • Chalcot Training Limited v Ralph & Ors [2021] EWCA Civ 79 Laurent Sykes KC acted for the Appellant company who argued that share issues could be set aside as they contravened either or both of sections 580 and 552 of the Companies Act 2006. It was held that shares were not allocated at a discount under s580 due to an obligation to pay the balance on partly paid shares when it is called or deemed to be called. There was also no issue of an unlawful discount.
  • Khan v Revenue & Customs Commissioners [2021] EWCA Civ 624 Laurent Sykes KC acted for the Appellant who argued that he should not be liable to pay tax on £1.95 million that was paid into his account before being paid out almost immediately the same day. The court held that the Ramsay approach could be in principle relied upon by the taxpayer, but that even viewing these two payments as a composite transaction it was not possible to ignore the Appellant’s role in the transaction.
  • Build-A-Bear UK Holdings Workshop Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2021] UKUT 67 (TCC) Laurent Sykes acted for the Appellant. The Upper Tribunal held that the FTT had erred in law when categorising hearts and other animal accessories as accessories for Other Toys as opposed to accessories for Dolls. They did not overturn the FTT’s conclusions in respect of clothing and footwear accessories, but this element of the decision is under appeal.
  • Total E&P North Sea UK Ltd (formerly Maersk Oil North Sea UK Ltd) and another company v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2020] EWCA Civ 1419 Laurent Sykes KC acted for the Appellant. The appeal concerned whether it was just and reasonable for the Appellant to apportion their adjusted ring fence profits from oil-related activities on an actual basis rather than on a time basis. The Appellant’s apportionment meant that all activity was subject to the lower rate of tax. The appeal was allowed.
  • Simon James McMillian v HM Revenue & Customs [2020] UKFTT 0082 Laurent Sykes KC acted for the Appellant in an appeal against discovery assessments issued by HMRC in respect of winnings from gambling. The Appellant successfully explained that his winnings were from gambling and as a result did not amount to profits from trade or income from employment. The appeal was allowed.
  • Build-A-Bear UK Holdings Workshop Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2019] UKFTT 707 (customs classification of accessories).
  • Tax Appeals Commission determination 47TACD2019 (anti-avoidance), acting for the Irish Revenue.
  • British Airways Plc v Prosser [2019] EWCA Civ 547 (VAT on disbursements).
  • Hasbro European Trading BV v The Commissioners for HMRC [2018] EWCA Civ 1221 (customs classification of Beyblades).
  • Horton v Henry [2016] EWCA Civ 989 (pensions and bankruptcy).
  • Anthony Bayliss v The Commissioners for HMRC [2016] UKFTT 0500 (whether negligent or fraudulent conduct).
  • Bainbridge v Bainbridge [2016] 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 [2015] 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 [2014] UKFTT 626 (whether registered charity carrying on a business).
  • John Mander Pension Trustees Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2013] EWCA Civ 1683 (charge to tax on cessation of approval of a retirement benefits scheme).
  • Nicholas David Telfer v Costas Sakellarios [2013] EWHC 1556 (whether declaration of trust over shares; operation of PAYE).
  • Hopegar Properties Limited v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2013] UKFTT 331 (capital vs revenue; improvements vs repairs).
  • Collins v HM Revenue & Customs [2012] UKFTT 411 (whether $2m payment emolument from employment).
  • Teesside Power Holdings Ltd v Electrabel International Holdings BV and another [2012] STC 774 (construction of tax deed).
  • Kuehne & Nagel Drinks Logistics Ltd and others v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2012] STC 840 (tax treatment of compensation payment).
  • Rogers v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2011] SFTD 788 (whether shares received by employee emolument from employment).
  • Revenue and Customs Commissioners v Rogers [2010] STC 236 (whether tax payable pending appeal/abuse of power).
  • RMS Communications Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners [2010] UKFTT 411 (correct customs classification of ipod nano).
  • RIG Holdings LP v Aeroflex Test Solutions Ltd [2009] STC 2521 (construction of tax deed).