”Laurent gets to the heart of the issues, with insightful analysis and explanation. This is combined with a forensic approach to ascertaining the facts.”
“A gifted advocate who provides clear and thorough advice, Laurent’s attention to detail and dedication to a case is second to none.”
“Laurent sees clearly to the heart of the matter and his technical position is always firmly based.” “He provides very good technical advice, is strategically good and is a very approachable barrister.” “An excellent and thorough advocate.”
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, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
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).
Laurent was called to the Bar in 2007 and took silk in 2016.
Qualifications: Oxford University BA Modern Languages (First class degree), City University – GDL (Distinction), College of Law (Distinction), ACA
First-tier (Tax) Tribunal
- Ruhal Islam v HMRC  UKFTT 188 (TC). 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.
- Quinn (London) Limited v Revenue & Customs Commissioners  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.
- Cider of Sweden Limited v Revenue & Customs Commissioners (Ernst & Young LLP, third party)  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.
- Cider of Sweden Limited v Revenue & Customs Commissioners (Ernst & Young LLP, third party)  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)  UKSC 38.
- Junjie Liu and Zhe Li v Revenue & Customs Commissioners  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.
- Simon James McMillian v HM Revenue & Customs  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.
- Anthony Bayliss v The Commissioners for HMRC  UKFTT 0500 (whether negligent or fraudulent conduct).
- 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).
- Hopegar Properties Limited v Revenue and Customs Commissioner  UKFTT 331 (capital vs revenue; improvements vs repairs).
- Collins v HM Revenue & Customs  UKFTT 411 (whether $2m payment emolument from employment).
- Rogers v Revenue and Customs Commissioners.  SFTD 788 (whether shares received by employee emolument from employment).
- RMS Communications Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioner  UKFTT 411 (correct customs classification of ipod nano).
- Claimants in the Royal Mail Group Litigation v Royal Mail Group Ltd  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.
- Bainbridge v Bainbridge  EWHC 898 (rescission of transfers into a discretionary trust and tax implications thereof).
- Nicholas David Telfer v Costas Sakellarios  EWHC 1556 (whether declaration of trust over shares; operation of PAYE).
- Teesside Power Holdings Ltd v Electrabel International Holdings BV and another  STC 774 (construction of tax deed).
- Revenue and Customs Commissioners v Rogers.  STC 236 (whether tax payable pending appeal/abuse of power).
- RIG Holdings LP v Aeroflex Test Solutions Ltd  STC 2521 (construction of tax deed).
- Gerard Lee and Sarah Lee v HMRC  UKUT 242. 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.
Court of Appeal
- Chalcot Training Limited v Ralph & Ors  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  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.
- Total E&P North Sea UK Ltd (formerly Maersk Oil North Sea UK Ltd) and another company v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  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.
- British Airways Plc v Prosser  EWCA Civ 547 (VAT on disbursements).
- Hasbro European Trading BV v The Commissioners for HMRC  EWCA Civ 1221 (customs classification of Beyblades).
- Horton v Henry  EWCA Civ 989 (pensions and bankruptcy). The leading case on pension rights and bankruptcy.
- Tax Appeals Commission determination 47TACD2019 (anti-avoidance), acting for the Irish Revenue.