8 July 2006 by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

Cliffe Dekker establishes a national Tax Practice

Leading specialists will combine tax and legal advice on local and international corporate transactions

Cliffe Dekker has established a national Tax Practice, as the firm moves to bolster its corporate and commercial services. Six respected tax and law specialists have already joined and further appointments will take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town in the near future.

The Tax Practice is led by experienced corporate tax consultant Patrick McGurk, a chartered accountant by training. McGurk was a former head of KPMG's tax practice. He is joined as a director by Liesl Kruger, a former associate director of KPMG.

Alongside McGurk and Kruger, former Deloitte tax consultant Jenny Klein and tax consultant Lavina Daya join as senior associates, while tax consultants Matthew Marcus and Michael Reifarth are appointed as associates.

Cliffe Dekker deputy chairman, Jo Neser says that the introduction of a Tax Practice is a significant development for the firm.

"The tax consulting expertise of the new team strengthens Cliffe Dekker's corporate and commercial capability. We are now able to integrate legal and tax expertise and market knowledge with an understanding of our clients' business needs to deliver a holistic service."

Neser says that the synergies with the firm's merger and acquisition and banking and finance practices allow for the most tax efficient structure of a transaction, from inception through to implementation.

"We are delighted that Patrick and his team have joined us. Since most commercial transactions have taxation consequences, the addition of tax specialisation has been one of the firm's most important strategic objectives," Neser says.

McGurk believes that law firms are better placed to provide tax consulting services than are accounting firms.

"The restrictions imposed on accounting firms significantly limit the range of services that accounting firms can provide to clients."

He says that although South African corporates may not be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as such, many have elected to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. He believes that the imminent Corporate Laws Amendment Bill will further limit the nature and extent of tax advice accounting firms may provide to audit clients.

"Audit committees are also increasingly limiting the extent to which audit firms can provide consulting services to their clients. The legal profession has no similar restrictions other than relatively simple compliance with the FICA legislation," McGurk adds.

Cliffe Dekker chairman, Chris Ewing says the main focus of Cliffe Dekker's Tax Practice will be to provide tax advice on local and international corporate transactions.

He believes that the firm is now strongly geared to take advantage of the increased international emphasis on South Africa as a base for investment into Africa. He says that besides the national tax team having proven experience in international tax structuring, Cliffe Dekker's links with DLA Piper Group means that Cliffe Dekker's tax team is capable of delivering seamless advice at a truly global level.

"Our affiliation with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Carey, the world's second largest legal services organisation, which includes a significant Tax Group, gives our clients access to an international network which stretches across 22 countries and 59 offices in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the US," Ewing says.

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