Magic circle partner gives ‘child-friendly’ insight into life as a tax lawyer

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With the help of Jaffa Cakes and jigsaws

How would you explain tax law to someone with no commercial awareness, no law degree and who hasn’t even passed all of their primary school SATs?

Magic circle partner Dan Neidle, who leads Clifford Chance’s London tax group, took on this tricky task in a Q&A shared on CityLawBois, an Instagram account known for its corporate law memes.

It kicked off with the question: ‘How would you explain what a tax lawyer does to an eight-year-old?’ Neidle, who specialises in UK finance and corporate tax, and is described by CityLawBois as being a “funny guy”, replied with six possible responses.

Neidle said he’d explain that he advises clients on really difficult or obscure points of tax law. “Think ‘is a Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit’, but more often involving a financial instrument than a comestible,” he said.

Moving onto tax disputes arising with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), Neidle continued to cite the lunchbox snack in his example: “My client is certain a Jaffa Cake is a cake, and HMRC keep insisting it’s an aardvark.”

In the case of structured transactions — which see lawyers who must restructure a distressed business also balance very complex tax, regulatory and corporate laws in “umpteen jurisdictions” — Neidle turned to the toy box for help. “It’s like a 3D jigsaw where there are no instructions and all the pieces are black,” he described.

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Regarding his role helping clients allocate tax risk on other parties, Neidle used another example:

“You’re buying a company. God knows what stupid tax thing the previous owners did. You want to make sure the other guys bear the cost if it all turns to chocolate. They don’t. Cue difficult negotiation and drafting.”

Providing legal advice on tax policy could be concisely summed up as “what the law could be/should be/may become”. And, as perhaps you’d expect from a busy City partner, writing numbered lists rounds-off Neidle’s list of six.

Later in the Instagram Q&A, Neidle was asked if he would still be a lawyer tomorrow if he was wired £100,000,000 today. “The sad news is that I love it, so the answer is ‘yes’. I would do this job whatever I was paid,” he replied before jokingly adding: “There aren’t any clients reading this, are there?”

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I can die happy now. – CLB x



Is that because it is more than 7 years since you transferred your assets to dodge tax? You would be amazed how many hold on for 7 years and then pop their clogs.






Corporate law meme accounts are the yang to the yin that is future trainee influencers



If than yin-yang symbol was located in a special corner of hell.





Bombay Bad Boy

Good choice of image. The suit fits the child about as well as the average partner’s suit fits them.



A better explanation is “My clients pay thousands of pounds an hour for my team to find ways so that their rich stakeholders can keep money rather than it going to fund schools, the NHS and other public services.”

Or put another way “I’m part of the reason your income tax is so high.”


Forever Associate

You’re still paying income tax?

You must be less than 5PQE then. Don’t worry, once you make senior associate salary that’s when you can afford to find the loopholes.



“How would you explain tax law to someone with no commercial awareness, no law degree and who hasn’t even passed all of their primary school SATs?”

An easier way to put this is “How would you explain tax law to a writer at LC?”


John Bearly (Solicitor)

Can someone explain why the police came after I told a marketing executive that I was planning to set up a firm called “Bearly Legal”?


John Q'oala

The police panda too much to every snowflake that moans these days.


Jumbo Oats

“Imagine your most intensely boring teacher and then multiply their pay by 20”


Uncle Jezza

I hope he works to make sure that corporations pay their taxes! However low they are



If you like helping foreign corporations and business owners extract value from the UK economy without contributing a fair amount of tax then this is a good job option.



Why do lawyers not file a loophole to lay less tax themsleves? I heard that lawyers pay around 40k taxes (including national security charges) on their 100k income



Not quite 40k on 100k, less if pension contributions are made.

What does ‘file a loophole’ mean? As PAYE employees, there are no ‘loopholes’.



How much do you think lawyers pay taxes if their income is 100k annually? considering pension contributions are made.



Just shy of 30k with a 10% pension contribution.


Forever Associate

The problem comes when you’re >£100k. The marginal tax rate for higher earners in this country is like 61% so when you’re on ~£150k-200k the take home difference from a £100k salary is barely noticeable. Doesn’t seem fair that I bust a bollock to climb the ladder only to lose the zero rate band and receive no discernible benefit or general increase in quality of life in London.

Fortunately when you’re making that amount in a City firm you are usually 5-7 PQE / senior associate (save for Money Law where you can times the above salary by 2 or 2.5…. lucky sods) so chances are you have a decent reputation in the commercial space. You can start to look at alternative sources of income with like-minded City professionals and investors that have more advantageous tax plans associated with them rather than just being a (well paid) wage slave.


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