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Tan Peng Chin LLC (TPC Law), one of the top 25 largest law firms in Singapore, has further enhanced its capabilities by engaging Liu Hern Kuan, to advise on tax matters to its clients. He was previously Principal Legal Officer, then Chief Legal Officer at Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) (2000 to 2014), and also Head of Tax in a major local law firm in Singapore (2014 to 2017). He was, prior to joining IRAS, a tax manager in PwC and KPMG.
Hern Kuan’s practice includes resolving both criminal and civil disputes with IRAS, and transactional work involving tax planning and structuring, applications for tax relief to IRAS and Ministry of Finance (MOF) on all taxes administered by IRAS. While at IRAS, he was involved in providing all manner of legal and tax advice to IRAS’ operational divisions, tax law interpretation, tax rulings, international matters, audit, investigation, criminal prosecution matters, enforcement proceedings and drafting of tax legislation.
He had also represented IRAS as lead counsel in civil and criminal court proceedings in the various boards of review and the Supreme Court. As IRAS’ lead counsel, he argued several landmark Income Tax, Property Tax and Stamp Duty cases.
Such cases include CIT v AQQ, the first decided case on tax avoidance where a foreign listed company was found to be engaging in tax avoidance; and JD Pte Ltd v CIT, where the Court of Appeal affirmed IRAS’ total assets method for apportioning deductible interest expenses of a listed investment holding company.
Another case was CIT v IA, a case on deductibility of borrowing costs in connection with a syndicated loan taken by a property developer. He was also a counsel in T Ltd v CIT, a case on commencement of business for tax deductibility purposes. Also included in his long list of championed cases is City Developments Ltd v Chief Assessor, where the Court of Appeal affirmed the Chief Assessor’s application of the 5% method of assessment over the hypothetical tenancy method. Hern Kuan also argued Clifford Development Pte Ltd v Commissioner of Stamp Duties, a case on the meaning of ‘reconstruction’ for the purposes of stamp duty relief, and AQP v CIT, which tackled deductibility of expenses from defalcation of funds by managing director of a company.
Out of court tax dispute settlements
Hern Kuan had, in private practice, managed to successfully resolve several significant tax disputes out of court. Such disputes included convincing the Comptroller of Income Tax (i) to allow a multi-million dollar tax deduction claim by an engineering and construction company, (ii) to allow a transfer pricing adjustment involving a US multi-national corporation and (iii) that certain multi-million dollar gains on the sale of shares are not taxable gains. He had also successfully obtained extensions to pay Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) on behalf of developers who develop residential property for sale. The outcomes for these cases were preferred by clients as these were achieved without having to litigate the disputes in courts.
Hern Kuan is also involved in providing tax planning advice that included international tax planning and tax efficient structuring for stamp duty relief.
Integrated legal and tax advice
Often a business deal has both legal and tax implications and having tax expertise would enhance the services a law firm can offer to clients. The practice of tax law involves providing advice on the structure of a variety of commercial and financing transactions and assisting clients with tax-related controversies.“ The increased local and international tax capability of TPC Law will allow us to better provide integrated legal and tax advice to our clientele and business partners which include local and foreign financial institutions, property developers and managers, and retail, insurance-linked and private funds. We aim to be our clients’ preferred choice as the legal and tax partner when they do business in or from Singapore,” says Wong Liang Kok, Joint Managing Director of TPC Law.
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